Monkeying around: Gibraltar – 16/11/2018 to 18/11/2018

Previous post – London

If you have an early morning flight and you need to get across London, get an Uber. For £37 Emily and I got across the city at 4am in 1/3 of the time and only £15 more than it would have been to get 2 buses and a National Express from Tooting to Gatwick. After a non-eventful 3-hour flight we landed in Gibraltar, walked basically across the runway to get into the city (an experience in itself), to be at our apartment just after midday.

Not a bad view of the Rock from our apartment!

After some amazing fish and chips and chicken adobo (thanks Tina’s Takeaway) we headed to the botanical gardens and Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park. Honestly, for £5 it was the best value zoo I have ever been to. Small tamarins, snakes, bats, wild pigs and larger apes all housed in great condition. As if that wasn’t enough, there is a walkthrough with lemurs, so you get to hang out with the primates for as long as you like – enough to whet your appetite for the macaques at the top of the Rock! We capped a brilliant afternoon off with dinner at Casa Brachetto and a night time stroll along the beach. Day 1 in Gibraltar was a resounding success.

Our new lemur friends

Waking up faced with rain and strong winds we were unfazed, grabbing a full English on the way to the base of the Mediterranean Steps, we set off. My main aim when heading to Gibraltar was of course to climb the Rock. Famous for being one of the two pillars of Hercules and a fortified defence of Great Britain for centuries, I didn’t want to take the easy option and merely get a cable car to the top, I wanted to experience the winding route up the sheer face of the promontory. Luckily, I have a girlfriend who is such a warrior that hiking up a mini mountain in adverse conditions was just as appealing to her as it was to me. So climbing various switchbacks and false summits, going slowly to avoid slipping or being blown into the sea and passing old gun batteries and caves along the way, we summited an hour and bit later. 426 m high (1,398 ft) and all absolute prominence – it does climb out of the sea after all! In summer the views stretch across into Africa and back up to Spain. For us visibility was around 20 feet! Wild, soaked and exhilarated I couldn’t have been happier or prouder to call Emily my girlfriend. Gnarly as fuck.

Interesting visibility for a mountain climb…

Once at the top we made the most of our time at the Upper Rock Nature reserve, exploring first St. Michael’s cave. Believed by the Roman’s to be bottomless, but actually some 700 feet deep and now used as a concert hall, it is a natural amphitheatre filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Amazing.

Remarkable… whatever the weather!

Once we had warmed up with a cup of tea it was time to live my best David Attenborough life. We hung out with the Barbary Macaques, Europe’s only wild monkeys, as they ate, played and fought among themselves at the top of the Rock. Watching an alpha “sort” out a dispute with a rival (throw him off the side of a van) and seeing another little one fully de-gloved and sporting a vicious wound on his arm was a stark reminder every time we got lulled into a sense of security that they were fully wild and needed to be treated as such! Walking round to the Moorish Castle we soaked up the remaining sights and history of this fantastic nature reserve before heading back as the afternoon wore on. After an amazing evening meal at Curry and Sushi (shout out for the best squid I’ve ever had) and a few more drinks, we turned in after a second day that eclipsed an already brilliant first.

One of the less violent ones!

Waking up on our third day in Gibraltar we packed, checked out and headed for brunch – which was paid for by our Airbnb host as we bumped into him again. An amazing gesture and fantastic final meal in the country. Using the last of our time we took the bus out to Europa point, to check out the lighthouse. Luckily the weather had improved, and we had the stunning view across the straight into Morocco and North Africa. Fully content, we headed back to the airport and flew back to London. Gibraltar. Completed it mate.

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Europa point and Africa beyond

Sources and places visited:*F