First of all, I’d just like to say what an incredibly strange and confusing part of the world this is. Africans, Spanish and British can be found all over here. Algeciras (the closest city to Gibraltar and where I was staying) with it’s poverty, thieves, prostitution, squats, tourists, industry and pollution; and then Gibraltar with it’s Englishness, wild monkeys, cheap booze and wealth, and just over the water; Morocco with it’s almost alien culture. All the while a mix of cruise ships, oil tankers, cargo ships and fishing boats lie floating in the bay. Jews walk around Gibraltar freely with the caps on their heads and the most southerly mosque of Europe lies on Gibraltar’s most southern point. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world where the British, Spaniards and Moroccans come so close.
Can you believe though, that you can’t travel from Gibraltar to Algeciras (the closest city) without taking the motorway?! You can’t even walk from Algeciras to the next town north on the coast because of a river, and there’s only one bridge: a motorway. Your other option is a 20km detour to the next bridge.
I emerged from the motorway and hit the coast, cycling a quiet road through an industrial area, with large, ugly petrochemical plants and even a beach. Despite the water being crystal clear, you wouldn’t catch me swimming in there.
I passed around 50 cars queueing at the border (stupid how many people drive in Gibraltar for such a tiny place) and only had to stop for a second to hand over my passport.The guard waved me on…I said “Gracias” and he said “Thank-you” with an English accent. It took me a while to get used to the fact that everyone speaks English here. And also a funny mix of English, Spanish and other languages called Llanito; the result of…Catalans, Geonese, Jews from Tetouan (Morocco) and Maltese forming the beginnings of civilisation here 300 hundred years ago.
But before I could do anything in Gibraltar, I had to cross a frickin active runway…
They say the novelty wears off though, as you’re trapped in Gibraltar for 20 minutes when a plane comes.
At the south of Gibraltar on Europa Point lies Europe’s most southerly mosque and to the East lies a few coves and beaches, including this beach, Sandy Bay, which had hardly any people!
There is also some sort of military barracks on this side, or it least one I could see (who knows what’s inside the rock…) and some clouds whisping up from the Mediterranean and covering the cliffs, complete with caves.
There are tunnels too cutting through the outskirts of the rock, some form part of an old railway track (they used to have a steam train going around the rock) and some are damp and cool inside.
Once back at the airport side, I began ascending, and without panniers on my bike I was laughing. Climbing hills without the weight was too easy.
It’s one Euro or 50p to get into the nature reserve. The money here’s a bit funny too, like it has the queen’s head on it but she looks about 100 years younger.
Two uphill roads later and I was staring face to face with a wild monkey sitting on a bin. He was just chillin’ there, holding his toes.
I thought at first this was maybe a lucky encounter but these guys are all over the place, and are the only wild monkeys in Europe.
After I climbed to the top and there were a whole load of monkeys playing there. They weren’t shy, and some were observing the tourists that were arriving on the continuous taxi tours up the mountain. The taxi drivers are used to handling the monkeys, and feed them little nuts or play with them. Which made me wonder how wild the actually are.
Later, I headed down to Main Street. It’s like walking around a town in the south of England. Except the weather is good. There are British traffic lights, British policemen and fish and chip shops everywhere.
In the end it was a toss-up between buying a big bottle of Dura Scottish whisky for £15 (half price!) or a pub dinner with a pint of Guinness. The Guinness won it in the end, and at only 3 quid a pint, I was cycling back to Algeciras rather merrily.