Piece of advice; NEVER, EVER try to take a 3m high, 6.5m long camper into the City of Gibraltar! Dave has been driving artics for 20 years and is unfazed by narrow twisty city streets; if the van will fit then he’ll get it in. Even he came close to losing it when, after avoiding all the “No Campervans” signs which sent us round the one way system, we were confronted by a “No Entry” one way, a height restriction another and an impossibly narrow 1-in-4, meaning we had to do a three-point turn across a junction on a hill. The place is full of “Thou Shalt Not” signs, without any helpful ones. We considered ourselves lucky to get back out in one piece and with only the paint we went in with.
Having got back to the roundabout at the airport we found a sign that said “Beaches” and set off in the opposite direction. In less than a Kilometre we came to Catalan Bay; big, almost empty car park overlooking the sea. In we went and there we stayed for three fantastic days.
On Friday we went up the rock. “Up” and “Rock” take on a whole new meaning here; it is just huge. The wind was coming from the east while we were there; the moist sea air gets forced up the sheer rock face and meets the cooler air from the other side at the top. It instantly forms a cloud which then drifts away from the peak to the west forming a shadow over the other side, keeping it cooler and perpetuating the whole process. Watching clouds develop at that rate is hypnotic; it’s as if there’s a giant candy-floss machine at work.
We caught the cable car to the top and got really excited when we saw a couple of the famous apes (actually tail-less monkeys) at the half way point.
There’s a lot to see on the upper rock; the whole place is a nature reserve and there are tunnels and gun emplacements from various conflicts all over the place. We avoided the throngs as much as possible and followed the path from the cable car station to the southernmost point, where we sat on a gun battery in the sun staring at Africa. After lunch we gradually wound our way down to the half way point and then climbed the 400 odd steps straight back up the Charles V wall before taking the cable car back down to sea level. There are over 300 monkeys in 6 different troops at various locations; we found ourselves saying “Excuse me, Monkey” a lot. They are incredibly cute; the parents make little clucking noises when they’re re-united with their offspring and family groups all sit in a huddle grooming each other. Even tiny babies make gut wrenching leaps off the side of the cliff into the trees further down, then chase each other through the branches. The height makes you giddy to start with but after a couple of hours of it you start to worry less. There is one bit at the Douglass Lookout where the path along the ridge is so narrow you can see straight down to Catalan Bay on one side of the Rock and straight down to the City and harbour on the other.
for a long time.
PS. We think the “Flipper” photo is a Bottlenose. If so, it's Billie who was abandoned by her own pod when she was young and now lives with a pod of Common Dolphins. She's twice their size and they would normally be her prey, but she grew up with them and thinks she's one of them. If anyone who knows about such things can confirm it we’d be over the moon.