Hello, my Wanderlust Travelers!
I wanted to share an amazing experience with you that both my daughter and I had yesterday.
We climbed “The Rock”, better known as the Rock of Gibraltar.
We started this adventure in the, almost, wee hours of the morning…not really. We left the house in Chipiona around 0730. It takes about an hour and 45 minutes to drive from Chipiona to the base of the Rock.
Such a beautiful drive! Harmony was talking about all the things she was seeing from her backseat view out the window and I was enjoying all the winding, wide-open roads that seemed to stretch on forever without barely a soul traveling down these highways. Now, navigating in Spain can be a little confusing – especially with all the roundabouts they have instead of using traffic lights. Normally not bad to handle, I’ve learned how to navigate them like a local mostly. When you get into the larger cities it becomes a little more stressful to navigate…this is a long way of saying we got lost a time or two on our way.
Traveler Tip: If you want to travel to explore, hike, eat, get your passport stamped (more information to come on that topic later) and have the ability to drive into the country without having to wait in an absurd line – go on a weekday (not Friday). We went on a Wednesday and it took us less than 15 minutes to drive into the country. I had a friend who tried on a Friday and it took her nearly an hour to drive in.
You have an option to park outside the country and walk in – so if you only have the weekend to explore this beautiful country, this might be a good option for you depending on your time constraint.
Coming from the Western side of the country you might be taken through national forrests and soon you are driving through rising mountains and hillsides covered in beautiful acers of trees. Then suddenly, we dropped and rising in front of us, getting ever closer as a sun eclipsed structure…The Rock. You have to try really hard to miss it even if you aren’t paying attention, the Spanish land all around Gibralter is all sitting at sea level and once you decend from the hills (coming from our angle) it is all FLAT…like I said, you’d have to try really hard to miss it!
With passports ready in hand we started our way through the traffic obstacle course to cross boarders, turned out that they didn’t even look at our passports (NO MATTER WHAT STILL BRING YOUR PASSPORTS – THIS COULD CHANGE WITH EACH SHIFT CHANGE). Signs all around us moving forward said, “no slowing down or stopping”, this is because you have to drive across the airfield of the Gibraltar International Airport to get into the country.
As soon as we got off the airstrip you couldn’t deny that we suddenly were in British territory. Little history:
Gibraltar is steeped with history; this is because throughout history, during the molding of civilizations and cultures which dates back many thousands of years – everyone saw the significance of the land where Gibraltar is.
Gibraltar was ceded to Britain following the War of the Spanish Succession of 1701-14. In August 1704 British Marines with Dutch marines, captured the Rock, on behalf of Charles of Austria. The war continued until 1713 when the Treaty of Utrecht concluded that Philip V, a grandson of the King of France, would inherit the Spanish throne. Under the Treaty, Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain, as well as Minorca, which changed hands several times before being returned to Spain as part of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802.
To this day Gibraltar, though surrounded by the sea and Spain, is a British Colony (traveler tip – Don’t mention this when you are there or the outside the boarder…touchy subject)
Suddenly the lines on the road became angled and the road names changed from “calle” (street in Spanish) to Winston Churchill Lane. It became SERIOUSLY British in the blink of an eye. It didn’t take us long to follow road signs and find a parking structure where we could “make camp” for the day and pack up for our hike.
We found parking in “Irish Place”, in a little mall we found. This mall reminded me of exactly how diverse and how small this country is. Imagine if you will, the smallest town you can think of, then turn that town into a country – that’s the atmosphere of Gibraltar.
Everyone knows everyone, there is no such thing as greeting a stranger here. We took a bathroom break before we loaded up for the hike and after a nearly 2-hour road trip with a 2-year-old. In this tiny mall, we found, right next to the bathroom there was a little cafe and sitting at the tables outside this little cafe was four little Spanish grandmothers with their hair pinned up and the salon bibs covering their clothes drinking coffee. And a table up from them were two British gentlemen who were sipping on a stronger version of coffee (you could smell the booze) playing checkers.
I felt like we were walking around the Tower of Bable from the Bible, a thousand languages being spoken all at once! Every step I took I heard a new language that was different from the people I had passed the step previous. I don’t know why this surprised me, this is common when you are traveling abroad but I expect to experience that when I am in places like Paris, Rome, London or even Madrid. But here? In a country, you can drive around in less than 40 minutes with the speed restrictions? I didn’t expect that. I was amazed, delighted and shocked at the same time.
It was finally time to start our ascend! Although my phone didn’t have any reception in town, I found a town map and tried to navigate my way to the foothills of the Rock. I have missed this form of exploring, nowhere to be, no time to get there…aimless wandering in search of nothing. It has been a long time and it felt so good to wander around with my camera.
It didn’t take long to find our first set of stairs…it also wouldn’t take long for me to start hating these stairs!
We entered the National Park through Devil’s Gap entrance, a little lesser-known entrance but the roads are empty and the view is beautiful!
I mean look at that blue water!
Traveler Tip: Make sure to have either Euro or Pounds on you when you are headed up the Rock, you will need to pay the National Park entry fee. It was 5 Pounds for an adult and the baby was free.
As we continued to incline the physical struggle was starting to set in on me. But I kept singing to myself the song “Just one step at a time, there is no need to rush” – it kept me moving till I got to the stairs!
These stairs got steep! But the view and the Gibraltar local life was totally worth it too!
Seeing the Monkeys of Gibraltar is one of the major highlights I was hoping to see during our adventure.
Finally, after many pauses and stairs (132 flights of stairs to be exact) WE MADE IT TO THE TOP!
Now, hiking is NOT your only option to get to the top by the way. If you do not want to or are unable to be more physical but it is on your bucket list to be at the top, you have options.
Taking the Cable Car: You can take the cable car from the bottom to the top with one-stop halfway up the mountain.
Take a van tour: A guide will take you throughout the entire National park and show you around, which is a great option!
Or you can walk up the road, which is steep but doable, I saw a group of bike riders who were riding to the top and bottom!
Now that my adventure has taken you to the TOP OF THE ROCK! I wanted to share with you a few tips about what many of us travelers want to know…’ where do I get my passport stamped’.
This is a very good question to ask because when you cross the border, you don’t get a stamp on your passport and those of us who use stamps on our passport as sort of a mark of accomplishment or bragging rights.
So, where do you go? Simple, you go to the information and tourist office. For two pounds you can get your passport stamped by the legal office of the borough of tourism! Once again, be prepared with POUNDS for this office. They might have Euros to exchange from personal pockets but to make it easy on them, be prepared.
And that is it! At least so far, there will be several more trips to Gibraltar in my future so I can continue to explore and enjoy this unique and diverse little country, till then…
Traveling Photographer Out!