My Euro-finances were resolved reasonably easily, when I found a branch of UK bank Barclays in Algeciras, and the cashpoint there gave me 100 Euros without the slightest hesitation. I now had just enough, I thought, to see me through my last couple of days here. I will have to sort out the UK overdraft when I get access to my US money, which is a small remainder of the option fee that Walt Disney paid me for the rights to the ALife4Sale story.
So for the last couple of days I based myself in my cheap hostel in Algeceris, and have been a bit of a tourist. My first trip was to Gibraltar, just half-an-hour by bus around the bay.
Gibraltar is a fascinating place. It is on a very small peninsula, and is a huge natural rock fortress, and as such has played a key part in military campaigns down through the centuries, and has always been seen as incredibly strategically desirable., as it towers over the narrow Straights Of Gibraltar.
It is a bit of a sore point in Spain, as Gibraltar remains loyally British, the inhabitants there voting recently to remain so by a huge majority. Spain dislikes Gibraltar being British, and road signs in Spain give almost no clue that the huge rock even exists until you are almost at the border. All road signs merely refer to La Linea, the border town.
Crossing the border into Gibraltar is merely a matter of waving a passport at a nonchalant crossing guard, and wandering across the airport runway. It is all very British suddenly, with red phoneboxes, British bobbies (policemen) on patrol, all signs in English, and British pubs and fish and chip shops everywhere.
I had decided to climb the rock as a bit of fitness training for my upcoming goals, and avaoided the tourist route to the summit via cable car. I got lost a couple of times on the way up, and ended up scrambling over rocky cliffs to the summit to enjoy the splendid view. It became obvious I was inside some sort of military enclosure, having climbed by a somewhat unconventional route, but there was nobody around at all, so I happily wandered alone, the only person there.
As I made my way to the chairlift summit, I had to climb a huge gate to get out of the prohibited area I had found myself in. The gate was covered in dire warnings about trespass! Luckily nobody had spotted me.
At the busy chairlift summit I found some of the Barbary Macaques, the infamous Gibraltar apes known for their kleptomaniac habits. Apparently humans, because of their habit of giving food, are seen as an subordinate species, and therefore their food can be taken at leisure. Fortunately all I could afford was a bottle of water. All prices are in UK pounds, and I did not have any with me, and the exchange rate for Euros is made up pretty-much on the spot, and is not favourable at all!
I continued along the top of the peninsula, eventually descending via the steep and impressive Mediterranean Steps which wind giddily down the steep east side of the peninsula. A long walk back through the town, which is a peculiar mix of very British shops, backed by very Spanish steep alleys just behind the facade, eventually brought me back to the border, and I headed home.
The next day I headed west by bus, to the town of Tarifa, on the very southern tip of Spain. It is a strange cultural mix, with a small, high-walled old city, where both Spanish and Arabic influences are very clear.
But outside the old city the modern world is very much in evidence. Because Tarifa has one coast facing the Atlantic, with great onshore winds, it had become kite-surfing central. Every second shop is a kite-surf school and rental facility, and there is an abundance of cheap hostels, and dreadlocked surfer-types wandering the streets and beaches.
Again I wandered happily, along to the end of the pier, through the narrow streets of the old town, and right along the windy Atlantic beach. I stopped often for a coffee in a small cafe, or to buy fruit from a local merchant, and somehow missed my planned bus home. No problem, a bit more beach-wandering, and gazing across at Morroco in North Africa, looking tantalizingly close, soon passed another couple of happy hours until the next bus.
And so my time in Europe comes to an end. Today I catch a flight from Gibraltar back to London. I plan to stay overnight in Gatwick Airport, and fly first thing in the morning to Florida. My next goal is the underwater hotel in Key Largo, and at the moment am still going to be alone there. Anyone want to come along – Sat 18th July?
What fascinating places, Gilbraltar and Tarifa! I never would've guessed. Thanks for sharing (as always)!