Guns and Monkeys

July 13, 2019

After leaving Moana in Queensway Quay Marina for 5 weeks, we’re back on board in Gibraltar planning the trip northwards along the Spanish Coast to the Balearics. Gib is a boomtown thanks to the tax incentives made available to individuals and business, mainly financial support services. It is strangely reminiscent of the last decade building up to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong. Construction and high end property development all around and scrambling for every inch of waterfront land, reclaimed or otherwise. 

 

It’s difficult to get your head around the cocktail of Spanish and Old Style British culture. Vehicles on the right and bilingual locals, yet a Middle England high street and 1970’s style pubs. Moorish, Islamic influence and a thriving Jewish community. Likeable but very strange.

 

It’s time to explore. Starting at the Moorish Castle part way up the rock we then make our way to the WW2 Tunnels. 32 miles of them hewn into the innards, joining up with 18th Century siege tunnels and subsequent excavations cut out over the centuries. It’s fascinating. An infrastructure to support 18000 military personnel, including 200 nurses, in underground isolation for nearly a year. Afterwards, we climb the long path and Charles V steps along the ancient wall up to the top of the rock and are treated to magnificent views of the Strait and the Mediterranean. The Skywalk gives a hairy impression of the altitude and endless entertainment from the 200+ indigenous Barbary Macaques playing and bonding in the afternoon heat. 

The Island Games are being hosted in Gibraltar this week and the finish of the cycling time trial on Thursday was at the peak. Congratulations to Anglesey’s own Sal and Ceri for the Herculean effort of making the finish of such a gruelling course 🚴🏻‍♀️

The route back to sea level takes us past more cheeky monkeys, one of which was in the middle of the road jealously guarding a mobile phone, wallet, towel and water bottle stolen from a nervous looking Scandinavian lad. We cross over the beautiful pedestrian suspension bridge and take a break at the impressive 120 year old gun implacement at Devil’s Gap Battery. The moorish and military history oozes.

It’s time to provision up ready for our travels. A Morrisons supermarket is nearby. Along with all the retailers they seem to have a reduced level of plastic bottles and packaging compared to the UK. Instead paper bags and cardboard water and juice containers are more evident. Clearly an effort is being made here to reduce the circulation of hard plastics.  The potable water situation is more politically sensitive. After failing to agree a supply route from mainland Spain, most of the mains water is provided by the local desalination plant.  Gibraltar remains strategically important from a military, political and financial perspective. The recent seizing of the Iranian Oil Tanker Grace 1 provides evidence of the importance a port at the neck of one of the busiest waterways in the world. The well educated and friendly inhabitants and ex-pats are proud Gibraltarians who clearly appreciate having a 'foot in both camps'. A population of 32000 makes frequent referenda on local issues a feasible democratic option (unlike for 66 million people!). We'll be back in September for more....

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