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Monkeying around

A Barbary Macaque looking out over Gibralter

Master of all he surveys!

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to go to a friend’s wedding in the south of Spain. The day after the wedding, we took the opportunity to visit Gibraltar which was 20 minutes down the road.

We had been a bit nervous about border problems, as sovereignty issues are being raised by Spain again at the moment. This small piece of land and enormous rock is probably one of the most disputed areas of the world. Its history is fascinating but more on that below.

After crossing the border, with no problems at all, we then walked over a narrow spit of land and the airport runway into Gibraltar town. If walking across an international airport runway was not odd enough, on the other side we then found ourselves in a hot, alien version of the UK. Husband breathed a sigh of relief on seeing British traffic lights and signs and muttered something about it being good to be home! I looked back behind me towards the border where, through a chicken wire fence, lay Spain. I then looked ahead and there lay Gibraltar, with an unmistakably British flavour. It felt a very odd juxtaposition.

After wandering around the town and seeing familiar sights like Morrisons and M&S, we decided to walk up the Rock to the Siege Tunnels. I was feeling a little grumpy as we stumbled up a myriad of small roads and alleys in 35 degree heat. However, near the Moorish Castle, we were rewarded by the sight above. A macaque gazing out solemnly over the bay. It was a lovely surprise as I had completely forgotten about the monkeys of Gibraltar. They have an awful reputation for causing mischief and so later, as one strode towards us, we backed away and Husband whispered ‘Watch out got your bag!’ – just like in London, just a different kind of mugger!

We ended our visit by exploring the siege tunnels carved out of the interior of the rock to defend Gibraltar from the last serious attempt by Spain and France to take it back from the British in the late 1700s. This was the fourteenth siege of Gibraltar! Being inside the Rock was a wonderful experience, slightly eerie but cool and safe feeling. I found it fascinating to learn that inside the Rock is a network of tunnels (34 miles) and even reservoirs for the town. The people here have had to be ingenious with their use of scarce land. Interestingly, the oldest tunnels are the safest in the Rock. This is because the older tunnels used natural fissures in the rock as well as picks and explosives that led to much more stable tunnels than later excavations. In the Second World War, many more tunnels were dug but diamond drilling and nitro-glycerine explosions means that many more stress fractures developed and most of these tunnels are now sealed off and not safe. The lesson that sometimes older, slower ways are better was put in my pocket and brought home with me when we said goodbye to Gibraltar a few hours later.

An interesting article about the history of Gibraltar can be found here┬áif you’d like to know more.