On Friday afternoon after class, a group of us boarded a bus and drove four hours south down to Gibraltar. This was a nice charter bus with air conditioning and plush seats. It felt a little bit like heaven to our normal bumpy city bus rides where you have to hold on to the handle for dear life in hopes of not falling over as the driver rounds the corner. 😉
We were supposed to stay in a hostel to have a true “Spanish/travel abroad experience” but there is an significant increase in Spanish tourism this year due to travel warnings and refugee issues in other countries where people would normally travel to (like Turkey) so Spain is the popular alternative. Due to this, allthe hostels were full so we got to stay in a Holiday Inn Express where they serve a full American continental breakfast and air conditioning. #OHYEAH
We were all thrilled when we heard the news and were looking forward to taking a long shower at the hotel. Remember how I said the Spaniards are very conservative with their water and electricity? Yes well a five minute shower is about how long they expect our showers to take and we all feel bad using what we would consider a normal amount of water in our host homes so we shower in turbo speed mode– mom if I come back with a shaved head, now you know why. 😉 Haha I’m kidding, it’s not that bad, just quick and different so a long shower in a normal sized shower in a hotel where we didn’t feel bad using the water sounded fabulous.
Anyways we arrived at the hotel all loudly singing the “hotel motel holiday inn” jingle led by yours truly. After settling in, we headed to dinner and called it an early night before our big day Saturday.
The rock of Gibraltar is HUGE. You can see it from several miles away as you come into town and it is breathtaking. It is actually on it’s own peninsula that is a British owned territory and we had to cross over the border to go and climb. Considering it is literally 5 minutes away from a Spanish town, you would think the peninsula would be owned by Spain, but it is owned by England which has been quite the point of contingency between the two countries for many years. Because of its perfect location on a peninsula, Gibraltar is the perfect site for a military base, hence the conflict over who gets it, but the Royal Air Force has quite a fleet stationed there.
An old cannon from the war still on the side of the rock
We woke up early this morning and had a hard time leaving our comfy beds, but the thought of a yummy breakfast lured us to the lobby where we filled up before heading to the base of the rock. Not only is Gibraltar a military base, but a huge port for cargo ships. I had never really seen something like this and enjoyed taking it in on the way to the rock. It was funny because on one side there was all the industrial ship yard buildings and tools and on the other side of the rock, the prettier side that can only be seen from the water, is cruise ship central.
Once we arrived near the border, we were greeted by British accents and the good ole English language (#allthepraisehands) and proceeded to go through customs. After everyone was cleared, we began our journey to the top.. and I once again realized how terribly out of shape I am (as did everyone else). These European inclines do not mess around!! We were all breathing embarrassingly heavy and as I tried to not be a wimp, I told myself this would be another “Yes mere you might feel like you are going to die on the way up and you probably shouldn’t of had that ice cream yesterday, but look how pretty the view is and it will all be worth it at the top” hike. After Italy and the crazy hills and staircases there, plus the amount of walking I have done in the past few weeks, you would think I would be halfway prepared but nope!
Slightly dying on the way to the top.
As always, the scenery was incredible on the way to the top and helped distract me from the slight pain running though my calves.
Now you may or may no know, Gibraltar has some infamous sneaky and friendly inhabitants otherwise known as monkeys. Thank GOODNESS we had been warned about them because I otherwise would have been caught completely off guard. We encountered the first one about halfway up the trail. We “oooed and ahhed” and tried to be quiet and not totally overwhelm Mr/Ms. Monkey. A few minutes later, another adult monkey and a baby came up and we kind of freaked out and all took awkward pictures a significant distance away from them because we weren’t sure how to handle the situation.
Our first round of pictures when we were super hesitant to get very close to the monkeys.
They were really cute but also animals living in the wild and you just have to be careful. Someone at the hotel had warned us that the monkeys were not afraid of humans and occasionally stole things like sunglasses and hats and sometimes bags because they are looking for food. After our first round of pictures, I carefully walked past our new monkey friends and turned to go up the staircase leading to the top of the mountain. The majority of our group was in front of me and there were about 5 people behind me that all witnessed me scream not 2 minutes after I stepped foot on the staircase. Another monkey had come from out of NO where and sat ON TOP OF MY HEAD and put its little paws around my neck. Excuse me sir!!??
Well I screamed and didn’t know what to do and was sort of standing there trying to decide how bad it was to try and toss a monkey off your head/if I touched it what the likely chance I was going to get bit was. That is when he decided to make himself at home and turned around and unzipped my backpack and started to pull stuff out. NO SIR. I screamed again and took my backpack off and sort of escorted the monkey to the ground before I took a few minutes to recover myself from this lovely encounter. Of course this would happen to me haha– the majority of the group ahead of me heard my yelps but didn’t realize it was me until we all got to the top and I told them. They were all “oh my gosh! That was you? We figured someone had gotten attacked.” Yes. Yes, that was me.
It really wasn’t a huge deal and was kind of funny, but it definitely freaked me out. I’m just bummed no one took a picture because I guarantee you it was slightly hilarious and also who has a monkey jump on their head!? #meredithrasnicthatswho But we were standing on the skinniest staircase known to mankind and the people around me (God bless them) were more concerned that the monkey wasn’t going to run off with my stuff. Thank you everyone…. we will just have to imagine what the picture would have looked like. #fabulousI’msure
After I re-adjusted and zipped my backpack up, the group continued the hike to the top where we quickly encountered more monkeys. There had to be about 20 up there just running around the rocks. They are so used to tourists that they walk all around and climb on top of cars and other backpacks and heads. I even saw one jump in the driver’s window of one of the tour buses haha!! The monkeys at the top were a little more friendly and less aggressive, but we still kept a close eye on all of our stuff while we took pictures in front of the incredible view of the rock and crystal blue water. Absolutely breathtaking! And is what is crazy is that we were closer to Africa than we were Seville and especially home at the top of the rock. It was pretty cloudy/foggy over the water, but apparently on a clear day, you are able to see Africa.
I recovered from my previous encounter and made friends with this cute little guy.
I don’t know if I have ever been so happy.
After a group photo session, we headed back down to the bottom of the rock for lunch where we dined on fish and chips #wheninEngland #wellsortof
I don’t really know what I was expecting, maybe more like chicken finger sized pieces of fish? But it was definitely a whole fish haha. Not my favorite meal I have ever had and I’m glad I tried it.
We walked around the town of Gibraltar for a little while before heading back to the bus stop to drive home. I am sitting on the bus now typing this and am marveling at the beautiful wild sunflowers out the window. Just like Italy, Spain can go from big city to country in a matter of minutes and I kind of love it.
Ashley and I will be back tonight for dinner at home with Maribel (perks of eating at 9:30p.m.) before we heading to the beach at Cádiz tomorrow (whoo hoo!!!) for some rest and relaxation (total opposite of today as we struggled up a very steep incline haha) before another busy week in class.
Hope summer in the US is treating everyone well and I wish you a great week ahead! Adiós!