April 1st 2007 - left Sunderland!
April 1st 2008 - arrived back on British soil - Gibraltar!
We have spent a year travelling slowly through England, the Channel Islands, France, Spain, Portugal, Spain again and now Gibraltar. We feel we have been away for ever yet seem to have only just begun our journey.
We have been in Gibraltar all month and we have ridden out quite a few storms in the marina here. We have had the worst weather of the winter so far, although it seems to be lessening now as we reach the end of the month. We have been here so long because we have had quite a few things sent from England. A ‘yacht in transit’ can buy stuff back home and have it sent out here VAT free. Mind, this doesn’t always work out cheaper as the cost of the carriage is sometimes more than the tax saved! Mike will fill you in on what we have bought and how he has fitted everything on his page this month. We have also had other parcels from home delivered too.
We don’t suppose Gibraltar needs much introduction to most of you.
It is 3 miles long and 3/4 mile wide and is connected to Spain by a low, sandy isthmus that is one mile long.
The peninsula consists of a limestone and shale ridge known as the Rock. It rises almost vertically from the isthmus to 1,380 feet at Rock Gun, which is its northernmost summit. Its greatest height, 1,396 feet, is at its southern end. The Rock shelves down to the sea at Europa Point, which faces Ceuta (a Spanish enclave in Morocco), 20 miles to the south across the strait. Hopefully, this will be our next port of call in May. Gibraltar and the Moroccan mountain opposite, Mount Hacho, are the legendary Pillars of Hercules.
From the Mediterranean, Gibraltar appears as a series of sheer, inaccessible cliffs, fronting the sea on the peninsula's east coast. Even from the western side as we approached, it is a remarkable sight. The Rock's slope is more gradual on this side and is occupied by tier upon tier of houses that stretch for some 300 feet above the old defensive walls. Higher up, limestone cliffs almost isolate the Upper Rock, which is covered with a tangle of wild trees and, of course, the semi-wild Barbary Apes, which are in fact, tailless Macaque monkeys. We duly visited them and got some good photos. The authorities are about to cull some of them and there is much debate in the local press at the moment.
We also visited another tourist attraction, St Michael’s Cave, a large limestone cavern with stalactites and stalagmites which is used for concerts. We took photos but they were not very good.
Gibraltar’s name comes from the Arabic, Jabal Tarik (Mount Tarik), honouring Tarik Ibn Ziyad, who captured the peninsular in AD 711. The site has been held as a fortress by all its successive occupiers.
The Muslim occupation was permanently ended by the Spanish in 1462, and Isabella I (Columbus’s patron) annexed Gibraltar to Spain in 1501. But in 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Sir George Rooke captured Gibraltar for the British, and Spain formally ceded it to Britain under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
The Spanish nevertheless made several attempts to retake Gibraltar from Britain, most notably in a protracted but unsuccessful military siege that lasted from 1779 to 1783. We visited the Great Siege tunnels which overlook the isthmus and were amazed at the expertise of 18th century tunnellers. Early in the 20th century the Rock was also tunnelled through between the east and west sides, and the excavated material was used to reclaim 64 acres from the sea. During World War 2 Churchill believed attack from Germany and Italy was imminent and ordered a further massive network of tunnels to be built. Parts of these tunnels are now open to the public and we spent a fascinating hour visiting them. The excavated tunnel material was used to build the air port runway that is still used today.
In the 1960s the Spanish government stepped up its demands for the ‘decolonisation’ of Gibraltar. A referendum that Britain held in Gibraltar in 1967 gave the colony's residents a choice of opting either for Spanish sovereignty or for continued close association with Britain. The result was an overwhelmingly pro-British vote (12,138 votes to 44).
Spain responded by closing its border with Gibraltar, thus depriving the colony of its Spanish trade and a labour force of Spanish commuters.
Spain lifted its border blockade in 1985 and now there is an almost constant stream of traffic across the border.
The town across the border is La Línea, or to give it it’s full title, La Línea de la Concepcíon. It evolved as a stronghold against Gibraltar but now half of the population seem to work in Gib. We found the cost of most things in Gibraltar were astronomical compared to Spanish prices so we have regularly crossed over ourselves to replenish the larder. (There is a Marks and Spencer in Gib in which the cost of clothes are at least £2 more than at home. When someone queried the prices (especially as they are supposed to be tax free) they were told it was due to the high cost of importing the goods! VAT free but not profit free eh! Just like the Channel Islands)! The Morrisons prices seemed to be the same as at home, but we have become used to much cheaper groceries in Spain that their prices appeared to be extortionate as well!
