A cruise of the Spanish coast is not complete without a stop at the non-Spanish port of Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory. Also known as “The Rock of Gibraltar”, or just “The Rock”, Gibraltar is a fascinating place to visit.
We started a tour with a bus ride to the base of the cable car system (tramway) to catch a ride to the signal station near the top of Gibraltar. Most buses in this territory are small because of the many tight turns on the narrow roadways. As it turns out, the buses carry just enough people to fill one cable car for the trip up.
By arrangement with the cable car company, the tour operators manage to snag every other cable car trip to the top. There is a long line (queue if you are British) of individuals waiting for the ride and two cars that alternate going up and down the steep climb. So, each bus load takes its turn waiting to go up the exit ramp to avoid the line, meaning he tours use one car and individuals use the other. Here are two pictures, one from outside the cable car building and one from the trip up:
As soon as you are approaching the station at the top, you see some of the many Barbary macaque monkeys that inhabit the Rock. They are very tolerant of the tourists, to the point of ripping open any exposed plastic bags looking for treats, so everyone is properly warned to tuck them inside of their jackets. The monkeys have been know to steal a purse or two, run off to an unreachable location, and then toss everything out of the purse while looking for something interesting. Here are a couple of pictures of these wonderful creatures:
After getting off of the tram, we were led up to a large observation platform where you can walk around and get pictures in every direction. Here are a few shots I took:
Looking north toward Spain with iconic peak in the foreground.
Looking south toward the Kingdom of Morocco, eight miles across the Strait of Gibraltar.
A Seagull flying down the eastern face of Gibraltar toward the Mediterranean Sea.
For the first time on my blog, a picture of my wonderful wife and travel companion, Alice.
From the signal station, we walked down a short road to the entrance to St. Michael’s Cave. This cave was occupied by prehistoric humans as evidenced by artifacts and cave drawings dating back to 20,000 BC. Also, two Neanderthal skulls were found in the caves and date from around 40,000 BC. Here are some beautiful pictures of the caves:
From the caves, we boarded our bus (which had climbed the steep roads of Gibraltar to meet up with us) and headed to the siege tunnel dug by the British Army starting in 1782. The tunnel was built in an attempt to reach the “notch” on the north face of Gibraltar. That face was not as well defended from attack by the Spanish who were trying to drive the British from The Rock. So, with hammers and chisels, these men slowly chipped into the mountain side trying to reach “notch”. After going a good distance, the tunnelers were having difficulty getting enough air to breathe, so they created small tunnel offshoots to the north face to let in light and air. Then they realized that these opening were ideal positions to place canons to fire down upon the Spanish army.
Lt. George Frederick Koehler of the British Royal Artillery invented a new cannon carriage that allowed firing down the face of Gibraltar. When the cannon fired, it sprang back to a horizontal position and moved back into the mountain with the recoil. It could then be reloaded inside of the tunnel, cranked back to its downward firing angle, and then fired again. Here is a picture from the tunnels of how it might have looked in those days:
After the visit to the tunnels, we boarded the bus and wound our way back down to the city at the foot of the mountain. The steep, twisty roads were quite exciting to see, especially when we had to take sharp turns with vehicles parked on both sides of the streets.
We reboarded the ship, had some lunch, and then enjoyed the views outside on our balcony as we steamed through the Strait of Gibraltar. Here are a few last pictures of our passage:
Here you can clearly see Spain on the starboard (right) side of the strait. In the distance on the left is the edge of Africa.
Here you can see several strings of windmills generating electrical power power from the almost constant winds between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.
And finally a look back at “The Rock” as we sailed away. Imagine the British on those heights with cannons that could sink you ship as you sailed by. There was no way to escape that type of barrage.