Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monkeying Around in Gibraltar, UK

To our surprise, the Captain announced that we wouldn’t be sailing into Funchal, Portugal because a national strike was expected. So instead of a sea day, we were heading to Gibraltar, which is part of the UK. That sounded like a good exchange to us, as we didn’t have anything planned for Funchal anyway. Jeff was pretty happy because Gibraltar is known for its semi-wild Barbary apes, and he was already plotting ways to get more bananas to take off the ship!

Here is Gibraltar on the map. The Rock of Gibraltar is something to see, towering 1400 feet above the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow passage of water that separates Europe from Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea. The population is a mix of Portuguese, Italian, Maltese, Spanish and English. The official language is English, but Spanish is also widely spoken.

And here we are...we planned to walk around with Jeff and Kathy as they had been here before. Jeff’s backpack was heavy with smuggled bananas!

In front of the miniature Rock!

At first I thought this guy was real! There were glass blowing demonstrations going on inside, which we did visit on our return. The hand-blown wineglasses were so beautiful, but I resisted the urge.

Yup! We’re in the UK! 

These workers were planting a garden (such a strange time of year!) and putting up Christmas decorations.

We were continually accosted by tour operators who were trying to convince us that going up in the cable car was a waste of time as the distances between the various sites was over 9 km. They would take us to all the sites and return us in an hour. We tried to convince Jeff to come, but because they had been here before, he really only wanted to see and feed the apes. So we parted company with Jeff and Kathy and went off to see the sites.

Our first stop was the Pillars of Hercules monument. The fable is that Hercules separated Africa from Europe, and the pillars represent the Rock of Gibraltar and a corresponding peak in North Africa.

The roads were tiny, with few guardrails, and the scenery was spectacular.

Our first (of many) ape sightings. They warned us about them stealing hats, cameras, purses, sunglasses…this aerial looked to be in danger.

So cute, but also so quick. I didn’t particularly want one of them leaping onto me as we saw them do with many tourists.

The entrance to St. Michael’s Cave is about 1100 feet above sea level. The Cathedral Cave, which is thought to be bottomless, is in part responsible for the myth that Gibraltar was joined to Africa by a 15 mile long subterranean passage under the Strait of Gibraltar. Huh!

Concerts are held in this cave. The acoustics are supposed to be excellent.

The pillar on the right was massive. I couldn’t imagine sitting through a concert in here though as it felt a bit claustrophobic.

Although there are signs saying you shouldn’t feed the apes, even the tour drivers bring food. They know the tourists love to see them. This gal with her baby was holding on tight.

Their faces are so expressive.

All the buildings are sitting on reclaimed land. The guide said it was amazing to see how much it has grown.

This is the farthest we went up. You could see down to the beach below.

You could go up to the fortress at the top of the hill, but we didn’t venture that far.

The Rock of was beautiful…

Momma against a beautiful backdrop.

The cable car runs past here to the city below.

And then we arrived at the Great Siege Tunnels. Gibraltar underwent many sieges as soldiers surrounded the fortress and tried to cut off supplies to it. The 14th siege in 1779 lasted over 3 ½ years and was known as the "Great Siege."

The first tunnel began in 1782 and allowed the defenders to ward off the Spanish forces. Following this, over 48 kilometres of tunnel were driven inside the Rock.

The tunnels were driven by hand. The man holding the drill steel needed to completely trust the man with the sledgehammer!

Thirteen men worked for five weeks to drive an 8 foot tunnel 82 feet into the rock.

During the sixth week, they made a room with a hole to the outside for ventilation.

They had a great view of the harbour and the face of the Rock.

Here is a unique arrangement. This is the airport runway with Gibraltar in the foreground and Spain in the background. On the left you can see the highway intersecting the runway, so whenever a plane is getting ready to land or take off, they stop the traffic on both sides for at least 15 minutes. Talk about traffic tie-ups, but I guess the arrangement works for them.

Our short tour was over. It was just the right length of time as by now we were getting pretty toured out. We were shopping for a souvenir for our cabin steward. Due to the Norovirus sanitizing procedures, the crew has been working extra hours and Leroy hadn’t been off the ship in over a month. He hadn’t been to Gibraltar before, so we brought him back a hat and t-shirts for his two sons. Lots of shops to look in…and so many people!

We met up with Kathy on the street. Jeff had decided to walk down from the top, so she took the cable car (smart decision!). She showed us her pictures of the apes.

It pays to have bananas! Please, mister!

They love to jump on you!

A momma and her baby…

They really are cute, although the guide said they are becoming nuisances. Where they used to stay on the rock, they are now coming down into the town and “breaking into” houses.

A little baby...

I guess they like apples too!

Sharing with the baby...

Family portrait…

We sat in this outside café and enjoyed a cider while we people-watched before heading back to the ship.

Jim is really warming up to Jeff…ha ha!

Jeff and Kathy’s friend, Crystal, got on the ship in Barcelona and joined us for dinner.

Gibraltar was an unexpected and every enjoyable stop. Now tomorrow, we really do get a sea day!!

1 comment:

Pam said...

I assume that the monkeys were done with the bus..