Get a piece of the rock

Gibraltar Travel Blog

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The Rock
How much do you know about the Rock of Gibraltar?  Before today I knew nothing about Gibraltar, except that it’s in southern Spain (which I learned just before coming).  Then I found out that I was even wrong about that.  Though it’s positioned on the southern coast of Spain, at the moment it’s a British colony.  Sort of.  Maybe.  Then, to anyone with normal human perception, it’s not a rock at all.  It’s a mountain.

That wasn’t the end of the discoveries.  There are fortresses and siege tunnels as well as a castle.  Those may not be too far fetched, but did you know there’s a jungle.  On the rock.  Of Gibraltar.  And the jungle is filled with monkeys.  Scary, angry monkeys.
  Technically they’re Barbary macaques, but “scary, angry monkeys” gets the point across quite nicely.  On our way to the cable car we saw a series of cartoons depicting the things people shouldn’t do, like feed or pet them.  We laughed at the exaggerations.  I worked as a veterinary nurse for 8 years, at times with primates, and even I was taking them with a grain of salt.  Of course you should be careful, but seriously.  While the primatologist talked to our group, Emily busily unwrapped a new roll of film (yes, roll film).  He pointed that out specifically as an example of what not to do.  The wrapper sounded like food and, “They are not here to be your friends, they are here to take your food.”

Not 10 minutes later I heard a screaming kid.
Watching the demon-spawn eviscerate a child's backpack for goodies.
Below us on the road, a macaque stripped a pack from the back of a ten year old.  It was sitting on the wall, dexterously unzipping pockets, pulling out candy bars and throwing anything that wasn’t food over the side and the kid was screaming his head off and yelling at his dad.  Even though it was German I feel confident in reporting the context of the conversation was: “You brought me here!  This is your fault!  I wanted to go to Disneyland but no, you had to see Satan’s pet monkeys.”

This entertainment was followed by an intermission of a monkey the size of the aforementioned ten year old climbing up a 60 year old woman.  Read that again.  The area around the cable car was ripe with further stupid human tricks (like the family encouraging a monkey onto their child’s shoulder and taking pictures) so we all decided to get out before Dr.
Monkey with kid's backpack
Emily Jackson and Rich Howard, Male Nurse, found themselves reattaching some tourist’s limb.

We wandered off in search of the siege tunnels, St. Michael’s cave, and the Moorish castle.  Luckily, the mass of Hellspawned monkeys spend their days mugging newbies straight off the cable car and have little interest in anyone who’s smart enough to get past them.  So we started the hike down the mountain toward the Moorish castle.

We didn’t get there.  I could literally diatribe about the twists and turns and missed streets and absurdity that occurred.  I did actually.  Luckily for you I edit.  So I’ll boil it down to a general theme you will notice throughout our trip.

European.  Signs.  Suck.
St. Michael's Cave


After an estimated 4 miles of hiking to get to a spot 1,000 feet from our starting point, we reached our first historical site.  Megs and I were both reminded of our tour of Mammoth Caves in Kentucky when we descended into St. Michael’s Cave.  I couldn’t find much on the history of the cave, or why it is associated with St. Michael, but they’ve since built an amphitheater in which they hold concerts.  The lighting effects they set up were difficult to describe and pictures in a cave require great skill and a steady hand.  Luckily Brett has both and managed to get a few good shots.

The next stop was the Great Siege Tunnels.  Built mainly by the British during the 1779-83 Spanish siege, the tunnels were in use up to and including World War II.
  Cannon emplacements, supply storage, magazines (ammo storage) and dining halls were all sampled, though we were only allowed into a small portion of the 70km of tunnels.  I can’t imagine what it sounded like when one of those multiple-ton cannons went off in that confined space.

