Routine

Well, just in case you think this adventure is all about G and Ts on the deck before the sun has even gone over the yardarm, I thought I’d fill you in on the general daily sailing routine on board Linea.

First, obvs, Ian brings me a cup of tea and immediately my first work-out commences.  Twenty vigorous pumps up and down and I can feel the pressure mount.  Some lubrication is necessary.  We use olive oil on the advice of other seafarers. Suddenly, flushing is a lot easier and the toilet (heads!) is squeaky clean.  Frantic, but necessary exercise and then we have breakfast!

We set off to shower in the marina shower block, if there is one, and, afterwards, I go to the marina office to return the key and go through the obligatory paperwork. (At least eight pieces of paper,  sometimes twelve!). Since the offices are at the arrival pontoon this usually involves a fair hike to and fro.

Whilst I have been away, Ian has been checking all the weather reports.  It’s no good just checking the one, since the weather is so unpredictable in the Med at this time of year and each one predicts slight differences.  We take the average and add ten knots!

He has re-attached the main sail halyard and unzipped the sail cover.  The navigation has been done the night before, putting all the crucial waypoints into the computer so that we have a clear course to follow.  We have the paper charts and pilot guide to hand, having read up, in detail, about where we are heading, obstacles along the way and the destination port.

Whilst waiting to depart we hear a Pan Pan message going out on the VHF radio to all ships in the Straits and Alboran sea. There is a dinghy adrift with 50 souls on board and we are asked to keep a sharp look out and report any sightings.  We gasp at the thought of people being stranded in those waters with no means to steer or propel themselves in such a busy traffic area.  Hopefully they will soon be found and taken to safety. These messages have become a daily occurrence.

Gathering ourselves together, we remove the heavy mooring lines from the bow and any spring lines we have set up.  Once we are ready, we start the engine and Ian drops the stern mooring line.  I then pull in the slip lines and we back out carefully from our spot trying to avoid the mooring lines of other boats next to us.

‘Clear!’ I yell, and off we go out of the marina.  My first job is to remove all the lines and coil them up to be stowed. For short slip lines this is relatively easy, but lifting and coiling heavy mooring lines presents serious weight lifting for the arms

I carry them back to the rope locker tucked in the curve of my elbow and lying across my hip, like naughty babies and gently lie them in the locker until they are needed again.

Then, I undo all the fenders – one by one – that’s usually eight, sometimes nine.  I carry them to the cockpit and lob them bodily down the companionway.  Next, I have to climb gingerly down to the saloon and push the fenders under the table, wedging them in like sausages in a Tupperware box.

Back up on deck, I check that the cockpit is ready for the hoisting of the sails.  Reef lines (three of them) need to be placed in even figure of eights so that they uncoil without interruption.

The main halyard needs winding round the main winch in preparation for hauling up.  The topping lift needs winching in tight, the vang needs releasing, as does the main sheet.

Soon, we decide the time is right for the main sail to go up.  I head the boat up to wind so that her nose is dividing the air neatly and evenly.  Ian stands at the mast.  I engage Pedro the auto pilot and dart to my position near the halyard.  Ian sweats the halyard, I pull in the slack. Teamwork! So we go on, until the main sail is almost at the top of the mast.  I then begin to winch in a centimetre at a time!  Ian appears from the mast and continues.  Then takes the helm to turn us away from the wind.   He urges me to winch a little more.  I make a tiny adjustment, which he accepts as ‘fantastic’ and, thank god, the thing is up.

No rest yet.  I then have to pull the Genoa as Ian releases the furler and finally we have both sails up!  Still more tweaking to do, so that they are set and I can sit.  But not for long.  This has probably taken the best part of an hour.

All the while we are both keeping an eagle look out, using our fantastic binoculIMG_3067ars (affectionately called ‘knockers’) for Cardinal marks, lobster pots, fish farms, other boats, dolphins and huge pieces of floating plastic sheeting that can blow off the thousands of huge ‘greenhouses’ along this south facing part of the Spanish coast line.

After being head to wind for so long it is also necessary to check where we are in relation to our course and the chart. I nip down below and look at the Open CPN navigation charts on the computer.

I send the latest activated waypoint information to the helm.

Back up top I go to see how we are getting on.

