Yesterday I left Spain, set foot on British soil, and saw Africa all within a few hours. This trip included some of the most HILARIOUS and insane things that have happened to us so far. So even though this is a longish post, I hope you read through to the end because it was a pretty crazy day.
Gibraltar. About 3 hours south of Malaga by bus (and many stops) and the closest you can get to North Africa without leaving Europe. It’s one of Great Britain’s last 2 remaining colonies, and the Spanish hate that it doesn’t belong to them. They hate it so much that they don’t even call the last bus stop “Gibraltar” but rather “La Linea de Concepcion”.
We got up at the ridiculously early hour of 5:45 to catch a 7am bus from Malaga to Gibraltar. There was twelve of us who thought it was worth visiting, and we slept most of the 3 hour ride south. We arrived right at the border around 10am, and stopped at McDonalds (the only place open with a bathroom) and got “breakfast” and coffee. Then we proceeded over the border – we flashed our passports and yes, that’s all. And we walked into Gibraltar, across the airfield and towards the center of the city. One of the girls, Ellie, brought Rick Steve’s Guide to Espana and gave us a walking tour of part of the area until we found Olde Town Gibraltar (that’s what I call it at least). Then we walked in the general direction of the Rock, hoping to walk up.
We were accosted by scavenging Tour Guide companies, and one man tried to convince us to take his bus tour (35 euros each!) of the rock. We demurred – that’s a looot of money (over 40 USD), even though it was about 3 hours to walk the whole thing ourselves, and the entrance fee is about 14 euros anyway. We also didn’t believe them when they said the cable cars were not running. Turns out that was actually true since it’s “off season” and they weren’t going to run for another 2 weeks. Sooooo the tour guy took his price down eventually to 20 euros apiece for the tour, but some of the group flat out refused. Then we walked UPHILL for about 45 minutes to the Europa Point, and from there you can see AFRICA. It was pretty sweet. (That’s Africa behind me in the mist. A little hard to see)
But by then, I had stupidly worn bad shoes for this type of walking and my one knee was giving out. Not to mention our friend Elizabeth who had hurt her knee right before coming here and had been wearing a brace the whole trip. She flat out couldn’t walk anymore, and I definitely DIDN’T want to climb to the top of the mountain. I tried to reason with the group, but only 5 of us broke off and went back to the tour guide. We took the 20 euro deal and the 5 of us (Ryan, me, Elizabeth, Ellie and Latoya) drove off in the van with Michael, our tour guide. He took us to the top of the Rock – amazing views, and from there we went to the famous Cuevas (caves) which were SWEET. Ancient greek mythology thought these caves were the entrance to Hades, and I felt like they were too.
As we were exiting the van to go into the caves, Ellie turned around to get something out of the van, and a monkey DASHED from his perch in a tree and jumped up and SNATCHED the sandwich from her backpack. He retreated to the tree and proceeded to rip the tin foil off and devour her bocadillo. Meanwhile she’s running after him yelling “That’s MY bocadillo! Give it back!” It was hysterical! And the best part – he wouldn’t share with the other baby monos!
Having learned our lesson, we kept tight hold of everything in our possession. Then we drove to the middle of the top of the rock where it’s narrow enough to scare the heck out of you while driving, but also SO AMAZING to see a 360 view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Plus we got to play with the monkeys there – the ones at the top here are nicer than the thieving ones by the caves.
Here I am with a monkey perched on my head.
He jumped down a few minutes later, and a tour guide from another group called to me, (imagine a british accent please) “Miss, the ape took a pee down your back!” At first I thought there was NO WAY he was serious, but as I peeled off my jacket, I saw that he was right… and the back of my jacket had monkey pee all over it. I am still in shock that this ACTUALLY happened to me. Our tour guide, Michael, tried to help me clean it off a little bit, but we ended up just hanging it up to dry in the back of the van.
We finished out the tour by going into the old British stronghold tunnels inside the rock. It was pretty sweet. The best part was the incredibly real looking mannequins they had inside – especially the ones that were motion sensitive and yelled “who goes there?!” as you pass by. After we finished our tour with Michael, we walked into Gibraltar’s center again and bought postcards and got dinner at a cute little restaurant. Pizza anyone?
Then we decided we wanted ice cream, and we stopped at little dessert place that advertised ice cream. We asked the owner if he had any, “No, it’s too cold, no ice cream.” (it was 65 degrees). He gave us directions to a different place, and since that one was closed we went back… “Do you have cake then?” (also advertised) “No,” he said, “no desserts.”
I’m still not sure what he was selling if he didn’t have half the things he advertised.
We eventually found a pretty cheap ice cream stand that had a really sweet owner, and really really good italian ice cream. Then it was just about time to leave, so we headed back to the border and the bus station.
Border check? Seriously I flashed my passport, the guy picked up my bag and felt it for one second and then passed me through. They must not deal with serious issues there! I couldn’t believe how light the security was. I guess it’s because the main reason people go to Gibraltar is to get cigarettes/electronics/alcohol since it’s cheaper there and duty-free. Since I bought nothing, they must not have cared at all about me.
Finally we caught the bus home, and I went home and tried to communicate to my host mother that my jacket needed to be washed because a monkey peed on it. Except I didn’t know how to say that, so I just said “Jugue con los monos y ahora la chaqueta esta sucia.” (i played with monkeys and now my jacket is dirty.) But I think she figured it out. ;) Then I showered to make sure there was no trace of monkey germs on me or in my hair. Since I didn’t sleep on the bus there (thank you, mr. businessman with the super loud phone conversation) or the way back (thank you, young child speaking loud arabic) I went to bed after dinner.
I’m really glad I decided to make this trip, because it has also inspired me to look into traveling to Morocco and also the actual UK. I was planning to stay mostly in Spain – but a lot of Spain is very similar, and I think it would be a more edifying study abroad experience to visit other countries that are different from Spain. I have to look into dates and prices of different trips a little bit more before I make my final decision. So stay tuned for more embarrassing stories of my study abroad life.