Gibraltar, English territory in Spain – There are many milestones we’ve hit all along our trip and Gibraltar is definitely one of them. As the “gateway” between Africa and Europe as well as between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, for us being here symbolizes yet another phase in our trip: the Med. It has only been a few days since our last posting, but Gibraltar merits one of its very own.
We left Cádiz with a bad taste in our mouths. Throughout history Cádiz, similar to Venice, had been an important point for trade back in medieval times. Let’s also please not forget the fact that Cadiz is one of the three main cities for flamenco in Spain, famous specifically for the palo called alegrias, which are songs commonly about the sea. Because of these reasons we were excited to see it for ourselves. And because the city center is beautiful with its winding pathways, Moorish influences, outside cafes, and old cathedrals, we were very surprised to have had a little incident” there.
On our last night, we decided to anchor in the river that borders the town of Puerto Santa María, across the bay from Cádiz. As most of these towns we’ve experienced in Spain along the way, a summer night in town means musicians in the town squares, people dining outside, families strolling and loud music or motorcycles late, late into the night/early morning. We have gotten used to trying to sleep with all this activity outside, but were surprised to have been awoken at 5am by some loud thuds which sounded like Begonia’s anchor may have dragged and we bumped into a wall or another boat or something.
Sebas and I shot up to the cockpit to find a group of drunken boys/young men throwing large brick-like rocks at our boat. We were really only anchored about 15 feet away from them, so the force of these blows was strong, almost cracking our windows. Luckily, the window coverings we had made in Puerto Rico protected the windows; otherwise we would have had yet another expensive repair to deal with. Sebas asked them to stop saying that we were a family with kids. One of the guys said, “You’re lucky I don’t shoot you with a shotgun.” Very harsh, and even a little hairy. We are hoping that it was just a stupid prank done by some stupid young punks who were drunk. Whatever the reason, we pulled the anchor up and left as soon as the group went away.
The 50-mile sail to Gibraltar was spectacular. We could not believe our eyes that we could clearly see Africa on our right side and Europe on the left. Africa is so close, with ferries motoring back and forth between the straight all day long, to and from Ceuta and Tanger. Gibraltar is a British territory, a promontory, off of the Spanish coast. It is not clear the purpose of having this British enclave here today – other than providing us with some fancy phrases like “you are my rock ofGibraltar,” “solid as a rock,” and giving Prudential a logo - but Gibraltar has been in British hands since the 1700’s. I always pictured this location with just the rock and a military base of some sort, but there is actually a bustling city in the foreground of the rock. English is the official language spoken here for street signs and businesses, but you can hear Arabic, English and Spanish spoken on the streets. You can find the traditional red phone booths from England, pubs serving Guinness and cider as well as double-decker buses.
We were surprised to see that in order to go to the promontory; one must pass through immigration and customs with a passport as if you are truly going to another country. It is a unique situation because today not even from country to country within the EU do you need to show your passport on the border, so we were a little confused but came with passports anyway. The currency used here is not the euro, nor is it the pound sterling, but the Gibraltar pound – a separate currency altogether only used in this 2-mile wide zone. We realized this too late when we used an ATM to take out our monthly cash allowance and ended up with all this currency that cannot be used in any other place but here!
We did what most tourists do, and that is to take a tram up to the top of the mountain. Up there is a really neat cave, which houses an inside amphitheater and tunnels in the rock created by the Brits way back when and reinforced in WWI and WWII, for the purposes of hiding ammunition and housing troops. The tunnels were made to house troops for up to a year, so there were storage areas carved inside the sides of the tunnels for food and water, etc. From the outside an enemy would not be able to know about the entire goings on inside the rock, but from the inside you can clearly see that the tunnels provided the Brits with a 360-degree view of the water, as well as a perfect hiding place for cannons, etc.
Then, of course, there are the monkeys…. Some say these monkeys are from Africa and arrived in Gibraltar through some underwater caves or tunnels. Others say the monkeys were brought by the Moors as pets. No one knows for sure, but whatever the reason, there are now hundreds of monkeys all around the mountain top of Gibraltar. This provided us with hours of amusement because these monkeys are everywhere! There are signs all around saying not to feed them nor get too close because they may bite. We did see a monkey jump onto a little girl and grab the ice cream out of her hand, others sneak into a restaurant and steal some food off a table, and one even jumped onto Sofia!
Next stop: Málaga, about 50 miles up the Costa del Sol.
|That's actually the coast of North Africa (Morrocco)!! Just a stone's throw....|
|Begonia and The Rock|
|Excuse me, do you know where Gibraltar is?|
|British phone booth|
|Tram to the top of the rock|
|Will it jump on me?|
|Look closely and you will see windows carved into the rock which the Brits used to shoot their cannons from inside the tunnels they carved.|
|Jail inside the tunnels|
|Streets of Gibraltar|
|Visiting the tunnels 2km long|
|Our home taking a break|