Perhaps now it’s calm, it’s a good opportunity to pop to the loo, (sorry- heads!) and it is, of course,at this precise moment, that a huge pod of dolphins decides to make an appearance.  Ian shouts with delight.  I rush up top with the camera and glimpse loads of dolphins in small groups chasing and herding the fish and having a feast but quite far off.  There are a number of seagulls flying along in their wake.  They have discovered that where there are dolphins there surely must be fish.

The dolphins do not grace us with any close up, dip-diving today.

Pedro and Genevieve
Pedro and Genevieve

Surely, it’s coffee time now.  I go back down and put the kettle on.  Coffee and biscuits appear, as if by magic, in the cockpit and we have a quiet minute whilst Pedro carefully steers us along our course.

Suddenly, Ian is digging in the locker for the stainless steal polish.  He sets to, polishing and buffing, around the boat.

Not to be outdone, I decide that this is a good time to start pulling the new dark blue nylon socks onto our scruffy old fenders.  Back down the steps I go to retrieve the sewing stuff.  Pulling the socks over the fenders requires remarkable strength and is akin to pulling tights up wet legs!  Once they are in position, an over-stitch with shearing elastic creates a rope effect and keeps the collar and cuff of each sock in place on the fender.  They do look smart!

The wind remains light and constant, so we decide to get out the mackerel fishing line.  We are sailing over a fishing haven and there are bound to be fish.

Ian dangles the hooks and feathers over the side and within five minutes, he has a bite.  He pulls in the line to reveal the  smallest, spikiest fish I have ever seen.  I put on the gloves and detach the fish from the hook and chuck it back in.  Poor thing looks the worse for the experience.  Having detached the minnow, I throw the lead weight back into the sea,  but Ian has only a light hold of the rest of the line so the whole thing is jerked out of his hand and we watch it drop to the bottom of the ocean, helplessly.

Well, that’s the end of fishing, for the time being but there’s no peace for the wicked!

The wind is picking up and we decide to put the main sail away and use just the headsail as we are on a run and the wind is right behind us.  (It’s safer and a lot easier to put away if the wind builds further.) We turn into the wind, which by now has increased to more than 20 knots, and release the halyard.  The sail drops down almost entirely into the sail bag, just needing a hand to fold in the last metre or two.

We sail along at about 8 knots.  It’s relatively peaceful on this point of sail and we are well-balanced.  I rustle up a quick lunch.

The arrival port is in sight.

Then the foresail needs pulling in.  Ian does the winching and I ease the genoa sheet so that the sail doesn’t get tangled around the forestay.

Then the engine goes on,  and we are motoring towards our destination.  I edge my way along the boat to pull up the motoring cone, which lets other boats know that we are motoring.  Once that is done it’s time to put out the fenders, ready for parking.  I have to go down to the saloon and push all the fenders back up on deck.  I climb up behind them and push them into the cockpit and emerge like a hatchling amongst eggs.

One by one, I carry them down the side of the boat and tie them on to the rail.  Back and forth I go, methodically.  Next, it’s time to get the lines ready for mooring.  Usually we need a stern line from the back of the boat and a bow line at the front.  I dig them out of the snake pit and scurry around to attach and coil them so that they are ready to throw to the Mariners who are on shore. Of course by now it’s blowing a hoollie to bring added spice to our manoeuvres and I know within thirty of minutes of turning the engine off there won’t be a breath of wind.

Whilst Ian calmly steers the boat against the Arrivals Pontoon, I prepare to fling the lines ashore and onto the outstretched arm of the patient mariner. He attaches the rope to the shore and hands me back the end of the line.  I pull this through the fairlead and on to the cleat as quickly as possible so that the boat can’t drift.  As soon as that line is fixed I move to the bow and repeat the process so that we are balanced.  We both breath a sigh of relief and whilst Ian sorts the paperwork out with the Marina Office, I have a quiet five minutes.

Now that we have been allocated a berth we will have to perform the parking exercise all over again.  I fix another bow line.  We untie from the waiting pontoon and motor on over towards our berth.  We usually go bows to with a concrete pontoon because with the dinghy on the stern it means that it is impossible to climb off the boat when the tide drops.

I fling the bow lines again and fix them.  Then I reach back to grab the boat hook and lean over the side of the boat to scoop up the lazy line and take it back to the stern so that Ian can heave up and cleat off the hefty mooring line to which the lazy line is  clinging.

