It’s always a little nerve-wracking pulling our 24-foot-wide catamaran through a narrow entrance, past the sharp bowsprits lining the docks with what feels like just inches to spare. But, luckily, as big as our boat is, with two engines, Cheeky Monkey turns on a dime, so I had little trouble nudging our boat safely up to the scary concrete wall in the Queensbay Quay Marina in Gibraltar Harbour. I was sweating a little as I did it, picturing our nice fiberglass hull crunching up against the high stone if I maneuvered badly. But with six crew in total, we had plenty of people at the ready with fenders in hand, and I was able to pull our boat gently up to the harbor wall without incident.
With a population of just 30,000 people, Gibraltar feels like a small English village that’s been airlifted out of Britain and dropped on a spit of land in the south of Spain. Lining the Gibraltar Harbour, there is a string of waterfront English pubs with red-faced patrons drinking pints of beer from sweating glasses and iconic red phone boxes on every street corner, though the mix of Spanish, British English and Arabic being spoken in the shops gives this quaint English village a much more multicultural feel.
We weren’t planning to stay in Gibraltar long, as we had a deadline to get to Rabat, Morocco in a few days to pick up our friends Morgan and Xavier, who were flying in from Paris to do the Atlantic crossing with us. But we also didn’t want to leave Gibraltar without going to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar and seeing the Barbary Macaques, the famous wild monkeys that live on the rock.
I mean, you can’t pull a boat called Cheeky Monkey into a port that’s famous for monkeys and not go see some monkeys, am I right?
So the morning of our departure from Gibraltar, crewmates Kristi, Meg and I went on a mission to get to the top of the Rock so we could squeeze in a whirlwind tour of Gibraltar before jumping back on the boat and rushing off to Morocco.
Originally, we had grand ideas of running to the top of the rock for some exercise plus sight-seeing (you know, kill two birds), but we came to our senses, scrapped the exercise idea and dashed off to catch the last cable car, only to find it wasn’t running because of the high winds. So instead we found ourselves in a tour bus with a group of Spanish-speaking tourists, being driven up a hill so ridiculously steep that I think all of us were glad we didn’t decide to run up it. I like a challenge, but that challenge would have taken us a lot longer than the two hours the bus took, and I’m not sure we would have had much energy to get the boat ready after that.
When our bus reached the top of the hill near the Rock of Gibraltar, I wasn’t expecting to be immediately surrounded by monkeys, or that the monkeys would be so fearless as to jump on the cars and, at one point, Meg’s head. These were intrepid, rather cheeky monkeys (*wink*), which delighted me to no end, but raised some anxiety in Kristi, who showed us a scar on her arm where she was once bit by a monkey.
Even without the monkeys, the views from the top of the Rock were worth the trip alone, so if you ever find yourself pulling into Gibraltar for just a day, make sure to get yourself to the top of the hill — this is what you’ll see:
The bus stopped halfway up the hill so we could get this view of Africa.
Meg, Kristi and me at the halfway point. We’re smiling because we didn’t run it ?
I wonder if the rental car companies in Gibraltar charge for monkey scratches.
Baby monkey! Who doesn’t love baby monkeys? (Kristi, maybe).
Meg might not be a big fan of monkeys after this trip, either.
The Rock of Gibraltar, which we’ve seen from sea and now we’ve seen it from land.
This monkey has a pretty spectacular backyard view.
This sign appears to be saying “Spain is that way, so walk this way instead.”
Update from Tasha
Hey everyone! If you didn’t catch the video Kristi made about our tour of Gibraltar, check it out here!
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