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The monkeys, tunnels, and a road across the airport all at Gibraltar

Posted by on October 25, 2011

One thing I found out while staying in Costa del Sol was the sheer amount of trips tourist agencies were offering. A lot of them were offered in various languages such as English, German, Russian, French, and even Japanese. Thankfully, due to high volumes of English-speakers in the area, I went along with the UKers for trip to Gibraltar.

Flag of GibraltarI don’t think many people ever visited the “rock” or “Gib” otherwise known as Gibraltar, a special overseas British territory. Sitting on a mountainous island south of Spain, this strategic piece of land has been fought over for thousands of years because of its importance of covering the Strait of Gibraltar, the opening of the Mediterranean Sea. Any well-placed artillery piece could shell rounds from Gibraltar all the way to Africa (Morocco) which could potentially close off any ship traffic in or out of the Mediterranean Sea or Atlantic Ocean. Because of the historic and strategic importance of this emplacement, the British ended up with the island through various treaties and to this day still maintain possession of the island despite the constant haggling over the years by the Spanish government to get it back. Even though in the past the Spanish government tried to completely block off trade, ships, and flights into the territory, there has been a lot of toning down of the diplomatic/military tension and instead Gibraltar has been recently considered to be a very important trade and working center for Spaniards to where many tourists flock to the region to experience something different or simply get away for a day.

Gibraltar port

Gibraltar port - one of the busiest of the world

Map of where Gibraltar is

Map of Gibraltar showing its geographical importance

I’ve always been fascinated how one island could play a pivotal role in history because of its geographical location and how so many people and nations have fought for this piece of rock. That’s why I had to take a trip to the island and see it for myself. It was a very easy process to see this British island as you can sign up in Spain with your passport and pay the trip fee and then get picked up by the tour bus en-route to Gibraltar. I highly recommend using a tour guide operator as he/she can explain the history behind the island and point out any significant areas of interest. The tour guide will no doubt take you to the southern part of the island where on a clear, cloud-less day, you can easily see Africa only 20-30 miles away. Of course, the majority of tourists are not just interested in the views but are more receptive to seeing the other tourist attractions such as the monkeys of Gibraltar. Yes, there are wild monkeys on this island which number in the hundreds (probably around 300+). I do have to admit that one of the reasons why I wanted to go as well and see these fur-balls. They’re pretty tame (but be careful as they can bite!) as they are obviously used to human interaction on a daily basis thanks to tourists. Even I got up real close and personal as one of them tried to groom my hair in a certain way. Ha ha.

Gibraltar monkey, Barbary macaque, combing hair for food

Also known as simply "monos" which is Spanish for monkeys, these guys are big-time tourist attractions of Gibraltar.

These monkeys are pretty funny in their own way as it was theorized that the Moors brought them to the island to act as pets although no one really knows the truth. They were even noted in history when Nazi Germans tried to invade the island, Great Britain exclaimed that the British crown and its royal troops would never leave Gibraltar as long as the monkeys stayed on the island as well. And as time went on, the British military garrison and later the Gibraltar government took care of the monkeys and eventually became one of big tourist attraction draws along with shopping.

St. Michaels Cave, Gibraltar

In addition to the rock, monkeys, and tunnels, St. Michaels Cave is also another attraction.

Another great thing about this island is that during World War II, the Nazi Germans have tried numerous times in an effort to control the rock. It was determined that whoever controlled Gibraltar could control the outcome of the Mediterranean Sea war campaign, mainly in South Europe and North Africa. In order to shore up defenses and camouflage any troop presence, the British military constructed tunnels throughout the island in order to protect its soldiers from any artillery or aerial bombings. These tunnels extend for miles and miles and one of the great things about using a tour guide is that he/she will drop off tourists interested in seeing these tunnels and learn the history behind it. I got up close and personal in visualizing the past of how much energy and work was required to construct these things which I know was a very tiring process back in those days.

View of Gibraltar's airport and main road from the tunnels

View of Gibraltar's airport from the tunnels; see that main road? Yes, it crosses the airport's main flight line

One of the best parts about this tour was getting this great view of the northern part of the island which also has the craziest part in my opinion: there was the main road that connects itself to Spain and how people and vehicles cross this road all the time while it’s part of the airport! Take a look. Isn’t it crazy? And yes, they do close the road when a plane comes in or takes off. Oh and by the way, that’s the only road in and out of Gibraltar!

Plane taking off in Gibraltar airport

Oh, look, what do you know? It's a plane taking off - the main road is closed during takeoffs and landings.

And lastly, the city square itself (like a main plaza) was a nice place for shopping and eating food. You have to remember that this is not a Spanish enclave but a British one meaning you’re going to see British table fare at the many restaurants located there. They also don’t use the Euro but rather utilize the Gibraltarian pound similar to the British pound version. But I must recommend that you do what the Brits and Gibraltarians would do which is order the fish and chips with a pint of beer. You can’t go wrong with that choice unless you want the mix of Moorish, Spanish, British cuisine which is also offered.

Gibraltar view from the street

Even though it's a British overseas territory - what's wrong with this picture? The drivers are driving on the right side of the road! Gibraltar made this change to make it easier to connect with Spain.

One thing I have to mention before ending this section is the women. Spain has its great share of gorgeous-looking women especially in Costa del Sol area but Gibraltar, probably because of the numerous tourists that go there, has a great number of good-looking women as well. I must admit that I had to do some serious head-spinning over there wondering if that particular girl was a great mix between Spanish/British or was a tourist or whatever she was. I’ve had theories that it must have been the water over there in that part of Europe!

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