Phew, we are all sorted!  No not quite.

I lug the huge mooring lines, that I put away this morning, back up to the bow and throw the ends to Ian who attaches them to the bollards on shore.  They will take most of the weight of the boat, rather than the thin slip lines which are easier to throw but not as strong.

Then we tighten everything up, Ian ‘sweats’ in the line and I pull in the slack and tie it off.  Knuckles are at risk of rubbing raw against the rough surface of the deck, fingers can be trapped by the force of the lines and we are still not done.

The halyard has to be pinned away from the mast so that it doesn’t clank in the wind and keep everyone awake.  The sail cover must go on to protect the sail from rain and ultraviolet light.   All the lines from the sails must be tidied up and placed in figures of eight around the winches or coiled on the rail to keep them neat.

The wheel is covered with its canvas cover and everything that can be stowed away, is.

Now, and only now, can the kettle be put on for a well deserved cuppa and a quick shower.

But, hang on….we were alongside the Arrivals pontoon at 1500hrs.  How can it be 1820hrs already?

We need to cook some supper and then it’s nearly time for bed!!

Anyone interested need only make the briefest of brief applications to be crew on our next leg!

Tetouan

Tet 1

A brief bus journey to the frontera for 80 cents was the start to our adventures into Morocco.

We arrived at the frontier and duly filled out the required paperwork, and joined a short but slow moving queue.

The border guard inspected my passport thoroughly.  Flicking through every page, rubbing each one between discerning fingers and thumb, checking labouriously the embossed design on the front and the photo page within.  All the while, delicately adding little doodle additions to the letters on my form. A balloon flying out from the ‘L’s, a circle atop all the ‘i’s, a tick confirming details of name and occupation, a dot embellishing my reason for travel.

After a few important questions;  What was my name? Where did I live? Where was I staying?  How long was I staying in Morocco?

Then, Chock! Chock!

I had two new ink stamps in my passport.  The last two pages were the favoured spots so that the border guards at the other end of the no-man’s land line would know where to look, to double check!

We were spat out from a caged corridor enclosure surrounded by razor wire, on to a roundabout that doubles as the terminus for a rather splendid dual carriageway all the way to Tetouan. We quickly negotiated a fare with a taxi and jumped in to head the 32 km into the former Spanish enclave of Tetouan.  At €5 each, it seems reasonable.

Driving along the coast we can see green fields and flocks of sheep being tended by cloaked shepherds, a scene befitting the bible.  In the near distance the impressive Rif Mountains loom protectively.

Here are palm trees planted in regimented rows along the front and huge, twiggy storks nests sit perched precariously atop pylons, chimneys and even the turrets of a mosque.Tet 19

Left and right our heads dart in turn.  Signs are in Arabic and French.

As we approach the city, a bespectacled, helmeted man, clad in black, sped along beside us, stared into the taxi, and gave us a grin.  He manoeuvred to the taxi driver’s side and salaamed  him.  He talked at the taxi driver, who shrugged, as if to say, “Whatever!”

“Lovely-Jubbly,” the motorbike man shouted at us.

“I studied English in Piccadilly.” He offered as his opening gambit and his credentials.

We smiled and nodded. He then drove right in front of the taxi, waved and gesticulated and guided us along to a suitable drop off point.  The taxi driver made a crazy man motion with his hand against his temple. We all laughed at the shared joke.

When we alKhalid 1ighted from the cab, Lovely-Jubbly was there to greet us.  He introduced himself as Khalid and was extremely disarming.  We soon found ourselves with a guide to take us into the maze of the Medina, and, more importantly, out again!

Tet 3We stopped in the grand square had a coffee.  Delicious Moroccan coffee. Served with a glass of water on the side. From there it was a short walk to reach the streets of the Medina.

It certainly helps to have had twenty-four hours to absorb and process all the sights we saw in the Medina.   I am eager to give a description that does it justice and adequately expresses just how amazing and different a place it is to see.  I have visited all sorts of markets in my time, in many diverse countries,Tet 10 but I have truly never seen anything quite like the Medina in Tetouan.

The nearest I have come to seeing something like this was when I watched Raiders of the Lost Arc, the James Bond film set in Egypt (can’t remember the name, answers on a postcard please) or Harry Potter.  The atmosphere, the smells, the hustle and bustle, the people and the stalls, all conspired to contribute to the impression that this was an incredibly elaborate film set prepared entirely for our benefit.

