We were standing by the roadside on the outskirts of Cadiz with a friend from the Czech Republic that we had just met, trying to catch a ride to Gibraltar. After a few hours or so, it turned out that hitchhiking in Spain is not a very good idea. We eventually decided to take a bus.
We had problems trying to find the hidden bus station, however after a while we managed to hop on a bus which took us straight to Gibraltar - the British Overseas Territory.
Is Gibraltar British or Spanish?
As Gibraltar, a British colony since 1704, is located on the Iberian Spanish Peninsula, you might expect that the Spanish are not particularly keen on having a foreign territory just in the middle of theirs. Moreover, as submarine campaignsduring both World Wars have shown, it occupies a strategic position between Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
And indeed there have been many claims for territory made by the Spanish accompanied by the isolation policies applied over the past 60 years; the tensions arose after the Spanish cut off Gibraltar for 16 years in 1969.
However, it seems that the reluctance has soothed, its only relic being the lack of obvious road signs indicating the border, which you can cross without any problems, if you are an EU citizen.
Also, the locals had a friendly attitude towards Spain and I got an impression that they identify themselves as being a hybrid of British and Spanish, while still belonging to both communites.
After crossing the border, we took a picture with the a classic red telephone box and smoked a few of the two-pounds a pack cigarettes. Then we droped off at the hostel in order to be fresh and strong for the trip around the entire Peninsulaon the following day.
Next day, starting from Grand Casemates Square, we climbed the famous Rock, where we were hiking a few hours in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve and ascended somewhere close to Europe Advance Road. There was a tunnel we could notcross and we were stuck as this was the only way one could access the other side. We hitchhiked! A British family was nice enough to stop over and to take us roughly one kilometer to the other side. We enjoyed a refreshing bath at the Sandy Bay andthen quickly picked up our bags from the hostel as it was getting dark. We were crossing the airport lane in a rush so that we do not miss the coach to Malaga - our next destination.
Funny thing! A street (Winston Churchill Avenue) literally winds down across the airport lane. In case of any air traffic it is closed for a couple of minutes so the plane can safely land or take off.
The Monkeys and the Rock!
Gibraltar is known as the single place in Europe where you can meet wild monkeys. Despite having been warned before I was still greatly surprised when we spotted three little creatures playing vividly at the end of the road in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.I had never seen a wild animal or a monkey in my entire life!
I am not especially proud of it – we took a few hundred photos with our little friends, thinking that we had gotten very lucky to see the barbary macaques at all. Ha! We could not have been more wrong about it. A few meters up the road, they wereeverywhere – hanging on trees, sitting in the center of the road, monkey parents caressing small monkey children, digging holes in the earth while looking for worms or sun tanning with a stunning view on African Morocco on the horizon (Yes, you cansee the other continent from the Peninsula as the air is very clean).
After the photo session, me and my German travel companion Stephan gladly rested under a nearby tree. Stephan unwrapped some food and I wanted to do the same, but as I unziped my backpack our little friend jumped on me and grabbed my lunch – the onlysandwich I had!
It sat down shamelessly few meters further enjoying its newly gotten meal!
I guess this must happen regulary, because there were warning signs that the monkeys might get a little bit aggressive. However, we did not experience it.
Unless stealing is an act of aggression!
What should you know before visiting Gibraltar?
At the very end I would like to give you some tips in order to plan the budget for such a trip or save some money while visiting Gibraltar.
The first thing to know is that Gibraltar enjoys small taxes. It means cheap grocery shopping. You could literally spend less than five Gibraltar pounds daily and you would still survive.Interestingly – the Gibraltar pennies have a monkey on their tails!
Accommodation - rather expensive
Secondly, because there is a rather poor choice of budget hotels and hostels, the prices for an accommodation are expensive compared to the nearby cities Cadiz or Malaga. The cheapest we could find is at the expense of twenty-five pounds (=30€,=35$)daily with a shared bedroom and five other pals.
The friend we met on the road – a friendly hitchhiker from Czech Republic – just dropped off on the beach. In a rather warm climate, it seems to be a very appealing option. However, you should inform yourself whether this is prohibited or not.
Most of the attractions are free...
In the Upper Rock Reserve though, there is an option to access a scenic route for a fee of ten pounds. We did not take it and still enjoyed stunning views, had a lot of fun with the monkeys and took a very enjoyable route, yet ten pounds is nota fortune. Also, if you stay more than one or two days you might want to consider it.
The Rock is a natural reserve and as such it does not offer possibilities to refill your water bottle. You are going to take one at least, right? We did not and it got pretty harsh after few hours of hiking.
Enjoy your travel!