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Between a Rock and a Monkey Place

July 13, 2010

A day trip to Gibraltar involved five of us (L, myself, my parents and my sister) hopping into our rent-a-ride (a.k.a. the Seat Alhambra) in Marbella and driving south for about an hour and a half. As we neared the giant rock – which is all most of us knew of Gibraltar at the time – so did about 50 other cars. The traffic conductor seemed to be sadistically enjoying a lottery-like approach to allowing cars to cross the border. Luckily for us, we only had to make one full lap before we were permitted entry.

Once across the border, we noticed that we were in the middle of what looked distinctly like a runway…

“That’s because it is a runway,” L commented.

Oh. Okay, what?! How bizarre, I thought, as L explained that Gibraltar’s one airport is the only one in the world in which a runway actually intersects with everyday traffic… what? The only one? Can’t see why more airports wouldn’t want to follow suit…

“Psssshhht! Good afternoon, this is your captain here. Just letting you know that our take-off will be delayed as there is a six-car-pile-up on the runway ahead of us.”

Then we stopped poking fun. Even without knowing Gibraltar’s historical position as an important British navy base, one senses a military hand and an interesting history simply by glancing around.

After driving around the Rock for a bit, we decided to take the cable car up to the top. Unfortunately, we couldn’t for the life of us find the entrance to the car park. By the time we’d made our fourth lap we were starting to get a bit frustrated. Suddenly there was a policeman standing in front of us waving us down with what looked like a speed gun… uh-oh.

“Do you know you were doing 50km/h?” he asked.

We stared at the officer blankly in response.

“It’s a 30km/h zone coming down that hill,” he explained impatiently – I was surprised he didn’t start tapping his foot.

I decided not to comment. I was happy enough that I had managed to quickly slam my seat belt on before he had wandered over to the driver’s side window – let me just say for the record that I am normally very vigilant about seat belts! Unfortunately, I was the only one in the back seat who reacted in kind (tsk, tsk, tsk!).

“Your license and passport, please,” he continued, “As well as the passports of the two ladies in the back who don’t have their seat belts on.”

Damn it.

Luckily, we were soon on our way as he seemed to lose interest upon discovering that, despite our Spanish license plate, none of us were actually Spanish. Woohooo! And as an added bonus, he gave us directions.

Once we had made our way to the cable car queue, a ‘Gibraltar Tours’ guide approached us and offered to take us on a small personalised mini-van tour. We ‘bravely’ agreed. The five of us along with another couple piled into the air-conditioned van and were off. Amongst the sights we took in were the Pillars of Hercules, St Michael’s Cave, the Apes’ Den, the Great Siege Tunnels and the Moorish Castle.

One of the definite highlights of the tour for me (besides the Rock itself) were the Barbary Macaques (the tailless local monkeys). Holy cow, are they adorable! Like little hairy dudes… cheeky little hairy dudes actually, one tried to steal my scarf! It is against the law to feed them (£500 fine if caught) and human interaction (at least from tourists) is highly frowned upon for obvious reasons; but as they are such a tourist attraction, this seems to be ignored unfortunately.

The little guys are fed nuts (correction: it was uncooked pasta) as a reward for sitting on tourists’ shoulders and tour guides ‘warn’ the tourists that if they decide to buy an ice cream, the monkeys are notorious for stealing them. It’s a bit like saying there’s a fun park to your left, but you mustn’t have a look! Needless to say, monkeys sat on shoulders and lavished ice cream bars. We indulged a bit as well, to be honest, and I blame ignorance (despite how poor an excuse that might be) as well as how insanely cute the monkeys were (just as lame an excuse, I know). They may be adorable, but they are wild animals and they do bite – so be warned!

I highly recommend the tour if you are going to Gibraltar. At around €30 it’s good value for money (the cable car ride and the entrance fees total €26.50). You get to skip the cable car queue, you are driven from point to point in an air-conditioned vehicle instead of having to walk up and down the Rock, all entrance fees are included and you get a personal guide who gives you information not only at the points of interest, but throughout the one and a half hour trip.

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All-in-all, a day out well spent!



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Your Sister permalink
    August 12, 2010 20:25


    I don’t know if other tour guides were feeding the monkeys peanuts, but ours gave them uncooked pasta… Nom nom, doesn’t that sound more appetizing?

    Love you lots!


    • August 12, 2010 20:38

      Whoops! Really? Well, I stand corrected and thanks for picking up on that!

      Love you too, Zwetchge!

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