Features: The Road to Gibraltar

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ready to go

Ready for the off - not quite, we didn't actually leave until 9 am the next day, Saturday 24th June.

Deciding to take in Granada and its sites on route saw us gasping in our hottest temperatures so far, 34 deg. C. We had planned to overnight here but instead headed straight for Malaga and the cool sea breeze. We cruised the coast for about half an hour looking for a secluded spot free of development and villas, not easy on the Costa del Sol. Eventually a stretch of coastline where the indigenous Spanish seemed to flock and camp for the weekend beckoned.

malaga

In six weeks our first proper camp complete with shower cubicle on the rear.

A brief overnight stop before proceeding along the coast to Algeciras. We had stocked up with food in Javea and were now enjoying the luxury of a cool fridge. As we approached Gibraltar every hamlet housed a gaggle of ferry ticket sellers, all allegedly restricted to the same price, not something we wished to spend time investigating as tickets are available at the port.

The Rock of Gibraltar beckoned, shrouded in a halo of mist. It took three attempts to find the entrance to the border; the whole area seemed to be under redevelopment with no temporary sign posting. Each time we bumbled past, the guards grew more and more suspicious of our intent. After the obligatory anything to declare question we were waived through onto the runway, remember your 'Green cross code' - 'Look left, look right, no aeroplanes coming, it's safe to cross the runway', I'm glad they have built a tunnel at Heathrow!

Arriving in Gibraltar was a very surreal experience, the weather turned to a misty grey, the temperature dropped a few degrees, we passed the BP on the right, Tesco's on the left and all the signs were strangely familiar. We followed directions to the town centre and then parking, just to be confronted by a dead end where everyone was turning round because there was no parking. Negotiating Bumble round the narrow and steep streets proved a challenge, luckily I left the scenery in tack. Having completed two laps of the town centre with no success we followed the signs to the beach.

Only one stretch of beach in the whole of Gibraltar, which is located at the end of the runway on reclaimed land next to the land/sea fill site were everything unwanted in Gibraltar goes over the edge. It was a Sunday afternoon and the ritual is to drive down to the beach round the traffic island and back again. A strange ritual broken by the occasional car horn as occupants recognised each other, stopping to chat oblivious of the traffic chaos caused behind. The traffic in Gibraltar can be likened to an ant colony, continuously following the same routes round and round with no end to the line. Should a car stop for more than a few minutes the whole of Gibraltar is brought to a standstill.

We watched this ritual, bemused for a couple of hours before heading back into town to find a suitable camping spot. As luck would have it just by the South Gate a free space out of harms way. We took a walk up the high street, representative of so many UK high streets, mock cast iron black and gold gas lanterns supporting hanging baskets with matching wastepaper bins, M&S, Mothercare etc taking there usual plots either side of the pedestrian zone, a string of pubs boasting live coverage of the European Cup and the obligatory McDonalds.

We were back in England, everything - the money, the signs, the shops the whole ambience was that of an English seaside town - it even rained that night!

Our first mosquito attack, the air raid siren was sounded as a mosquito in a steep diving manoeuvre alerted it's intentions, on went the head torches searching the air systematically for the perpetrator. Hands grabbed out sporadically like triple A chasing shadows across the air. Eleven died that night after a relentless onslaught which rendered the roof of Bumble a declared war grave, the dead left where they fell, possibly as an example to others of the terrible fate in store should they enter the no fly zone.

The tourists were up like the songbirds at first light, we had parked near the base of 'The Rock' cable car and their insistent excited chattering meant no sleep for the weary war veterans of 'Mosquito Rock'.

Two nights camping had highlighted a few deficiencies, which included mosquito netting over the front windows. A trip along the length of the high street introduced us to Chaka's first major sit down demonstration. Walking to heel on a lead down a paved high street was not his idea of fun, bottom plonked firmly on the ground and heels dug in. A coffee break was declared the best course of action, a chance to sit down and rest those weary legs, but hey what's this - Chaka starts chewing his lead in irritation, dancing around the table, pulling, chewing. OK so lets walk on - he danced around the end of the lead like a Tasmanian sand devil. This display of agility clears a space through the crowded square and we continue on our way. Two more sit down demonstrations ensued, despite being fed, watered and rested - it was a long trip back to the car.

Gibraltar is a useful stop over for those heading down to West Africa, a last chance to buy anything familiar in English, so you get what you ask for first go. We also found John up by the old Naval hospital with a Land Rover graveyard. I was trying to source a few more parts. Another useful place is the scrap yard 200-m further down the road run by Johnny. Alas in my brief visit I couldn't find what I needed but we will be dropping by on our way back. John is retired from the army and has lived in Gibraltar for 15 years. The Land Rover's are a hobby to keep out of his wife's way and his sense of adventure still finds him organising two trips a year into Africa on Charity missions with a selection of vehicles full of equipment.

We spent the evening out of the hustle and bustle on the Southern tip drinking tea, cooking supper and looking across the Straights for Africa.

the rock

Standing at the most Southern tip with The Rock in the background.

much cheapness

'The last shop in Europe proclaiming 'much cheapness!'

Before leaving we toyed with filling up with diesel:

diesel prices

Yes you read that correctly: Diesel 39.9 p per litre, here we are in a part of Britain outside a well known supermarket which sells Diesel at less than half price. Why when the whole world pays the same price per barrel in Dollars does the UK have a problem when converting it into litres?

To date prices have been per litre of diesel:

UK

84 p

France

56p

Spain

41.2p

Gibraltar

39.9p

Morocco

34.7p

Ceuta

28p

On Tuesday afternoon we headed off to Algeciras but with Morocco's reputation ahead decided not to venture across until early on Wednesday morning. Sleeping at the ferry port is possible but the black tarmac created stifling conditions in the sun so we went in search of some more pleasant beach frontage. 

Tarifa, the most Southerly tip of Spain, guarding the entrance to the Mediterranean from the Atlantic, heavily fortified over the years but now a quiet seaside spot was our destination. A spit of land means you can swim in the Atlantic pop over the road and jump in the Mediterranean. We were trying to develop Chaka's love of water, a large pool of sea water enabled him to tear around without getting his belly wet, the waves however small were proving a little daunting.

tarifa

morocco

The shadow on the horizon, less than 14 km away is Morocco.

 

As the sun went down we felt a little exposed out on the sand and retired into the village for a quieter place to spend the night.

tarifa sunset

We had the best intentions of catching the first ferry out at 6.30 am, although we got up in the dark, by the time we had filled our water tanks and driven back to Algeciras we made the 8 am ferry.

No one was clear whether we were allowed to take Chaka on board, but we did anyway, standing on the aft deck for the 35-min crossing. (There is nothing in price between the fast ferry and traditional ferry for cars.)

Rather than being couped up in the hold Chaka was able to experience sailing with the sea breeze ruffling his fur. As usual he took the experience in his stride getting a little agitated towards the end, 35 min under strict control is a little too long for a boisterous puppy.

15 minutes into the journey Dolphins could be seen jumping in the wake, a first for Sue but Chaka was oblivious despite our excitement.

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