Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Trip Start Sep 15, 2006
Trip End Oct 10, 2006

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Wednesday, October 4, 2006

MOOD: My mood is "here we go again," but there isn't a word for that in English. Maybe German.
TIME/PLACE: Oct 4, 6:52, bus from Algeciras to Malaga
FOOD LAST CONSUMED: Breakfast at 1pm, which consisted of a big sandwich made of roasted chicken and mayo, an orange Fanta and Pimentos Fritos, which turned out to be deep fried large green chiles. I also got a side of garlic mayo, hoping it would be as garlicky as at Lebanese places in L.A., but no such luck. I scraped off the mayo from the sandwich and slathered it with the garlic mayo, plus ate the garlic mayo with the already oily chiles. The calorie content of that meal must have been enormous. But I did a lot of hiking today, plus I was going to eat yet another oily meal of fish and chips, but I didn't find a place in time.

I got lots of sleep at the Hotel Miramar in Linea de la Concepcion, waking up at noon. Of the three places for accommodations I found within walking distance of the bus station, Hotel Miramar was the only one with space, so it was 38 Euros I was happy to spend considering I wasn't sure there'd be any budget hotels at all when I got off the bus.

[QUICK INTERLUDE: My least favorite thing to have someone say to me in Spanish that I understand: "Completa." (We're full up.)

My favorite thing to have someone say to me in Spanish that I understand: "Diga me." (Talk to me. You're trying to speak to me in Spanish and I'm listening. Keep going. You're doing fine, at least enough for me to understand you.) I've also heard "baile" in the same context, but I'm not quite sure what that means.]

I've gotta say, the Lonely Planet guidebook for Spain really wasn't much of a help when it came to Gibraltar. They only gave passing mention to Linea de la Concepcion as the inevitable place one must pass through to go to Gibraltar, but there was nothing about accommodations. Considering the fact that the hotels in Gibraltar are all absurdly expensive as they charge by the pound sterling (for example, 55 pounds for the Hotel Continental), and that the night life and hotels seem to shut down with no one to receive you after 11:30 (though Hotel Continental appears to stay open later), and that the public bus system stops running before 12 and it's a long, lonely walk from the border to any of the hotels listed in the guide book, they really need to tell people to just stay in La Linea.

By the time I showered, packed, got food, checked on bus times at the station, got more credits on my cell phone and walked to the border it was around 1:30. Just through passport control (where I had to ask for a stamp, and I'm glad I did as it has this cool logo reading "Gib"), there's a desk for tour bus info with these really pushy salesmen trying to get your 28 Euros. I ignored them and got on the public bus #3, which costs 2.50 Euros for the day. (I was able to use Euros for the three times I bought anything, so it doesn't appear to be necessary to exchange your money.) I took the #3 to the end of the line, which is Europa Point and got off.

The man at Hotel Miramar said that one could see Morocco from the top of the rock, but hell, you can see North Africa just fine from Europa Point, and it was really cool. I had hoped to make it to Morocco on this trip, but I would have had to have skipped either the past few days or some time in Barcelona, so maybe next time. But it's cool to have a picture of me with this other continent in the background.

Speaking of North Africa, there's a mosque at Europa Point, as well as a lighthouse. So not only was it very picturesque, but the call to services was coming from the mosque's PA system, which is something that I enjoy hearing (as long as it's not at 6:30am and I'm right next door, which was the case in Kashmir a couple of years ago).

Not content to follow the other tourists, I wandered around the bend to see what the other side of the peninsula is like and was rewarded by large construction trucks barreling past me on this road with no shoulder and the site of a military barracks where someone was taking rifle practice. There's something about hearing gunfire and singing from a mosque within five minutes of each other that's unnerving.

I got back on the bus and asked about going to Upper Rock, which is what the signs were calling it. He said he'd call out the stop and that it would be a half-hour walk. Even though I knew that there's a cable car to the top, I thought it would be pretty cool o say I walked to the top, so that's what I did.

Besides the view from the top, the other big attractions in Gibraltar are St. Matthew's Cave, the monkey cave, tunnels that were built for military purposes dating from the 1700s (I believe) and WWII. I didn't go to any of these because I didn't have time, and because you can't just pay for one, you need to pay 8 pounds ($16 dollars) for all of them. So even though I was at the cave entrance, I didn't go in, preferring instead to buy a bottle of Bushy's ale, made in Scotland's Isle of Man from hops grown in Gibraltar. It was a silly expenditure, but it really hit the spot.

Oh, and about the monkeys. I didn't realize it beforehand, but Gibraltar is crawling with macaque apes and that's one of the big tourist draws. Ever since India, I don't trust monkeys, and considered having someone take a picture of me flipping one off, but these were pretty docile, and of course, cute. I got some good video and pictures, including one of a macaque sitting on a little girl's head. I was waiting for her to get pooped on, but no dice.

At one point on the walk up, there was a sign that was totally confusing. It indicated that the way to the cable car station was to the right from the direction of the cave, but when I got up there the roads were gated. (Indeed, that point seemed to be higher than the cable car station when I viewed it from there.) So, as time was getting tight and it made sense, I ran all the way back down to the sign, then trudged up to the cable car station. So not only did I walk to the top of Gibraltar, I did it twice.

The macaques were swarming the cable car station, with signs warning you to eat your food inside as they'll grab it from you, and to not rustle any plastic bags as they've learned to associate hem with food. Meanwhile, they were all over the trash cans, pulling out ice cream wrappers, etc. The signs tell you not to feed them as they eat a balanced diet, so you'd think the trash cans would be better constructed to deter them.

At that point it was 4:50 and I needed to be on the bus by 5:45. It was really getting bad. So I bought the 11 Euro ticket for the cable car (15 for the round trip, so by walking I saved 4 Euros. You'd think it would have only been 4 for the way down instead of 11, but nope.) It was a really quick ride, and I was able to locate the correct bus stop fast enough, and even though it was rush hour with lots of people trying to get across the border, I was back in Spain at 5:30. However, I still needed to walk to the hotel, grab my bag and walk to the station. Oh, and there's the possibility that they wouldn't sell me a ticket so soon before the bus left, or that it would be full.

The good news is that I hailed a cab a couple of doors away from the hotel, which allowed me to repack for the bus on the way to the station and buy my ticket. So for the second day in a row, I cut it entirey too close but got away wit it. I like to think I don't like to gamble, but when it comes to time, I think I do it everyday.

The bad news is that I misunderstood the ticket agent this morning, who I thought had said there was a bus to Granada from La Linea. After getting somewhat upset at tonight's ticket agent, I realized that I first needed to go to Algeciras, which I did for the cost of 1.80. At Algeciras I again found that I wouldn't be able to get a bus to Granada, that the best I could do was Malaga (10 Euros) and then try for a bus to Granada tonight. To complicate matters, I gave my credit card number to a hostel in Granada, so if I don't make it there tonight, I'm out another 20 Euros.

So that's where I'm at. Thankfully, this is a direct bus, meaning I'll get to Malaga sooner and it's actually on a highway, as opposed to the awful, sickening roundabouts of last night's bus. Oh, and another thing. Uli reached me on the cell phone, so it was good that I had it on, and I told him I might be in Girona tomorrow night. That is, if I can get a cheap flight to Barcelona, and the airline in Granada flies to the Barcelona airport that's near Girona.

We're making a stop in Marbella to pick people up, so I guess this bust isn't as "Directo" as advertised. But it's sunset and the light is lovely and it'll be good to stretch my legs.

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