I know absolutely sod all about Gibraltar apart from it not being a fantastic place to holiday if you’re Irish.Â* So, seeing we were less than an hour down the road and we had half a day to kill before our flight back to the UK, I thought that we should go and find out so, after breakfast, we set off for â€˜The Rock.’
Electing to keep off the Autopista (the Spanish toll road system) we followed a seemingly never-ending line of roundabouts through a seemingly never-ending sprawl of timeshare apartments and package holiday hotels.Â* This really was more like what I’d been expecting of Spain and it was truly horrible!Â* Thankfully it is the exception rather than the rule and the majority of the coast hasn’t been completely trashed just yet.Â*Â*
Finally we reached the Spanish border town of Linea de la Conception and, with The Rock of Gibraltar clearly visible, we parked the car and headed off towards the frontier on foot.Â* We’d heard that the traffic across the border could be an issue - mainly on the way back as the Spanish are still sore about Gibraltar and tend to drag their heels as some form of latin protest - and, if the queue on the way in was anything to go on, it wasn’t worth the risk.
I had hoped to get a passport stamp as I crossed the into Gibraltar - I had been told that you could get one if you asked nicely - but my request was denied by the fact there was no one on duty to so much as check my passport but my disappointment was abated as we entered Gibraltar by way of a live runway!Â* Being a rock - a fairly impressive one, at that - there is precious little land suitable to house an airport.Â* No land at all, in fact.Â* The only solution was to build the runway on land reclaimed from the water previously dividing it from Spain but this left them with a problem - this would mean losing the only road onto The Rock. The solution?Â* Ingeniously simple and, as far as I know, completely unique: a simple set of level-crossing type gates which drop each time a plan takes off or lands.Â* Genius!
Initial impression of The Rock weren’t great - the dirty streets and run-down buildings were a million miles away from where we’d just come - but things improved when I took a look in the window of an off-licence and realised that Jack Daniels was on sale for Â£10 for a litre bottle - less than half price - I was starting to warm to Gibraltar!
We had planned to take the cable car to the top of the rock and see the apes but we’d neglected to pick up a good city map as we’d crossed the border and we had soon found ourselves lost in the maze of old streets.Â* Instead we had the idea of hiking to the top instead.Â* We really should have known that was a ludicrous idea but we set off blissfully unappreciative of the scale of the place.Â* We climbed and climbed and, keeping a keen eye on the time that we had to be back at the car, we climbed some more.Â* We passed some old fortifications and some huge old guns - still trained at the Spanish mainland - whilst we in turn were passed by numerous tour buses but, eventually, we had to admit defeat.Â* We had taken over an hour to reach this point and, at that rate, it’d be dark and our car would be towed before we reached the top on foot.
As we stood and looked over the airport back towards Spain I finally spotted what we’d been climbing for in the first place - a wild ape.Â* And then another.Â* And then a baby ape - which was very cute but pretty bloody scary at the same time - and I suddenly cheered up.Â* I wasn’t at all sure how well behaved they were so, in the knowledge that they could very probably kill me if they so chose (!), I tentatively edged closer to take a few photos.Â*
Having seen what we’d hiked up to see we took another look at the time and decided to head back into the main town to check out the old buildings down there - and to pick up a couple of bottles of Jack - before heading back across the border to be reunited with the car.Â* Once again, on the way out, no-one was interested in who we were and our passports remained in our pockets.Â* It was definitely good advice to walk across as the queue to cross by road was huge and seemingly growing by the minute.
Still with a couple of hours to kill we made our way back towards Malaga Airport by way of the town of Estepona which we had yet to visit.Â* We’d heard that it was a pretty little old fishing port so were really quite surprised to discover that it was a fair sized beach resort.Â* Not the sort of place that you’d find in your package holiday brochure but the sort of place that you could imagine the Spanish going themselves.Â* The well kept beach was lined with numerous bars and restaurants of all types.Â* After a bite to eat we headed into the backstreets to explore the town and were delighted to find that the old Mediterranean was still alive and well and had not been completely built upon.Â*Â* A small area, at least, has remained untouched.Â* As the British sit in their huge villas in the hills or their ugly concrete hotels down by the waterfront, we should be eternally grateful for that.