Have you ever been clouted around the head by a monkey? No? I hadn’t either, until last week on Gibraltar. It wasn’t a deliberate act on the monkey’s part. At least, I don’t think so! I had read the advice on not interacting with them and just letting them get on with their lives. We’re the intruders, after all. I was happy to just take a couple of shots and move on.
The problem arose when I leaned over the wall, holding tight to my camera, to take a shot of a mother and youngster just below me. Mum was busy with her fruit and the youngster desperate to get in on the act. As he squirmed about, I tried to get a good shot. Suddenly- smack! Two medium sized monkeys had galloped along the wall and straight over my head. Serves me right for leaving it in such a vulnerable place! The good news is that I didn’t drop the camera down the face of the Rock. Now that would have been a disaster! Here’s the shot I was striving for.
So, that’s me and monkeys! Shall I tell you about the rest of the trip? It was a pre-dawn start and a four and a half hour bus ride from the Eastern Algarve. Some foolish folks at Lagos, in the western end, had boarded at 4.20am! I’m fine once I’m on board and rolling. A new panorama unfolding outside my window is always a buzz for me. I watched the sun coming up through the umbrella pines in perfect contentment.
Over the Spanish border and just past Lepe, sudden thick fog descended and I had a moment of panic. I had left the Algarve sunshine for this? Somewhere south of Seville it began to clear and my nose was then pressed hard against the window. I hadn’t been prepared for the lovely lakeside scenery around Los Barrios, when finally, there it was, up ahead- the unmistakable shape of The Rock.
It was midday and melting hot. Pedro, our affable tour guide, had arranged for minibuses to whisk us up to the heights. Truth be known, there wasn’t much whisking going on! Traffic in Gibraltar was gridlocked due to some power failure or whim of its own. It’s that kind of place! A very smiley Moroccan eventually manoeuvered us onto his minibus and we set off. Some of the Brits on the bus were very offended by the German audio commentary. I just dissolved into giggles! A comedy of errors it definitely was. It was a relief to be free of the traffic and allowed off the bus at Europa Point.
Normally I research a destination to death before I set foot in it, but I hadn’t been sure that Gibraltar would be an option, so I arrived equipped only with a few preconceptions. Back on the minibus, I was in for a very pleasant surprise. Have you heard of St. Michael’s Cave? A natural grotto, it was apparently used during World War II as a hospital. Currently it stages a beautiful light show. There is an auditorium too for private events.
I’m not fond of caves but it had me entranced for a little while. The views from the top of The Rock were pretty impressive too. I would have loved to whizz down on the cable car but the minibus returned us to shore level. With not a lot of time to spare, I headed for the Tourist Information Office in Casements Square to pick up a map.
I might have liked a wander through the town, but the main sights had been pointed out on our way down and my next priority had to be boats. There are two marinas, one of which (Queensway) seemed to include a rather nice bathing area. No time for that, so I headed to Ocean Village, which was also in the direction of the border where I had been dropped off. Yes, it was a little glitzy and fake, but I am a complete sucker for any kind of marina. The bars and restaurants were full of happy, smiling faces- endless cocktail hour, apparently. And boats!
There was just time to linger for a wrap and a glass of wine, while the misters on the corners of the umbrellas sprayed us, and the food, at regular intervals! Pedro had warned us to allow plenty of time to return from the town and pass through the border controls. There was a no.5 bus but it seemed far more adventurous to walk back across the airport runway. I had hoped to see a plane landing and I was in luck. Barely had I crossed the runway than sirens sounded and the barriers came down. Such an air of anticipation! I shuffled my feet and gazed expectantly with the rest of the crowd. Ten or fifteen minutes passed. I awaited the heavy drone of engines and a rush of wings.
Eventually there was a tiny humming sound. My vision is not the very best and I had to peer quite hard to see the incoming flight. I barely just caught it on camera.
I’m sure that I missed lots, but I got a flavour of the place, which is all that a visit like this can give. Was it what I expected? Mostly, yes. A little crazy, but with a certain charm.