♥ by Julien
There are some places in Europe that most of us have heard of, would more or less “know about“ or possibly could „roughly place on a map“ and yet still be uncertain about “what the heck were we just talking about?“.
Gibraltar is one of them. One of these oddities which make Europe a continent to explore and enjoy.
I am not going to introduce you to the full history of Gibraltar as Wikipedia or any Google-search will provide you with all the details you need. No, what I will do is summarise what makes it such a strange yet must-see place.
To begin with, it is a piece of land belonging to Great-Britain and yet located in the far Southern end of Spain, facing Morocco. It is a pain-in-the-rear for any regulators of the E.U. Parliament now that Brexit is about to happen. It is a crossover between a “chunk of rocky, dry, mountain with barely any proper vegetation on it” and a flourishing business centre where the most expensive yachts are harboured just some hundred metres away from the biggest tankers sailing the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the weirdest and scariest airports in the world. It is the home of monkeys.
Yes, you read it correctly. MON-KEYS! The real deal, living freely, not in a cage, in good ol’ Europe!
And to be fair, it is because of all the reasons listed above that I so wanted to go there. Although I’d be lying if I was pretending that the monkey-clause was the last on my list. Rather the top one actually.
So we arrived 2 days prior to our visit of the Rock and settled on a pretty calm spot, “les pieds dans l’eau”. There we met two German families travelling together, each in their own home-on-wheels (totally different league than ours though). And both home-schooling. Needless to say that we did take the chance to introduce ourselves and to chat about the hows and whys of this way of life that we love so much.
The day of our visit to Gibraltar, we departed quite early to take advantage of the beautiful weather as we already decided we wanted to hike in the National Park, not the fancy-building part. Even if we were still in the early days of February, the sun was already warm and hiking with a toddler could prove to be a bit complicated.
First fun moment: crossing an actual border. Yes, the E.U. allows its citizens to freely cross borders between its members but with Brexit looming over our heads we had to show our passports at the borders. And boy was that fun to go from the Southern Spanish accent to a striking Scottish one right off the bat (“That’s lovely, thank you!”). Eva could not stop giggling for 5 min after the border check.
Then we drove across the tarmac of the airport and passed next to the football stadium. Remember my list above and the bit about the airport? There you go. It’s actually pretty fascinating, because the tarmac is almost at sea level and when the planes come flying in they go so low that it looks like they’re going to dive into the ocean. From where we were camping we had a full view on the Rock and the planes landing and it always looked like they would crash into the Rock!
And at last we finally entered the actual city of Gibraltar!
Driving through the city to access the parking lot at the far end of the Rock turned out to be quite an experience: streets are usually narrow and can be rather steep out of the blue.
At last, we parked near the beautiful mosque and started the ascent to the National Park. At the entrance, we paid our tickets and engaged on the path called “The Mediterranean Steps”. It is a tour of the Park, leading you all around the Rock, mainly using the tracks soldiers used back in the days to watch over the Med Sea. Eventually, here and there, some traces of that past can be seen in the form of bunkers, ammunition hide-outs or giant cannons crowning the peaks of the Rock. Despite the military influence on the track itself, it is a unique experience to walk on it. It offers breath-taking (both literally and figuratively) views of the Sea, the Rock, its flora and fauna. We really recommend it to all of you fit enough to do it. And… it is a great opportunity as well to encounter the Monkeys!!
After our hike we went back to the camper and drove back to the same spot we stayed before. Unfortunately, our timing was rather bad as we wanted to exit Gibraltar at the same time as so many workers leave the office and are also on their way back to Spain. Yep, this is one of these parts of the globe where a lot of people cross borders every day twice a day for a living. And yep, it takes forever to get out (it took us a bit over an hour, from the tarmac of the airport to enter Spanish ground).
To conclude our tour in Gibraltar – if you are looking for a great hiking day in a unique environment, go for it! It is totally worth it! The major drawback are obviously the border check (both ways) and it might get even more complicated once the Brexit will be over.