Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Larger than life..." The rock of Gibralter"
After a slow day sail along the Spanish coast,"The Rock"  finally appeared a few miles ahead. The high ridges were crowned with ominous looking clouds. It was a magnificent sight and  yet another milestone in our travels
We motored past the township of Gibraltar  and the airport runway which forms the border between Spain and Gibraltar and headed to the anchorage off the Spanish town of La Linea.
Just after getting the anchor down, the clouds rolled down from the peaks and the light drizzle turned to rain.  Everyone ahead of us had said the the weather changes once you reach Gib .. and they were right !! We had swapped warm sunny skies for cool  and cloudy, a little piece of England right here in the western med. After a comfortable night on the anchor we awoke to another cool overcast day. Donning our wet weather jackets we picked up the hook and motored over to the fuel dock on the Gibralter side. Right on queue the heavens opened just as we were about to tie up. After topping up the tanks with duty free diesel we headed into Queensway Quay Marina which we would call home for the next two weeks.
This marina was a lovely change from the majority of those found throughout  the Mediterranean. With floating pontoons that rise and fall with the tide,  there was no need for the use of our passarelle which is the normal way of getting on and off your boat when stern or bow tied in  a marina in the med. I guess that's where the term "med moored" came from. Speaking of tides, after spending just under three cruising seasons in the med  where the range in tide is one foot or less it was a bit of a shock to be back to having big tides of six foot plus! But that's what happens when you get close to a real ocean again.
  Roast dinner at The Clipper Inn
with George and Merima from Moonshadow

The next few days were spent getting acquainted with Gibraltar town. A little piece of England it certainly is. Narrow streets and plenty of english pubs serving all the traditional fare. Pints of larger, steak n ale pies, battered fish and chips and of course, the roast of the day with all the trimmings. 
 As a bonus for we girls, Morrisons supermarket was a real treat. It was a joy to be able to while away many hours scouring the shelves for  those special  things that have been sadly missed while shopping in the Turkish, Greek, Italian and French supermarkets.The men folk too can enjoy the supermarket experience while  cogitating their boat jobs or reading the latest english newspaper or mag in the morrison's cafe/bar. So something for everyone you could say.

No trip to Gibralter would be complete without a tour of the rock and checking out the spectacular views. On a clear day you can see all the way across the straits of gibralter to the  Atlas  mountains of Morocco.
Apart from the spectacular views, the Upper Rock Nature Reserve consists of several  sites to visit, many of which are historical. Some are interesting and some we felt were just not worth the entry fee. We visited  St Michael’s Cave, a huge natural  limestone grotto  300m above sea level. The main part of the cave  having fabulous acoustics, has been transformed into an auditorium  seating a few hundred patrons and is used for musical concerts,ballet and dramas.  This cave was once inhabited by the Neolithic inhabitants of the rock. A fossilized skull found embedded in the rock bears testament to this.Tours to the lower part of the cave can be arranged through the tourist office.
Next on our list were The Great Siege Tunnels, which are just a small part of a network of over 70 kilometers of tunnels snaking through out the rock. They were used by the British forces during the great siege of 1779 -1783. These tunnels  have uninterrupted views over the airport and the Spanish coast, and would have been a great vantage point to warn of potential attackers. The WW2 Tunnels which were not open at the time of our visit were, from what we had heard, “the pick” of the attractions.  
But by far the cutest mammals up on the rock are the colonies of Barbary Macaques .  Their  days are spent lolling about in the sun, grooming each other and  eating  the fruit provided by the park attendants. They are definitely not shy and when it comes to having their photos taken you could say that they strike a pose just for your camera.
We spent about four hours pounding the pavements up there, so be forewarned. Go up on a clear day, wear your sturdy shoes, take a few bottles of water and maybe even a picnic  lunch,  as it is one of those “Must Do”  things in Gibraltar 

View across the runway/border to Spain

Sheer cliffs on the western side
 There are a couple of ways  to reach the summit of the rock. Take the cable car, but be aware that the queues and the waiting time can be  very long as there are only two cars, one up and one down. You can be energetic, or is that mad, and walk up the Mediterranean Steps. Hundreds of  very steep steps that take  you up the 1400m climb to the top. We didn't even consider that option. Join an organised tour in a  bus or a mini van, but  that could be a bit rushed. Or you can hire a car or  scooter  and see everything at your own pace .The latter would be our recomendation. 
One of the local s enjoying the views

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