Because of our previous failure, we were afraid we would miss Megs’ most anticipated stop, the Moorish castle, but luckily it was along our path down the mountain.  The castle wasn’t originally built by the Moors, but rebuilt after Tariq ibn Ziyad invaded Spain in 711AD to begin over 700 years if Islamic rule.  The name Gibraltar is derived from Jebel Tariq (Tariq’s Mountain).  The Spanish took back Gibraltar in 1462, lost it to an Anglo-Dutch armada in 1703 then ceded it to Britain in 1713.
Moorish Castle
  This is where the whole thing gets complicated about ownership, but a long story ‘ends’ in 1969 with the residents of Gibraltar voting in favor of British sovereignty.  Walking across the border is like walking into England.  Even the phone booths and buses transform.

Anyway, the castle was brilliant and despite horrible street signs, Megan’s constant run-ins with monkey poop, and our screaming calves (leg muscles, not baby cows), we’d arrived at the castle right at sunset and got some beautiful shots.  Satisfied that we’d conquered The Rock and ecstatic we wouldn’t have to fight through Demons to get back to the cable car, we chalked up the day as a success and headed home.

I know you’re thinking to yourself, “the story ends there.
Sunset at the Moorish Castle
  They returned home triumphant heroes.  Why is there more to read?”  Rest assured, we did find our car and return home.  Eventually.

Navigating through town back to our car was the victim of another brilliant edit (the above information regarding signs is directly related to the concept of unplanned city design).  For those of you gamers, Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” was on my mind the entire time.  Roof-top to roof-top is always the fastest way from point “Ah” to point “Beh”.  Unfortunately, I’m old now and Dr. Emily can’t reattach a lost limb all by herself.
umbralwalker says:
Thanks so much. We aren't hitting Germany this trip, just Switzerland, France and Spain. We're on our way back toward Geneva now. Will be home on the 9th.
Posted on: Jan 05, 2009
exospice says:
It's so good to see you traveling and what a well-written blog. We miss you at the dojo. You are doing what I wanted to do in my past life. My soul travels with both of you.
I am interested to see what you write when you get to Germany.

Posted on: Jan 04, 2009
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The Rock
The Rock
Watching the demon-spawn eviscerat…
Watching the demon-spawn eviscera…
Monkey with kids backpack
Monkey with kid's backpack
St. Michaels Cave
St. Michael's Cave
Moorish Castle
Moorish Castle
Sunset at the Moorish Castle
Sunset at the Moorish Castle
Seriously, we had to walk across a…
Seriously, we had to walk across …
The teleporter tunnel that takes y…
The teleporter tunnel that takes …
The first thing we saw out of the …
The first thing we saw out of the…
So if they swallow a chunk of you…
"So if they swallow a chunk of yo…
Eating the spoils
Eating the spoils
Mamma and baby near the Great Sieg…
Mamma and baby near the Great Sie…
Mamma and baby near the Great Sieg…
Mamma and baby near the Great Sie…
Yeah.  Thats a cliff.
Yeah. That's a cliff.
This is the my girlfriend is walk…
This is the "my girlfriend is wal…
LIAR!  This sign took us along a o…
LIAR! This sign took us along a …
Bunker along the road
Bunker along the road
These were everywhere along the ro…
These were everywhere along the r…
Megs first run in with poop.  It…
Megs' first run in with poop. It…
Speaks for itself.
Speaks for itself.
St. Michaels Cave
St. Michael's Cave
St. Michaels Cave
St. Michael's Cave
St. Michaels Cave
St. Michael's Cave
Any second now its going to take …
Any second now it's going to take…
Cannon emplacement
Cannon emplacement
Airfield of Gibraltar
Airfield of Gibraltar
A weeks worth of rations
A week's worth of rations
Moorish Castle
Moorish Castle
Reenactments of conditions during …
Reenactments of conditions during…
This sign was of no help whatsoeve…
This sign was of no help whatsoev…
Brett and Em during sunset at the …
Brett and Em during sunset at the…
Poop #2
Poop #2
Gibraltar
photo by: ninnu