There is a small marina in La Línea but only for local boats and most visitors just anchor in the bay which is more sheltered than the marinas in Gib. We were tempted to do that to save some money but we have been reliably informed that you WILL have your dinghy stolen if you leave it ashore as theft is a problem in the area!
We heard of a chandlers in La Línea which was better value than Sheppards in Gib so decided to buy some bits and pieces there. The chandlers was quite a way from the border so we thought we’d take our bikes. This was when the trouble started! First of all Mike’s bike had a puncture and when he repaired it the inner tube just split open again so he had to go up to town in Gib for a new one. In the meantime, Pat’s brakes were not very good so she tried to adjust them while Mike was away. When he got back he installed the new inner tube, then spent another 1/4 hour putting Pat’s brakes right again as she had made them worse than they were at the beginning! Eventually we set off then Pat said, “Have you got your passport?” Back to the boat again to collect the said passport, then across the border and into La Línea. Of course, in La Línea everything closes for siesta so having stopped for a bite of lunch we eventually found the chandlers, now closed. So obviously we had to have a beer in a nearby bar! We then cycled further along the road towards Malaga and found a beach which had great views back towards The Rock. Back to the chandlers then, bought some things, then back into the town centre to fill up at the supermercado. Half an hour later, panniers full, we were just approaching the border when Mike’s rear tyre looked very flat again. Puff, puff, puff with the pump and it was up, but we’d only gone a couple of hundred yards and it was completely flat again! He pushed the bike through customs then tried to inflate the tyre again to no avail. He had to push it all the way back to the boat. Oh, the joy of cycling!
Our last outing from Gib has been a first, as we hired a car for the day and, together with Phil and Paul from Sea Spirit, (yes, we are still with them, but only for a little while longer), went up to Antequera, north of Malaga. We had intended to get the bus up but the journey on three buses would have taken so long and the cost of the car wasn’t much more than the bus fare.
We saw little of Antequera as our main reason for going was to visit Lobo Park, a nature sanctuary nearby. The chance to actually see wolves ‘in the wild’ was too good to miss. The park was opened in 2005 and is dedicated to allowing people to see wolves in as near a natural habitat as possible. Wolves are very shy and have an innate fear of humans so at the park all of the wolves have been born in captivity, but live in large compounds in a natural setting. The scenery around is spectacular and we spent a wonderful hour or so observing these magnificent beasts behaving naturally. There are some good photos taken with Mike’s new telephoto lens on this months pics.
On our way back from the park we drove through the mountains and called in to Ronda, a town built on two hills divided by a dramatic ravine, where Pat had been once before with Barbara. It was just as spectacular as she remembered, and the men were suitably impressed.
The drive back to La Linear seemed to take an age with the Rock appearing and disappearing behind mountain ranges and never seeming to get nearer! Pat’s knuckles were a bit white when we finally got back over half an hour late! We thought the hire company would have a penalty clause but it was OK, we didn’t have to pay anything extra. To finish the day, we watched Man U beat Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final in the pub. Perfect!
To finish out sojourn in Gibraltar, we went to a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons performed by the Cologne New Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra held in St Mary’s Cathedral. (We remembered to take our ‘sit-upons’ as we’ve been caught out like that before - sitting on wooden pews for over an hour!)
We have had a major misfortune. Pat’s laptop computer has developed a fault in the graphic card and needs to be sent back to HP to be repaired. You can’t just install a new one. It’s integrated into the motherboard so has to go back to HP. The monitor is still viewable but almost transparent vertical lines cover half the screen and those parts seem to have a mist over it. It’s a case of just putting up with it or sending it away and waiting for weeks to get it back! We can’t stay in Gib any longer! Mike’s computer is still functioning OK but the web page programme and all the data is on Pat’s. It will be a bind to move everything over but to be safe, if Pat’s becomes unusable, it will have to be done if you lot want to be kept entertained every month!
At the time of writing we are still waiting for one or two parcels and are getting a bit fed up with the boat constantly rocking and rolling. Does this wind never stop? We will hopefully be in Morocco by the time you hear from us again.
Latest photos below. Lovely wolves (and monkeys)!
Oh, thanks to John Walton back in Sunderland. The giant trees in Cadiz are Banyan trees.