I felt that if I had turned round quickly enough, or darted round a corner, I might have caught some scene-shifter unawares: That I would find myself gazing at the backlot of some enormous Pinewood-ian film studio.

For a start, the extras were so realistic.

The teenage boy, running along bearing tiny little pastries on huge rectangular wooden trays.  He rushed round a corner and nearly collided with Keira in his haste to get to the ovens.

The wizen, shuffling, hunch-backed old dear, wrapped in layers and completely covered in a pointy hooded djellaba.IMG_1436

The toothless herbalist trying to sell us Argan oil and Ras el Hanout.Tet 13Tet 27

The baker, slaving away at a huge wood-fired, pizza style oven; sliding flat loaves as big as dustbin lids in and out of its gaping, insatiable mouth.Tet 23

 

 

The kid, aged about 6, who came tearing into the dark confines of the bakery, shouting, ‘Give me a loaf, but if it’s not hot, I don’t want it!

The merchants constantly rearranged the displays of their produce to best effect.

The constant stream of people pushing trolleys past your legs.  Trolleys wobbling with the weight of cow’s heads, stomachs and intestines, bouncing millimetres from being joggled on to my exposed, bare, flip-flopped feet.  A trolley load of cow’s shins and hooves, off to the glue factory, presumably.Tet 26

For extras, they were extraordinarily believable actors!

As if this wasn’t enough, the scene makers had gone to enormous lengths to make the place look authentically medieval.  The noises, the narrow alleyways,Tet 24 the maze of streets, the dark doorways that looked as if they led nowhere, the beautiful mosaics, the white, green, lilac and blue painted walls, the covered-over alleyways,Tet 29 the arches, the huge, old, wooden, studded doors, the twenty-four different mosques, the synagogue, the street signs.Tet 30

Clearly, the property department was not to be outdone.  The stalls were stunning. Tet 20 Piles of tomatoes, floes of enormous strawberries, mounds of plump oranges, stacks of every kind of fruit and vegetable you can name, plus some unusual ones, like bracken.  Tet 22

Meat stalls, where butchers carefully carved up chunks of meat and blood oozed; dripping down in dots to the paving stones below.

Stalls were packed in tightly here.  Tet 7Fish, fruit, vegetables and herbs, neatly arranged, spilled out across the already narrow space.  Tiny cubby-hole kiosk stalls utilised the tiniest left-over spaces and hooded men perched inside, within an arm’s reach of any of the products.

Lentils, chickpeas, pasta, Tet 17rice, corn and spices overflow from sacks carefully rolled down to precise and equal heights.

Pots, pans and kitchen utensils gleamed in the beams of light produced by the lighting department.  TET 28The sun light filtered in through the narrow space high above our heads.  They had achieved, to a tee, the sharp contrast between sun and shade, together with the glimpse of blue sky, cut up in slices between roof lines.

The offal stall, Tet 16the tripe stall, the baskets Tet 14and wooden implements.

 

 

 

 

 

The white wash in big stoney chunks, Tet 11the powdered tinctures of green, lilac, blue and saffron in huge bags for people to dip into and mix into their paint.

The prolific number of barber shops was also noticeable. Tet 12 On a Sunday they all had customers, sporting fairly severe and sharp cuts.  Some were having a wet shave, too.

In what seemed like the very epicentre of the Medina, we came across a deserted restaurant, buried so deep in the maze that we were the only customers. Probably because no one else could find it.  Tet 21Its only light came from a huge, orangery type roof three floors above as it was surrounded by other buildings on all four sides.  It had an enormous, dusty, crystal chandelier, that helped us to see clearly the curved filigree of the inner arches, the tiles, mosaics and the glittering, plush, tasseled cushions on the sofa benches around the room.Tet 31

Here, however, the props department only managed to deliver a fairly bland, over-cooked meal, with a mere nod to Moroccan traditional cuisine.  I think I could easily have made it myself.  A style of Minestrone soup, tiny cubes of beef on a sheikh kebab, a cone of couscous with bendy carrots, stewed cabbage and grey chicken legs finished off with a peanut cookie.  Not quite the exotic, spiced, tasty Moroccan dishes we had hoped for and as a government establishment, sadly lacking in imagination and flavour.

