Rock of Gibraltar Advice From a Friend

     When I was planning out our road trip through Spain, I had no idea the Rock of Gibraltar was right there. A regular acquaintance of mine (who sadly has since passed), Ray Strobel had mentioned over drinks that he had written about his travels abroad. In one of his incredible stories, he had traveled from Spain to Gibraltar and then to Morocco.

Let’s Add Gibraltar Monkeys to the List

     “Hey, you know how we are driving through Portugal and Spain?…What do you think of a little detour into Gibraltar and Africa?” I held the phone and waited for Angie’s response.
     “Is that even possible? Is that safe?” Angie sounded doubtful.
     “I was just reading about it and we would be driving right by. It would be a crime not to stop.”
      After sending several pictures and articles, Angie gave me the A-ok and it immediately shot to the top of the list of things I was excited to see.

Road-trip Through Portugal and Spain

     We had driven down through Portugal from Sintra to Lagos and then into Spain. After spending the night in Seville, we had several stops along the way and were now heading towards Gibraltar.
     Although the land is connected to Spain and is nowhere near Britain, it is a fortified British air and naval base.
Rock of Gibraltar from the road
     We were driving down the highway and the huge rock formation became visible ahead. The Strait of Gibraltar was to our right, and the distant hills of Africa could be seen not even 9 miles away across the water.
    We excitedly passed through the customs area and then a long tunnel. There was a main road spanning around the perimeter of the peninsula with the giant rock at the center.
     We missed the exit and circled around, then finally arriving at the parking area.

Me Vs. the Scary Gibraltar Cable Car

     I stared with apprehension at the cable car running along a series of wires to the top of the limestone formation. I had to suck up my nervousness because I really wanted to see a few of the more than 300 Barbary macaques monkeys that lived on the  top in the nature reserve.
     We paid the entrance fee, around 24$ and waited in line. As I looked around, nobody else seemed pale, shaking or pumping sweat. They were chatting away like business as usual.
     The line moved faster than I had imagined and soon we were boarding the small cable car. I didn’t even have time to gather my courage.
    “Take pictures of the view for me.” I announced to Angie. “I’ll just be in a ball on the floor holding on for dear life.”
     I pressed against the wall and held tight to the rail as the doors closed and the car began to glide the 1398 feet upward. 
     “Just breathe normal, just act normal.” I tried to reassure myself, peeking side-eyed out the large windows. Stunned at the view below, I briefly let go with one hand to take a few pictures of the Jurassic rock and waters below. 
View from the cable car- Rock of Gibraltar
     I jumped every time the car transferred wires at the tall poles on the way up. Exactly six minutes later, I  was stepping gratefully out onto solid ground.
     “Stay on the marked trails and don’t try to touch or feed the monkeys. They can bite.” The guy running the cable car announced as the door opened.

Fog and Monkeys at the Top of Gibraltar

Fog at top of Gibraltar
     The air was noticeably colder at the top. A thick fog was puffing in from the ocean side like heavy industrial smoke. I took deep breaths of the cool mist and we stepped out onto a viewing platform. The wind whipped our hair in crazy directions. There was a man filming the incoming fog and commentating as if he were a nature show host.

The Guests of Honor Make an Appearance

Barbary macaques monkey at Gibraltar
     “Look!” Angie whispered excitedly, pointing…”It’s the monkeys.” 
     Several of the Barbary macaques monkeys were lounging about on the platform and railing.
     “Holy moly… I didn’t expect them to just be laying around everywhere.” I laughed, taking careful photos of the disinterested primates.
     Some of the monkeys were sleeping in precarious positions, hanging limbs off of the edges of the railing and roof. One was picking at another’s fur and one was gazing at us.

What is all the Monkey Business?

     Suddenly there was a commotion from below. We peeked over the railing towards the entrance area.
     “Get!…get away!” A woman waved her arms around in the direction of a mischievous monkey pilfering crackers from the bottom storage area of her daughter’s stroller. 
Snack thief at Gibraltar
     The little girl standing nearby screamed and pointed at the cracker thief. Her father picked her up, shaking the handles of the stroller to dissuade the furry creature. The monkey calmly reached under the seat and grabbed another cracker, chewing and looking around.
     We leaned over the railing watching the show.
     “Glad I didn’t bring a snack.” I announced. “Those little guys can get aggressive around food or when they feel threatened.”
     Once the monkey business was under control, we went around to hike a short ways up the trail near the reserve.

We’re in Barbary Macaques Territory Now

     “Ooooh my goodness, we are surrounded.” I whispered.
     “This is so cool.” Angie breathed as we moved slowly up the path, monkeys all around us.
     Many of them were hanging out on the short ledge overlooking the city. There were playful babies chasing each other up and down the rocks. A momma monkey held her baby protectively and eyeballed us as we passed. 
Monkey at Gibraltar

The Baby and the Bread Thief

     A family of people came up the path and a toddler…a.k.a. a walking food dropper, let a piece of bread fall to the ground.
     Mayhem ensued as a small monkey darted past, grabbing the bread and chattering triumphantly. The chase began and a number of monkeys attempted to run him down. We weaved and darted out of the way of the nefarious bread thief and the monkeys who were in hot pursuit. 

Down off the Rock

     I could have watched this monkey business all day, but it was getting to be late in the day and we had a little drive ahead of us. The hotel options in Gibraltar were limited and expensive so we needed to travel back into Spain.
Rock of Gibraltar cable car
     We took the cable car back down which was every bit as scary as going up, although no one else seemed horrified.

Relaxation at Almenara

     We rode through the winding hills to the beautiful Almenara Hotel where we would be staying. 
Almenara Hotel
     After checking in, we ate at the hotel restaurant that overlooked the lush grounds. Our room had a patio where afterwards, I sat outside, enjoying a nice stout and reflecting on our day. In the morning we would begin our travels into Morocco. But for now it felt amazing to just be relaxing, gazing into the mountains and breathing the warm humid air.

Have you ever overcame a fear in order to see something amazing? Comment below…

Click here to read about another snack thief in Ireland

Click here for an adventure through roman ruins and a bone church

Click here for an Ireland castle adventure 

 

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