It had almost been dark when we arrived at our accommodation in El Puerto de Santa Maria last night, so we hadn't got much of a sense of what the neighbourhood we're staying in is like. When I looked out of the windows this morning, I saw that it was another bright sunny day and we seemed to staying right on the edge of a forest.
The trees looked really cool, so once we'd had breakfast I wanted to go and explore.
It turned out to be a forest that was more fun to look at than to be in; the ground was very sandy underfoot, making it difficult to walk, and it was quite dark under the canopy of trees.
Walking through the forest was worthwhile though, because it meant we also found our way to the nearby beach
We had a little walk on the sand before getting in the car and setting off towards our main destination of the day: Gibraltar.
Going to Gibraltar meant retracing our steps slightly, driving back in the direction of Malaga. It would probably have made more sense to do Gibraltar as a day trip when travelling between Malaga and Cadiz, but I'd ruled that out because I really wanted to do yesterday's inland route and see the white villages
Luckily our route was motorway and so we only had around an hour and a half of driving before we reached the Spanish town of La Línea de la Concepción, which sits on the border between Spain and Gibraltar. The plan was to park the car in La Línea and walk across the border to Gibraltar; partly because driving in Gibraltar is supposed to be horrendous, with long queues at the border at peak times of the day, and partly I'm guessing we weren't supposed to take our hire car out of Spain anyway.
Thankfully there are plenty of car parks in La Línea so we found one with spaces, pinned it on Google maps so that we could retrieve the car again later and set off towards the border. I'd done some research on the border in advance and established that you didn't need to provide a Covid test if you were entering Gibraltar by land (although you do if you are flying in to the airport). All we needed were our passports, which we duly showed and got stamped out of Spain. Now we just had to hope they'd let us back in again at the end of the day
The first thing we saw when we left passport control was a bright red telephone box.
In the other direction, we got our first view of the famous Rock of Gibraltar.
From this lion...
...to this postbox...
...it was very clear that we weren't in Spain anymore!
I was eager to start exploring Gibraltar properly, but we were only able to walk a few hundred metres along the main road - Winston Churchill Avenue - before we got caught in a queue and had to stand waiting for 10 - 15 minutes. Because Gibraltar is so small, the airport runway actually intersects the main road So both traffic and pedestrians were held back behind level-crossing style barriers as we waited for Wizzair and EasyJet flights to take off.
Eventually the barriers were lifted and we were able to walk across the runway and towards the centre of town.
We found the main shopping street without too much difficulty. It was looking strangely festive, with Christmas decorations already up. As we walked along it we spotted plenty of shops from back home; Marks & Spencers, Matalan, Holland & Barrett to name but a few.
We were feeling peckish by this point so we decided to have an early lunch. Tim spotted an Italian restaurant in the main square which looked like a better bet than the multiple fish and chip shops, so we decided to give it a go. It turned out to be lovely; we both had delicious spaghetti with meatballs
When planning the trip to Gibraltar, I'd spent a bit of time debating with myself whether I should pay for the expensive cable car to the top of the rock or save money by climbing up it. The tickets were quite pricey; £30 each for return tickets on the cable car (£17) and entry to the nature reserve on the upper rock (£13). Eventually I decided to fork out for the tickets - having got here and seen how high the rock is, that definitely felt like the right decision
We walked to the cable car base station and were able to get on it almost straightaway, arriving at the top of the rock in a matter of minutes. The views were instantly amazing.
More or less the first thing we saw when we stepped out of the cable car was a sign warning us about the apes.
We had a small backpack with us, containing our passports and some other essentials. A man at the cable car station recommended that people wear backpacks on their front rather than their backs to deter any attempted theft of bags by the apes, so we did that any time we caught sight of any (well, Tim did, I wasn't keen on the idea of an ape being anywhere near me )
From up here we could really see how built up Gibraltar is.
The views away from Gibraltar were beautiful though.
Most of the upper part of the Rock of Gibraltar is a nature reserve and there's lots to see here.
We hadn't been walking for long when we caught sight of our first apes. This one seemed to be attacking a van!
Meanwhile these ones were just admiring the view
Gibraltar has Europe's only population of wild monkeys.
These are Barbary macaques, thought to have originated from Morocco.
Legend has it that as long as there are monkeys on the Rock, Gibraltar will remain British.
I was slightly intimidated by them at first, but they did seem to mind their own business and allow us to walk past them without any problems.
Passing the monkeys, we began to walk uphill and explore the nature reserve.
We could see down to a beach on the far side of Gibraltar.
We reached a viewing platform called the Skywalk, from where the views were fantastic.
From there we continued to climb higher, via a series of stone steps.
Gibraltar has a long military history and there are all sorts of different fortifications here.
Once we reached the highpoint of our climb we could see back towards the town of Gibraltar and the Spanish coast beyond.
That made me question what we were looking at in the opposite direction. We consulted the map and it turned out that we were looking at... Africa
I had read somewhere that it was possible to see Morocco from Gibraltar on a clear day, but I hadn't expected it to look so near.
I was very excited to be able to see another continent
From here our path led downhill, towards St Michael's Cave.
This is a part of a series of limestone caves within the Rock.
I knew that there were impressive caves here.
What I hadn't realised was that the interior of this one is periodically lit up in different colours, in a sort of light show.
I was slightly confused when the cave randomly started turning purple, but it was actually very pretty
Back outside the cave, we had some more walking to do...
...and some more monkeys to avoid.
The next attraction which I really wanted to see was the Windsor Suspension Bridge.
The bridge passes over a 50m-deep gorge within the nature reserve.
It swayed slightly in the wind, but after the Caminito del Rey it was nothing
We continued on through the reserve, realising that we were walking so far downhill that we wouldn't actually need the cable car to get back to the town. Soon we could see the suspension bridge in the distance behind us.
Just around the corner from here was a place known as "Apes' Den" where we had an opportunity to see even more of the Barbary macaques.
There were lots of them perched here on the walls of a terrace overlooking the town.
Again, they seemed pretty placid and inclined to mind their own business. I think they only bother tourists when they think they have food in their bags!
There were plenty of signs up warning people not to touch or feed the animals; both are an offence punishable by fines.
This was my favourite shot of the day...
...until I got this one
Once we'd finished admiring both the monkeys and the views, we continued on our way back down to Gibraltar.
As we left the nature reserve, I was slightly concerned by this sign suggesting there were snakes
We made it back into the town without incident and stopped in the main square for a drink to cool off, before walking back across the runway towards passport control. Google showed us that we'd done quite a bit of walking!
The return journey was just as straightforward; our passports were stamped back into Spain without any problems and we didn't even have to show any proof of vaccination. Then it was back in the car for the drive home to El Puerto de Santa Maria.
It's been another very exciting day and the views in Gibraltar definitely exceeded my expectations