The sound department, however,  reproduced with great accuracy, the Arabic stream of words, the occasional French or Spanish being shouted by merchants and their customers.   They called out their wares in a stream of words, over and over again, even whilst bagging up a sale.  It was as if they so were impatient to sell all their produce that they didn’t appreciate the interruption of a sale in their pursuit of announcing and marketing what they still had to sell.

Live chickens squawked Tet 15from back room cages, unwittingly waiting to be selected, slaughtered and plucked for the next purchaser.

The costume department had shown a keen eye for replicating the kinds of clothes and colours worn in the Medina.  Rustic fabrics, full length djellabas on men and women with pointed wizard-like hoods, shawls, straw hats with decorative woollen pom-poms Tet 2dangling from each side, like a kind of ethnic compass.  Children dressed in a mish-mash of clothes, leggings over a skirt, with a jumper and then a coat.  Women in tightly bound head scarves. Young men in skinny jeans and denim jackets.

At every turn of the head there was another incredible sight to see.

By making this analogy to a film set, I don’t want to detract from the wonder.  I was so completely in awe of what I saw.  I loved it!  It was an experience in every sense.  We had NO hassle, no stares, no harassment.  Everyone we met was delightful.  Khalid, our guide was knowledgeable, patient and knew everyone in the Medina.

Suddenly, we were jerked back into the 21st Century and factual life, by loud cheers from cafes, bars and shop booths, that added to the spice of life in Tetouan. A ‘derby’ football match against Casablanca that very afternoon.  Both teams on 24 points in the national football league; a crunch game?  As the 1530 kick off approached, stalls were abandoned and every one was either glued to a small TV with coat hanger aerial and grainy picture or to a radio that screamed out the commentary.  By half time the home team was 2-0 down.

“There’s still plenty of time,” was the hopeful common line.

2-1, 3-1, 3-2 …. Final whistle.

The local team went down 4-2.  Our talkative taxi driver listening to the crackling in car radio whilst driving us back to the border in his stunning 1970’s Mercedes Benz,Tet 18 became a little quieter.

We passed miles of spruced up promenade.  Ritz-Carlton and Sofitel Hotel complexes being built by the generosity of a Saudi Prince,  in an attempt to reap the rewards of a downturn in tourism fortunes for Egypt after their recent problems. The Moroccan King himself is so keen for this to become the Moroccan equivalent of the Costa del Sol, that he has invested millions of his own hard-earned cash to  build the dual carriageway road from his seaside palace to his Tetouan one, and back again.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our brief encounter with Morocco.  Khalid had definitely made our day.  We have made a note to come back and see more of this beautiful, varied and amazing country.  We are glad we came in early April, on a cool day when there were no other tourists around.

It was an unforgettable day.

Ceuta

Ceuta 4

Ceuta – pronounced Thayootah.  Known as Sebta in Arabic.

On Saturday, we braved the waters of the Bay of Gibraltar again and headed out of La Linea de la Concepcion towards Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the North African coast, adjoining Morocco.

The weather was perfect for me, a few knots of wind only, which meant we had to motor most of the way.  When crossing the traffic separation zone that cuts through the Straits of Gibraltar, it is best to cut across at right angles and do it as fast as possible.  With our newly fixed propeller anode in place we could bomb along at 8 knots.

We did sail for the last couple of hours once we were clear of the TSZ and it was perfectly lovely in the sun.   Keira even extracted and wore her bikini!!!and it is only April!

But best of all, when we were motoring along we spotted a couple of dolphins up ahead.  Soon we were really near to them and they swam right past.  It was a mother and her calf.

Later on, we spotted some more fins carving up the water. Keira lept to the front of the boat, (practically giving me a heart attack!) phone in hand ready to take pictures.  We were so lucky that a small group of four dolphins decided to join us and they played under the bow for a good three minutes before shooting off into the briny blue to our port side.  They were so fast and agile.  Diving over each other in a competition for pole position.  Rolling over coyly to one side so that they could glance up at us and see the tremendous effect that their presence was having on us: One person shrieking about how beautiful they were, one exclaiming about how they could be common or bottle nosed dolphins and one trying to speak dolphin by squeaking, clicking and clacking at them as they rode up out of the water to take a breath.

