Spain/Morocco 2011:
Day 4 - Gibraltar


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Spain/Morocco 2011: [Day 1 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 2 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 3 - At Sea] [Day 4 - Gibraltar] [Day 5 - At Sea] [Day 6 - Funchal, Portugal] [Day 7 - Tenerife, Canary Islands] [Day 8 - Arrecife, Canary Islands] [Day 9 - Agadir, Morocco] [Day 10 - Marrakech, Morocco] [Day 11 - Seville, Spain] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 14 - Andorra]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011: As we approached the port of Málaga, Spain, it was still dark out.

It was a little less dark when we docked, ...
... but not much. Cool moon, huh?
We disembarked around 8:15 and got this shot of a beautiful Maersk ship through the cruise terminal window.
Our driver (booked through shuttlemalaga.com) was scheduled to pick us up at 8:30 AM, but was already waiting for us when we arrived, so we were in the car less than a minute after leaving the terminal.
The sun finally rose as we were on our way.
It turns out that the south of Spain is a popular vacation destination. Who knew? Not us.
But now we know, and we hope to come back someday.
There were many, many resorts and condos along the ocean and the architecture was quite nice.
After an hour and a half of driving, we spotted our destination: the Rock of Gibraltar.
It's on a tiny piece of land just barely attached to Spain, and we approached it via the town of La Línea.
Our driver, Julio, dropped us off at the border just under two hours after picking us up, ...
... and told us to meet him at the Burger King across the street at our pre-agreed time of 1:00 PM.
So, we got a photo of ourselves with the Rock behind us, ...
... then took the easy one-minute walk across the border. We simply held up our closed passports at the policeman at the border, then walked through the deserted room that serves as the customs building.
At the end of that building, there was a desk for Gibraltar taxi tours and a sign with Debbie's name on it. As we approached the sign, a lovely woman named Rachel appeared to take us on the tour we had prebooked.
Good thing, too, because there were two cruise ships in town and every single taxi was working the harbor instead of the border. A group of four Canadian women joined us on our tour as well, grateful that at least one tour guide was available at the border. So, four minutes after being dropped off, we were in Rachel's comfortable van and on our way again.
First order of business: crossing the airport runway. This is the only way into Gibraltar, and when planes arrive or take off, you just have to wait.
Yes. It's true. There's the runway. Later in our story, we watched a plane take off from this very runway.
The wall on the right shown here meanders up the mountain, and we saw the end of it later on.
Check it out -- an actual British telephone booth! Gibraltar is a British territory and there are British touches everywhere.
Our first stop was the 100 Tonne Gun, but we had to stop and admire the tropical blooms first.
Oh, African daisies are just adorable.
Speaking of adorable, look how cute this little cannon is. No, this is not the 100 Tonne Gun.
If you're going to shoot ammunition like this, ...
... you're gonna need a bigger gun. Like this one. Doesn't look all that big?
Well, then, here is Tom to give you a sense of scale on the size of this gun. Yeah, it's big.
Here's another gun, with a glimpse of our Canadian companions, who were looking out over the fence to admire ...
... this view. That's Morocco out there in the distance. Yes, we said Morocco, which is located on the continent of Africa. Mind-blowing, huh?
There was a lot of Maersk to see in the Bay of Gibraltar (also known as Bay of Algeciras or Bahía de Algeciras).
From the wall looking back, we could see part of the Rock and we were excited to get up there.
We drove past a small beach popular with Gibraltarians, ...
... and through a tunnel, ...
... and through another tunnel. Rachel told us that the Rock is filled with miles of tunnels and we believe her.
We drove out to Europa Point and foolishly did not start taking photos until after we had turned away from the lighthouse and were facing the Rock again.
The Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque is located here.
We drove up, ...
... and up, ...
... and up, until we stopped to get out for a visit to St. Michael's Cave.
The view from here was fantastic, ...
... but the real attraction is the population of Gibraltar monkeys, officially known as Barbary Macaques. More photos of them to come shortly, we promise.
We headed into the cave not having any idea what to expect.
Wow. Just wow.
The cave is breathtaking, beautifully lit, and easily accessible.
The cave has a long, interesting history (Google it), and this carving was made by soldiers from World War II.
One area of the cave has been turned into an auditorium for concerts. Here's the view from the stage looking toward the seats, ...
... and here's the opposite view. The seats are simple plastic chairs, designed to be dripped on from the ceiling of a cave.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were here in 1954.
We glanced into the cafe and gift shop at the end of the cave tour. This photo is blurry, so we'll read it for you: The Great British Ale. Like the Rock, it's not for sharing! We can appreciate a little political humor with our beer, but there was no time to stop and enjoy a bottle.
Instead, we had a few minutes to enjoy the monkeys who wait for unsuspecting tourists holding ice cream cones as they come out of the gift shop. This guy's just relaxing.
The monkeys really seemed to like sitting and frolicking on the top of the tour buses.
Here's a mama with her baby.
Here's a grouping of four, including a tiny one.
Rachel explained the rules to us regarding the monkeys -- do not touch them or feed them, but they might touch you, as we found out. This monkey grabbed Rachel's hand to see if she had any food, ...
... then came up to see if Tom had anything to share.
Back in the van, we drove to the other end of the rock, to the highest point of the tour.
We were barely out of the van when a monkey appeared at the driver's side window to see what goodies we might have hidden inside.
