A June 1999 trip
to Gibraltar by Barb B
Quote: Just two and a half miles in length and not quite a mile wide, this giant rock crouches in the sea. For thirteen centuries five countries have battled for her rulership, and a colony of tailess apes has made it their home.
Near the crowded city center, we found buses, mini-bus tours, cabs, guides and drivers of all ilk and variety; each willing, for a price, to provide a personalized tour of the rock. When choosing a tour guide, be sure to check the type of vehicle being used (most cabs and mini buses are NOT air conditioned) and settle on a definite price before(!) you go.
Our guide, Reynaldo, took us to Europa Point, the picturesque red and white lighthouse at the southernmost tip of Europe, which has kept watch here since 1841. We were thrilled by the incredible views of Africa across the Straits. In ancient times Europa Point was known as one of the two Pillars of Hercules; the other pillar was Mt Atlas, which lies across the strait in Morocco. Gibraltar has provided an important navigational landmark from the time man first ventured forth on the oceans. It played significant roles in World War I and World War II as a base of allied operations.
Our drive to and from the lighthouse provided an opportunity to observe many of the trees and flowers of Gibraltar. Although Reynaldo was definitely not a horticulturist, he was able to point out a profusion of palm, pine and cypress trees, as well as ornamental plants along the route and to show us several lovely yards and gardens. The numerous land and sea birds we saw near the lighthouse, as well as Reynaldo’s non-stop chatter made for a truly enjoyable day.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 27, 2000
Our guide strolled with us along the walkway to the cave's entrance; then he told us we were free to explore the cave on our own and he would meet us at the exit. We followed the well-lit pre-established paths inside the cave, upstairs and down passing huge stalagmites and stalactites. At times the crystallized formations were illuminated with colored lights, which I found somewhat garish.
The cave consists of an upper Hall with 5 connecting passageways, reaching depths up to 250 feet below the entrance. Rocks ranging in size from 40 feet and 150 feet can be found. Another series of chambers was later discovered while blasting was being done to establish another entrance to the cave. The newly discovered chambers were later named the Lower St Michael's.
We ended in the tour in the Cathedral Cave area, a unique underground auditorium or theatre that is now used for concerts, plays and other presentations. The large number of red candles here reminded me of many of the churches and cathedrals in Italy. As we exited the cave, there was our guide, just as he promised!
I found the cave interesting simply because we were actually inside such a massive rock formation. There was, however, no significant historical information presented. Other than the fact that the cave was once prepared for use as an emergency medical hospital during World War II (but was never used) no real historical information was provided.
Since the cost of the "tour" was only $7 each--heck, the ride was worth it!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 28, 2000
You board the cable cars at the Lower Terminal Station in the center of town. Once inside the station, there are a series of 'cattle shoot lines' similar to those lines waiting for rides at Disneyland. The wait is not long, since two tramcars run continuously throughout the day.
Built in 1966 and refurbished in 1986, each car accommodates 30 passengers and cars can travel at a speed up to 16.5 feet per second. As the tram begins its ascent up the approximately 2200 feet between the terminals, the driver announces that there are two intermediate stops along the way: The first is at the St. Michael's Cave and the second at the Den of the Apes. You can leave and reboard the tram as you choose.
The Top of the Rock Station is located on the site of an old gun emplacement used during World War II.
The day we visited, a world class trimaran race was taking place in the harbor and many of the locals were also on hand to view the race.
This is a fantastic viewpoint to enjoy the panoramic uninterrupted views. There is also a rather uninspired self-serve restaurant, a small pub and a routine souvenir shop. We took lots of pictures before making the return trip down the cliffs.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 31, 2000
'Oh yes', Reynaldo said, 'there is a tour of the tunnels and it is usually not very crowded. I have a friend who will show you the inside of the tunnels'. So off we went, once again in Reynaldo's Toyota, up the side of the mountain toward the caves. He walked with us to the area where tour groups were forming and introduced us to our guide.
We started off into the cave with a group of 8 people. The tour turned out to be a guided walk of about 45 minutes as our very knowledgeable guide explained how this unique system of tunnels evolved. Carved through solid limestone, these tunnels served as a major defense system for Gibraltar against the Spanish during the Great Siege.
The Great Siege lasted from July 1779 to February 1783. Originally there was no intent to mount guns within this tunnel; it was to be used only as a lookout. They were working toward the 'Notch' of the rock where they planned to employee guns. But as the work progressed in the tunnels, fumes from repeated blasting almost suffocated the miners. So it was decided to open a vent to let air into the tunnel, and almost at once it was realized what an excellent embrasure this would make for a gun.
During the Second World War, the Royal Engineers added some 30 miles of additional tunnels within the rock. The current tours pass a variety of exhibits which re-enact scenes experienced in these tunnels throughout their history. The scenes enliven the guide's commentary and enhance what otherwise might be a dull and very boring tour.
We enjoyed the tour very much and at $6 a person felt it was a very good bargain. Our guide was quite knowledgeable and spoke excellent English.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 30, 2000
Right, I did it! I fed them and I know it was wrong. However, it was not totally my fault. Our friend and guide Reynaldo gave me permission. He said the apes really expect the tourists to feed them and of course, they might also be hungry.
The famed tailless Barbary Macaques apes are Gibraltar's most famous residents. They were brought to Gibraltar from Morocco and Algeria many centuries ago and today they are the only free-living monkeys in Europe. Currently the apes are most frequently found in the area of the Great Siege Tunnels and at the Ape Den, midways up the Ariel Tram Ride.
According to legend, the monkeys must roam free, and when the apes leave the Rock, the British will also go. When the population dwindled during World War II, new members for the colony were imported from Morocco.
OK, ok--I know I should not have fed them. They ARE wild animals and I could have been bitten. But - I'm not sorry I did it!
Napa, CA and Hereford, AZ , Arizona