Excitement over, we arrived in Ceuta and parked up calmly at the part time fueling pontoon and then made our way to a berth near the temporary marina office.  We settled a rather alarmingly expensive, inexplicably calculated bill and swallowing hard headed into the city and made a walking tour of the impressive, old walls of the city fortifications. Ceuta 3

Ceuta 9Then to the centre of town to the tree shaded plaza near a couple of churches.  Ceuta 8A group of chattering people were gather outside the church when the bells of the other one across the square began to chime.  Clanging and clattering with a tremendous peel, bang on the dot of seven o’clock, blocking all chance of conversation.

Ceuta 7

We headed back to the boat around dusk and tucked into a tasty supper, which was one that we had prepared earlier!

A turn in the weather meant that we had to stay a further two days and nights in Ceuta.  With 40 knots of wind in the Straits we were so glad we stayed. So we spent a day happily catching up on maintenance, cleaning, paperwork and blogs.

Gibraltar

Gib 1

Who would have thought that a Little Britain would actually exist? – but it does.

After a short walk from the marina at La Linea de la Concepcion, in Spain, along the ‘front’ we arrived at the border.  Long since announced by the beeping horns of cars infuriated by the wait for border formalities.

We swanned through passport control of both Spain and The UK, barely causing a flicker of interest.

We appeared, blinking in the bright sunshine, outside the sliding doors of customs and the first thing we saw was a big red telephone box!

A moment later we saw a sign announcing that we are on Winston Churchill Avenue.  This is no ordinary road, however, since it crosses the runway for the airport.  We arrived at the barriers and as there was no plane due we were allowed to cross the vast expanse of tarmac that bisects the isthmus (great word!) between Spain and The Rock of Gibraltar.

The smell of bitumen was strong in the heat of the day and there was an overriding waft of sewage coming from the sewage works at the far side of the run way.  A swish new airport terminal building dominated the view to our left.

We took the obligatory photos and marched sensibly and swiftly across the runway towards Waitrose supermarket, the Post Office, the Nat West Bank, Marks and Spencer’s and Morrison’s.

All the signage and street furniture was exactly the same as we see in the UK.  The place was orderly and tidy and the biggest difference we can saw was that cars drove on the right.  We walked towards what was oddly called the ‘city centre’ and wandered along, occasionally we  glanced up at the enormous limestone edifice above us until we felt the need for caffeine.

My first impressions were of a Britain I remembered from my childhood; when service, food quality and surroundings were seemingly less important than they are today.  What we saw engendered nostalgic reminiscences of instant, convenience food.  What my mum always called ‘plastic’ ham; cheese that had hardly been introduced to milk; sandwich spread, Bachelor’s savoury rice,Heinz Salad cream, Primula Cheese in a tube; crab paste and Smash.  It also reminded us of pier chip shops and fusty smoke-filled pubs.  They were there….called The Victoria, The Hope and Anchor and The Trafalgar all selling uninspiring food of the frozen kind, long since dispensed with in pubs at home. There were all the usual tat souvenir shops and a high street retailers not unlike any you’d see in a provincial town in the UK.

Large, monolithic residential blocks crowded in, bumping shoulders in the limited land available.  There was little character or charm in those.  Dotted in amongst, were the remnants of defences used when the island was a series of bastions and military strongholds.  There was even a small cemetery called Trafalgar Cemetery.  Only two tombs still show details of those who died of wounds suffered at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Some prettier, older buildings have been preserved on the Main Street.  The Court house, the Bank of Gibraltar, Parliament House, City Hall and the Gibraltar Trust Heritage Building.

We lost ourselves amongst the warren of narrow pedestrian streets, climbing high up the steep sides of the rock.  We saw a policeman wearing a traditional domed helmet, and finished our meandering by walking down appropriately named Ragged Staff Road to the quayside marina and a lunch of fish, chips and mushy peas!

With the exception of gin at £6.50 per litre, and petrol at £0.78 per litre, it was an expensive place to be.

Before too, long it is time to head back.  We all feel somewhat jaded and have a quick nap back at the boat and then it is time to bid David farewell, as he set off back across the border to the airport to catch his flight home.

Just 48 hours later, we went back to the airport to greet our daughter, Keira (third visitor), who was flying in from the UK for a working holiday as she prepped for her finals.  We watched her flight approach from the viewing gallery which gave an amazing view of aircraft as they came in from the east, shot along the runway, across the road and out towards the Bay of Gibraltar and yet more sea.

