'The End of Europe'

Trip Start Aug 27, 2001
Trip End Dec 13, 2001

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Flag of Gibraltar  ,
Wednesday, September 5, 2001

'The End of Europe'

Yesterday we strayed away from our regular diet of sun and surf. Having the need to do something different, we pitched out 1800 pts each and set our alarm for 6am. By 7:50, we were collapsed over in the top of a double-decker bus. Destination: Gibraltar.

Now my personal knowledge of Gibraltar was fairly weak going into this. Many of my mental images of the place came from the logo of 'Prudential' insurance and I knew but a few things: it was British, it had some sort of cave system, and most importantly there were apes of some variety. So, all in all, I was prepared for a learning experience.

Our first lesson was to avoid the upper level of the bus at all costs. Between the rocking of the bus and the mad antics by Pepé (our driver), we were thrown all over the place. Trying to sleep in a surge of rocking motions was not the easiest on our stomachs.

Upon arrival, we thought we would be subjected to the usual customs routine. However, the customs officers were all too easy in letting us go by (not that we had anything to hide). They hopped on our tour bus and got everybody to hold up their passports. We complied and that was that. I guess it was enough for them to see that we held a passport of some sort.

The tour we decided to go on was dubbed the "shopping tour of Gibraltar". Supposedly it´s cheaper to do your shopping here than in the rest of Spain. Nonetheless this interested us little and we decided to simply explore the 'rock' on our own. We headed down a bustling street of tourists and made a half-hour trek to the gondola that would subsequently take us to the top of the mountain.

At the top, we paused for picture time. On one side, was the bordering town of La Linea with the town of Gibraltar at the bottom. To the north, the rock continued upwards into the looming clouds. And to the east, there was nothing. This was a little unsettling. The rock jeered off into the ocean and any visibility was compromised by the low-lying clouds. There was no horizon. About a half a dozen oil tankers (you'll be pleased to know that a few said 'Abu Dhabi' on the side Chris) were anchored in the haze, with the further ones out being swallowed up by the nothingness. It almost felt as if the world ended at the other side of all that. Supposedly you can see Africa from up there but unfortunately it was way too cloudy.

Our first stop was at St. Michael's Caves which is about one km south of the gondola. This was fairly neat but the human additions to it distracted from its natural beauty. Upon entry it felt like you were entering Space Mountain at Disneyland. The paths were lined with a series of purple lights. At one point (I believe during the early part of the 20th century), somebody took it upon themselves to make a stage and a theater within the caves. I'm sure it would prove to make a memorable place for a "field show" (minus the acoustics).

Next came the macaques. These feisty little things were about half way down the rock and clearly provided 1800 pts worth of entertainment. There´s something about being able to interact with apes that makes it so worthwhile. The newborns, which appeared to be only a couple weeks old, were obviously a hi-light. But we saw it all. From apes jumping at Julia, to one eating the antenna of a car, to a couple fighting over the top of a tour bus, it was something that had to be experienced.

Unfortunately by that time, our time in Gibraltar was running out. We took the remaining bit of time to get Julia a pair of red shoes and then we wolfed down some English food.

We had a great time in Gibraltar and I think Julia and I are excited for the possibility of seeing more monkeys in Asia. The 'Monkey Forest' in Bali will clearly be a god-sent.

Best of luck,
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