Parting for a good cause
January 2019 was the month where we parted for several weeks for the first time. The youngest daughter had to have surgery, so I went to Denmark. Meanwhile, Malthe stayed with Mr. Hymer in Fuengirola, Southern Spain. Going from warm sun to the Danish January cold was quite disgusting! Fortunately, the reunion with my very missed family and our circle of friends helped a lot. The days were booked with hospital visits and nursing care and the days just flew.
Malthe’s friend Lars was still visiting us in the motorhome when I went to Denmark (see the post about New Year in Fuengirola) and one of the all-guys-excursions went to Gibraltar. When I came back from Denmark and was told that there were monkeys on the mountain, I insisted that I would experience that too!
A popular peninsula through history
Gibraltar is a peninsula bordering southern Spain. It was established by the Phoenicians in the early days and has since belonged to both the Moors and the Spaniards. In 1713, however, it was handed over to the British and has since been British Territory. The peninsula is only around 7 square kilometers in size and consists mainly of a large cliff. It forms the Strait of Gibraltar, which is a true highway for large cargo ships. In clear weather, you can see Morocco, which is 13 km away. In fact, it is an incredibly beautiful sight to enjoy the view of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Meeting the locals at Gibraltar
The people of Gibraltar have a number of special agreements with the State to keep them on the island. The British want the local share of Britons to remain on the island, even though (with job opportunity eyes) it’s not all that attractive. Apart from the airport, it seems like there is not much else but tourism to live on. We talked to a tour guide about the subject and he had, for example, just borrowed money for a larger apartment for his family.
The state had guaranteed 50% of the loan, as the salaries otherwise do not allow for bank loans. In addition, however, he also expressed that he thought that passport control at the border to Spain was a bit silly and that there was a big difference between rich and poor on the island. Among other things, he told that they were in the process of building a nice private school in the middle of the city, while the municipal schools were old and on the outskirts. But all in all, he felt blessed to live in a place where his job allowed him such an amazing view every single day.
The city of Gibraltar itself is in our opinion nothing to cheer about. It consists of an ocean of expensive shops and restaurants serving mediocre food. Even the traditional English Fish ‘n’ Chips are factory-made fish, heated in deep fryers. A big disappointment indeed. But the weather was good and that helped a lot. As I said, the shops are both boring and expensive, but if you go for cigarettes, booze, and diamonds, you can buy these duty-free. We did not need any of these though. Not even diamonds.
It pays off to pay up
The cliff was for us the main attraction because that’s where the monkeys are. You can choose to take the cable car up there and go on your own or as we did, take a special cab with a tour guide. Such a ride costs € 20 per person but it’s worth it. The trip takes place with 6-8 people in the cab and you are driven to 3 lookout points. Everything in a pleasantly slow pace and with plenty of time to take pictures, ask questions, and listen to stories from the island.
Two of the stops are with amazing views over the Mediterranean Sea. On one is a sculpture that symbolizes the Pillars of Hercules. An ancient Greek legend says that on his way home, Hercules pushed the two rocks on either side of the Strait of Gibraltar apart so that he could enter the Mediterranean Sea. Another story tells that Hercules twisted a rope around one of the rocks when he had to catch and tame the wild bull of Crete. But that’s how it is with Greek mythology. Super exciting stories in many variations.
But the most important stop for us was by the monkeys on the cliff. What an experience for animal lovers like us! Our guide had apparently been driving among the monkeys for many years, for he knew everything about which clans belonged to where. He could even call the monkeys by name and had a very special bond with them. During World War II, the monkeys that originally lived on the cliff were actually killed, but when the war ended, Churchill added a new herd. It is said that as long as the monkeys live on the cliff, the cliff will be under the British flag.
Bonding with monkeys
In fact, one must not feed the monkeys as volunteers are responsible for doing so. They do this so that the monkeys don’t have to walk down to the city and destroy everything in search of food. In fact, we’d also read many scary stories about the wild and clever monkeys. They are said to both open women’s bags and steal the contents, as well as bite and claw tourists approaching them. However, we experienced none of this. On the contrary.
Maybe it’s because of our calm souls and respectful approach to animals? Anyway, we found ourselves surrounded by monkeys, who ate our (forbidden) peanuts and even sat next to us and held our hands. It was amazing! At one point, our tour guide saw that the big male monkey ate directly from our hands, with his mouth and he was very surprised because he had never seen that before. Whether it was good or bad that we were so much in zen with the monkeys is hard to say.
A seagull mystery
But the visit to the monkeys, unfortunately, had to come to an end and on the way down the cliff, the tour guide told a lot of anecdotes about the wildlife on the island. Among other things, he told about the seagulls that circled around the top of the cliff. They wake up the island’s residents every morning at 8 o’clock. For many years, however, it was a riddle where all the gulls went for one week every year. Many ornithologists and residents tried to solve the mystery until someone by chance discovered that there was a special catch of fish in Morocco that week. So the seagulls flew over to Marocco and ate the leftovers the fishermen threw into the water. Therefore there is one week a year where the inhabitants of Gibraltar do not have the seagulls as alarm clock.
Don’t miss out on Gibraltar
After a long and lovely day on the small peninsula, we again crossed the airport runway, and went through the two border crossings, to step into Spain again. Mr. Hymer was patiently waiting for us in the parking lot and while we were drinking a much-needed cup of coffee, we looked through our pictures and talked about the day’s experiences. If you are in the area, Gibraltar is definitely worth a visit. Both for the story, the monkeys, and the fun of having to show passports in Europe, which for us was the first time on the whole trip.
– Text and photos: Eva // Photos, addings, and photo editing: Malthe