January 28, 2015

Gibraltar: Jump or Fly

For whatever reason, Gibraltar had a strong hold on me.

A rock that juts up out of the land and sea. It's in Spain. But it's British. You can see Africa. It has monkeys, tunnels, and pubs.

Maybe it was these juxtapositions of history, culture, and ideas that intrigued me. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Malta and its wide variety of influences.

All I knew for sure was that I had to see Gibraltar. I even had it as the background for this blog the first two and a half years.

The big question was: when?

It was always a "must-see" in my original Iberian Insanity plans. But it was tough to get there. A day trip from Sevilla? Tarifa? Cádiz? The final decision was going to have to wait until I was in Spain.

With the surprise of our canceled flight on New Year's Eve came a flurry of possibilities. We rented the car. We typed different places into the GPS. It was decided.

We were going to drive to Gibraltar from Málaga.

It had the same arrival effect as Mont-Saint-Michel. It started as a speck, then grew taller and taller as we continued speeding toward it. By the time we were in La Linea de la Concepción (last city in Spain before the border), Gibraltar filled the view like a skyscraper.

We parked along a street that leads to the beach, and walked through the "border check." Yes, you need a valid passport. Or maybe you just need a passport. There's no way that border patrol agent was able to read the small printed expiration date as I flashed my photo page at him from 3 feet away. I was American and my photo matched. Apparently that was enough.

One really nice aspect of Gibraltar is that every place accepts both British pounds and EU euros. And of course, everyone speaks English of some sort.

The rock can be a bit Disneyland-ish. The bus that takes you to the "center" really only takes you to all the souvenir shops that you have to walk through to get to the cable car that actually takes you up to the top of the mountain. Marc and I stayed on the bus a little bit longer and ended up walking around the less frequented area. After about a fifteen minute walk, we got to the cable car station.

Now, I really don't like heights. I went through a phase of brave invincibility from about age 16 to age 24. I've gone on every tall ride at Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, and Six Flags Magic Mountain. At 25, in a deep cave in northern Italy, I realized: I'm terrified and I don't need to keep doing this to myself to prove anything.

The last time I'd taken a cable car was on our honeymoon in Banff, Alberta, Canada. I was okay on the way up, at the top I just wanted to get back down, and on the way down I had to use some serious focus to breathe my way to the bottom. That was at age 22, but I was still convinced I could beat that "fear of heights."

At 28, I looked up at those swaying cables. I looked back at Marc.

"If you want to go up, I'm totally fine with that, but I'm definitely staying down here."

"Are you sure?" he doubled checked.

We both knew I'd be way better off alone at sea level than way up there with him and the monkeys. I'd already braved Ronda the evening before. It was Marc's time to fly up to the top of the rock. We set a meeting time, and we both were off to see what we could see.

Moments With Marc

As I got on the cable car to soar up the Rock of Gibraltar without Christy, I had one immediate thought: she would hate this! The car was over-packed and felt a little shaky. The views going up were incredible and luckily, the stuffed box moved quickly to the top. Flying up to the top was a heart-pounding experience, but the landing was the best part.

Who's photo bombing who?!
Once back on solid ground - but 1,400 feet above everything else - the views were even more enjoyable because I was no longer about to have a heart attack. The top of the mountain had great vistas of the Mediterranean Sea, Spain, and even Africa. However, the coolest things you will see are the monkeys!

As you walk around the many paths, Barbary macaques are everywhere you look. Climbing and jumping around in the trees, laying in the sun, posing for pictures on the walls, and eating snacks. There are old, young, male, and female monkeys all over this monkey haven. Very entertaining, and a cool experience to be mere inches away from "wild" animals.

Gliding back down the mountain in a near empty cable car was much less stressful and provided one last chance to feel like I was sitting on top of the world. Everything about this flight was a must-do experience and I am glad I put on my brave face for the journey. Maybe I will convince Swags to come with me next time...?

Back With Swags

So what did I end up doing?

I walked south along the Mediterranean, hiking in and around steep neighborhoods and on disappearing sidewalks.

My goal was to make it to the 100 Ton Gun and see what that was all about. The man at the welcome desk didn't have change for my 20 euro bill, so he just let me enter the bunker exhibit for free. I had to climb up steep steps and through the narrow halls to get to the viewing deck. I was the only person there. The Mediterranean, Great Britain, Spain, and Africa were mine.

Perfect for a jumping shoot!

Ninja punching Africa.

As I made my way back to the botanical garden meet point with Marc, I enjoyed seeing the regular life of Gibraltar pass me by. Friends visiting each other. A man fixing an electrical pole. A lady with a shopping bag slung over her shoulder. A couple on their run.

"Jumper's Well. May the First. 1801."
We both got what we wanted out of Gibraltar, and had more than enough stories and photos for each other when we reconvened. 

As we drove away, we took the coastal side roads and found another set of adventures...that we'll save for another time!