Dodging apes atop the Rock

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October, 2004

Far and away, Gibraltar has to be one of the strangest places I have ever been. Don’t ge me wrong, I love the place, but there are so many things The rock of Gibraltarabout it that make it such a unique  and quirky corner of the world.

The easiest way to get in to Gibraltar is to take a bus to the Spanish town of La Linea from either Algeciras or Marbella, and the simply walk across the runway that serves as a border between the two nations. Once across “the line”, you are instantly transported into London’s Trafalgar Square. In the blink of an eye, everybody is suddenly speaking English and have swapped their tapas for fish and chips. It’s such a trip.

Once in Gibraltar, the majority of people head from town up towards the base of the rock. While there are shuttles that will run from town to the base of the rock, it’s not far to go and the most enjoyable way to get there is simply to walk. Once at the base of the rock, a cable car will take you to the top for a nominal fee, thereby bypassing a good 45 minute walk to the top.  On our walk towards the rock, we encountered of all things, multiple groups of orthodox Jewish rabbis moving quickly down the narrow cobblestone alleys. Hmm.

To give a little history about the Rock of Gibraltar, it has historically been one of the most fortified areas in human history, and it presides over the narrow entrance to the Mediterranean between Europe and Africa. In ancient times, the Strait of Gibraltar even  served as the boundary of the  The rock of Gibraltar Barbary Apesknown world. Though Morocco is easily visible on the other side, the edge of the Rock nonetheless feels like the end of the Earth.

While the top of the Rock contains old military fortifications and seemingly bottomless subterranean wonderlands such as St. Micahael’s Cave, the real draw of the Rock is all of the wild monkeys that run wild over its craggy summit. Bold and bouncy, the Barbary apes are the only known wild apes on the European continent. Crawling around a half-destroyed military bunker overlooking Africa while dodging wild apes is one of the more strangely enjoyable experiences I feel one can have.

Having spelunked St. Michael’s Cave and skirted the monkeys all along the summit of the Rock, we sat quietly atop the windy outpost and watched the Rock of Gibraltar monkeysun disappear over the distant Bahia de Algeciras and illuminate the towering Atlas mountains of Morocco to the south. To think how many military men and soldiers have watched this same scene take place during the uncomfortable tension of wartime, to do so is an incredibly surreal experience and worthy of a refelctive moment atop a craggy rock by the sea.

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