We did a little more exploring of Gib with Keira, but more focused on shops! We took a Number 2 bus out to Europa Point (£2.25 return), which is the southern most tip of Europe and a spectacular spot to see the confluence of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and the land masses of Europe and Africa.

On this huge flat piece of land is an enormous and striking mosque, built in 1997 by the generosity of the King Fahad Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia for the Muslim population of Gibraltar.  The combination of the Mosque minarets, the British Flag flying on a tall flagpole and the bright white and red lighthouse made for an interesting juxtaposition.

In the surrounding area is a car park, a huge children’s play area, with very squeaky swings and a Mr Whippy ice cream van.

A few steps away was the impressive Gibraltar Lighthouse which is fully automated and is the only one regulated by Trinity House outside the UK.  It dates back to 1841 and stands 49m above sea level with a range of 37km.  Nearby is a 38 ton gun from the 1860s, being used as a climbing frame by playing children and a Polish War Memorial made from the original propeller recovered from the seaweed Polish Prime Minister in exile, General Sikorski lost his life in an air crash when his plane took off from Gibralter during WW11.  We also spotted the University of Gibraltar and its playing field.   Some great pieces of history and culture, but, in my opinion, sadly underdeveloped.

On  Friday we decided to head up to the top of the rock on the cable car.  We took the short journey up there, 12 euros each, and enjoyed stunning views.  We chose the right day.  It’s was proper panorama!

Gib 2

(We declined the opportunity to purchase a scone, imprisoned under cling film, for £3.95 or a cup of tea for £2.10 from the rather disinterested staff in the Viewpoint Cafe, noting that the plastic ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread looked as they had been there since the ’70s!)

Gib 4

We were lucky to be graced with the presence of a family of Barbary Macaques which are a species of tailless monkey, particular to Gibraltar.  They were clearly well used to being photographed by visiting humans.  They posed precociously and you could almost here them tut when people wandered off without so much as a by your leave.

Ian photo bombed my picture of a posing macaque and so you see two cheeky monkeys!!

Gib 5

It’s probably safe to say that we haven’t been away from the motherland long enough to fully appreciate the charms Gibraltar had to offer.

Ronda

Ronda

One day last week, when the boat was back out of the water having its propeller anode fixed back on and having its rudder sorted, we hired a car and took a very scenic route up the mountains to Ronda.

View back to Gibralter and Africa beyond.
View back to Gibralter and Africa beyond.

We stopped for a coffee in a quiet rural cafe at a mirador (viewpoint) about 10 miles outside Ronda and were amazed that we could see the Rock of Gibraltar, and Africa beyond, so clearly.  We also saw three interesting characters waiting for a bus in the shade.

Three characters waiting in the shade.
Three characters waiting in the shade.

On arriving in Ronda, we parked up in the centre of the city and wandered around it until we found our way to the amazing gorge that divides the city.

The New Bridge.
The New Bridge.

We hovered over the parapets of the bridge and took some vertigo inducing pictures.

The amazing gorge.
The amazing gorge.

We found a walkway that was literally clinging to the rock and soon came across a piazza with a view of a tall curved white wall topped with terracotta tiles.   The bull ring.

The beautiful bull ring.
The beautiful bull ring.

We took the audio tour around this, the oldest and best preserved bull ring in all of Spain and were impressed by its incredible beauty.  Ronda 15The columns, the tiles,

Tiles on the steps around the auditorium.
Tiles on the steps around the auditorium.

the space, the seats, the blue sky and even the sand, were all stunning, and the museum had some impressive weapons and costumes to ogle over.

We wandered further and strode across the New Bridge (built in the 18th century) to happen upon a little place for a spot of lunch.  After this we set off to look around the historic centre of the city and found some lovely buildings, churches and tree lined squares.

Ronda 3Tempted by the dangling fruit, Keira and Ian conspired to steal an orange from a tree in one of the squares.  As soon as Keira had bitten into one of the segments it became clear as to why the tree was still fully laden with its bountiful store.  It was a bitterly sharp orange!  Keira’s eyes watered and her saliva glands worked over time.  She admitted that she would have liked to pretend that it tasted sweet, so that we would have popped a segment into our mouths and had a huge shock!

Ronda 5

Having had our fill of history and Spanish culture for the time being, we headed back to the car and onwards to La Linea.