As we were driving through the mountains to the coast suddenly the land levelled out to a flat brown plain and in the distance at the edge of this flat landscape the green and white Rock of Gibraltar stretched 426 metres up to the sky. It’s quite a sight. The Spanish had possession of the Rock from 1462 but the Anglo-Dutch invasion in 1704 changed Gibraltar to British control in perpetuity. We walked into Gibraltar, through passport control and then had to run the gauntlet of walking across the airport runway between landings and take offs to reach the town. The runway was built from all the rubble removed from the rock during WWII when 32 miles of tunnels were dug in the limestone by 5,000 soldiers. The soldiers lived in the tunnels 24/7, working 6 days a week and on the 7th day permitted to have their once a week bathe (due to water rationing) and to walk out of the tunnels into sun light to restore their vitamin D. Eisenhower directed the African invasion from deep in the rock during WWII.
One very kind Barbary Ape sat on a pole and posed for us. They are the only ape living wild on Europe’s mainland. There is a myth that they came to Gibraltar through a tunnel that joins the African Continent to Europe under the Straits of Gibraltar :o)
We could see the mountains of the African continent across the Straits from Europa Point, the most southerly spot on the Gibraltar peninsula.
The Battle of Trafalgar took place off the coast not far from here and after the battle Nelson’s body was brought back to Gibraltar and placed in a barrel of spirits to help preserve it, before he was shipped back to England. There is a small cemetery for veterans of the battle and their families just outside the old city walls on Gibraltar.
As Gibraltar is a little bit of Britain they have a British supermarket so we took advantage and stocked up on all those goodies that we have been missing like gravy granules and crumpets (sad eh!).
Arriving back at our van we found our friends from France, Pete and Paulene, had parked right next to us. We had lots of catching up as we haven’t seen each other since November. As we were wild camping just by the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar we witnessed a few cases of smuggling. Black garbed people on black motorbikes would roar up to the fence in the dark of night with no lights and someone would be waiting on the Gibraltar side and ‘whoosh’ a package would fly over the fence into Spain for the motorbike rider to grab and roar off back down the street. This happened many times a night but the police didn’t seem to be trying very hard to catch the culprits.
We caught a ferry across the Straits to Tangiers in Morocco and our guide took us on a tour of the Kasbah (city) and its Souk (market). The sights and sounds were very different to anything we have experienced before. Piles of dates, figs, nuts and pulses, the shops filled to bursting, spilling out from the shop doorways. Trestles weighed down with all manor of home crafted leather goods, shoes of every colour. The spice shop walls lined with hundreds of jars filled with so many spices, powders and herbs. The call to prayer rang out across the city. The maze of alleys, passages and streets of the souk were so narrow, at one point a car came down the passage and we all had to jump into a shop doorway and the awnings used to keep the sun off the goods had to be closed to allow the car to pass. We were advised to stay with our guide as you could easily get lost and we were continually approached by men wanting to sell us trinkets and they didn’t like taking no for an answer.
We had camped near the beach in Tarifa, the kite surfing capitol of Spain, and as we walked onto the camp after our day in Morocco we saw Andy and Hedie who we met in Cabopino. Of course we had to have a few drinks and a toast as it was their 30th wedding anniversary the following day. Congratulations to you both.
We had a day in Seville walking around the quaint Jewish Quarter, touring a 10th century Moorish fort and seeing the 3rd largest cathedral in Europe (built in the 15th-17th century it was originally the largest in the known world, now the Vatican and St Paul’s in London are bigger) which houses Christopher Columbus’s tomb. We caught up with Pete and Paulene again in Seville and we promise to call in on our way through France.
We drove through the strangest town, El Rocio, and it is all built on sand. There are no pavements or tarmac roads just sand and outside each house or establishment there are hitching posts for your horse. It is a very horsey town and looks like something from the wild west so I expected to see John Wayne staggering down the street with his Smith and Wesson crooked over his arm and his Stetson shielding his eyes from the suns glare :o)
As we crossed the border into Portugal we met up with our friends Ian and Paula. Thanks for teaching us five hundred, we promise to play once we get home. We drove along the southern coast of Portugal called the Algarve stopping at Travia and Olhao fishing towns nestled amongst the salt flats, Armacao and Portimao with their sandy beaches, then down on to Sagres on the tip of Portugal with its towering cliffs. We sat on the sun terrace of The Bull Pub in Luz (yes, a British pub) enjoying our lunch, watching the waves from the Atlantic pound against the rocky coastline.
We are now on the road to Lisbon and as we passed through the National Park both sides of the road were lined with gum trees and flowering wattle – are we already back in Aus!!
Love to all and take care
Liz & Paul x