This spot has a large area where the rangers who tend the monkeys bring fresh food for them.
This little guy was enjoying a carrot as big as his head.
There were several view points along the edge of the cliff.
From here, you can look straight down a very sheer cliff to a small road with houses facing the crystal blue water. If only we had the time and wetsuits to do some snorkeling!
This monkey leaped from the railing onto Debbie's head and started to check her for nits. Debbie passed the camera to Tom to document it.
Debbie can now say she's had a monkey on her back. Literally.
"Wasn't me. I was here the whole time."
Next, we walked up another set of stairs (carefully stepping around the monkey sleeping on them) to enjoy more of the view. Here's the view to the north, ...
... and here's the view to the south. Orchy was there.
So were we.
And so was this guy.
We walked back down by the van and got this photo of the other end of the wall we had originally seen further down the hill.
The view from here of the Bay of Gibraltar and the town itself was amazing.
We counted five or six Maersk ships in the bay, including these twins.
Back in the van, we found that the monkeys had made a mess of the van's windshield, covering it with footprints and bits of carrot. Rachel acknowledged that it was a pretty standard occurrence.
We got a glimpse of the cable car tower, which might be fun to ride if we ever make it back here, but a guided taxi tour was definitely the best way to see as much of Gibraltar as possible.
We passed these three flags of the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Gibraltar, ...
... on our way to the Great Siege Tunnels, a series of tunnels with all kinds of history that can be found elsewhere.
We peeked out of the windows (or whatever you call the holes in the rock where the cannons shoot through), and saw a plane ready to take off (at the right in this photo).
So, of course we had to stop and watch the spectacle. In this shot, you can see the cars backed up to the border and off to the left on the road in La Línea.
The tunnels go on forever, ...
... with bar-covered holes around every turn, ...
... and a dazzling view out of each one.
We spent a few minutes looking around outside the tunnels.
Here's a full view of the narrow strip of land connecting Gibraltar to Spain.
Here's the view looking toward the bay and the town of Gibraltar. We were so fortunate to have beautiful weather. Rachel told us that the day before had been rainy and foggy, so there were no views to be had anywhere.
We headed back into town, past this merchant in his shop, ...
... and this narrow alley/stairway, ...
... and this street full of motorcycles, ...
... and the Gibraltar Chronicle, the local newspaper, ...
and St. Andrew's Church, of the Church of Scotland, ...
... and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, built in the Moorish style.
Gibraltar: it's like England except with palm trees!
We drove into Grand Casemates Square to drop off our Canadian friends.
It too, looks like a nice place to spend some time.
The nice Canadian ladies gave each of us a Canadian flag pin as a parting gift.
Here's the Moorish Castle turned former Gibraltar prison. And yes, it did turn out to be visible from the cruise ship later on that evening. Tom was right, Debbie was wrong.
We stopped at another place in town to meet Paul Del Mar, who was busy driving cruise ship shuttles, but who had arranged for Rachel to take us on our tour. Thanks, Paul! If you are looking for an excellent tour, we highly recommend contacting Paul at pauldelmar13@yahoo.co.uk.
Rachel took us back across the airport runway, ...
... and to the border, right on time.
We flashed our closed passports again as we crossed the border -- in 30 seconds, we were out of Gibraltar and facing it once again from Spain.
We had 10 minutes before our driver would be picking us up, so we shared a Whopper meal ...
... at a Burger King with one of the greatest views ever.
Our driver picked us up right on time, and we retraced our nearly two-hour route back to Málaga.
Windmills in Spain -- it's not exactly Man of La Mancha but close enough.
The scenery along the coast is really pretty, with hills everywhere and cute little towns.
And Maersk! Lots and lots of Maersk.
Here's a view of Málaga ...
... and here's some interesting old fort that we might know something about if we had stayed in town and done a local tour.
Exactly one hour and 50 minutes later, Julio dropped us off at the cruise ship pier, and we declared it to be an excellent tour.
Thank goodness for the Lido buffet, because we were starving when we returned.
And if that buffet food comes with a view of a Maersk container ship, so much the better.
Sail out was during dinner, and we had a nice view out the window from our table.
During sunset, we tried to spot Gibraltar on the horizon. As far as we could tell, it was obscured by clouds in the distance to the left of the landmass visible in this photo.
Later in the evening, we were able to see the outline of the Rock highlighted against the lights of Gibraltar, La Línea, and Algeciras.
At this point, we were close enough that the Rock fills up nearly this whole photo. The string of lights just right of the center are from the same buildings we peered down on earlier in the day. From this angle, the rock looks a little like Diamondhead in Hawaii.
Looking to the left of the ship, we could see the lights of Morocco as we entered the Strait of Gibraltar.
There's the Rock getting closer now, as we viewed it looking directly back to La Línea, which makes the Rock appear to be narrow.
Some of our fellow passengers were out on deck to view it, including one guy in his swim trunks. Brrrr.

We got one last extreme zoom before we called it a night.

Day 5 >


Spain/Morocco 2011: [Day 1 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 2 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 3 - At Sea] [Day 4 - Gibraltar] [Day 5 - At Sea] [Day 6 - Funchal, Portugal] [Day 7 - Tenerife, Canary Islands] [Day 8 - Arrecife, Canary Islands] [Day 9 - Agadir, Morocco] [Day 10 - Marrakech, Morocco] [Day 11 - Seville, Spain] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 14 - Andorra]

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