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Up the Great Rock of Gibraltar

Up the Great Rock of GibraltarLisbon, PortugalOctober 20, 2007Homepage: http://canciondelvagabundo.googlepages.comGibraltar. A name that rings out through all times and ages; a rock that many men have died over; a landmark for sailors since time immemorial; an iconic image of all in the world that is solid, lasting, and trustworthy: the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea. [...]

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Up the Great Rock of Gibraltar
Lisbon, Portugal
October 20, 2007
Homepage: http://canciondelvagabundo.googlepages.com

Gibraltar. A name that rings out through all times and ages; a rock that many men have died over; a landmark for sailors since time immemorial; an iconic image of all in the world that is solid, lasting, and trustworthy: the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea. There it stood, rising abruptly out of the flat lands of Southern Spain in all of its crass, jagged splendor into the sea coast sky like a deep scratch across the door of a brand new car- it is just something that seems so misplaced that it usurps all attention and demands one to stare upon it with awe. Gibraltar, your name, your image has filled my mind with romance, and I was delighted to have had the opportunity to take your hand and dance.

Mira and I were fixed in a deadpan gaze upon the grey saw tooth ridges of the Rock of Gibraltar as we waded through the lax passport check and across the wide open space of the airport runway (which, oddly enough, bisects the only road to the territory). Our necks were craned back in an exuberant trance as we stared on in awe and the hugeness of this great rock. Mira then got a little nervous, because she knew that I would be dragging her up that enormous peak in a matter of minutes.

“Lets climb up to the peak and try to break into the prison and get arrested like Richard Halliburton,” I rambled on gleefully. Mira did not like that sounds of that plan.

“Lets just go up and look at the rock monkeys,” she countered. I shrugged and agreed, as rock monkeys are fine with me.

So, after walking through the touristed part of the U.K. territory we began our ascent of the Great Rock. We were stopped short soon after starting, as our little sidewalk path did not seem as if it would take us to the top. “We can just climb up this ledge and get to that road up there,” I said as I pointed upwards. I then stood on a park bench and began pulling myself up the concrete wall that partitioned the sidewalk from the earthen slope that steeply rose up to the road above. Mira pushed me up the remainder of the way, and I repaid the favor and gave her a good tug up to join me on the terminus of the slope. We then clamored up the ledge until we arrived at a fence that blocked off the main road that was our destination. I was in the midst of an unsteady climb to the top of it when Mira spotted a nice little gate with a stairway leading up to it a few meters away. As always, she is a genius at keeping me from doing stupid things.

So we took the uneventful way to the road and walked up its switchbacks until we arrived at the park at the top of Gibraltar. We paid the compulsory one Euro fee to get into the visit the rock monkeys and then continued our upward trek. After about ten minutes of walking from the ticket booth a car passed by us and Mira suddenly began yelling like crazy at the top of her voice:

“Fuck you, Assholes Fuck you ”

Startled, I asked her what was going on. “Those assholes hit me in the head with a rock ”

I felt a tinge of anger wheal up within me and I instinctively looked over the ledge for an appropriately sized rock. I found one. The car of the assholes was still in range. I pictured my rock going through their back window. I liked this thought, but I hesitated- go with the flow, I thought. A new strategy came to mind: I would be patient and find their car later on parked outside of one of the park’s attractions and slash not one, but two tires. I like this thought. What would they do with two slashed tires at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar? Call a tow truck? They would be stuck. I liked this idea far more than a direct confrontation with three Moroccans (yes, the assholes appeared to be Moroccan). So I calmly tried to subdue the enraged Mira and we continued on our walk to visit the rock monkeys, while being ever watchful for a chance to enact an appropriate spin of justice upon the rock throwing Moroccan assholes.

But for all of our patience, the plan did not materialize, and Mira came away from Gibraltar with only a bump on her head, hurt feelings- “Why would someone who I do not even know want to hurt me?”- and photographs of the rock monkeys. The monkeys, or tailless marques to nomenclate them appropriately, were neat. They just sat around the sidewalk as if they were in a sedated slumber as tourist took up close photographs of them. It was as if they were hired as actors and were just doing their jobs. They sat on the railings and posed for pictures, they climbed on top of cars and shook the antennas, they picked fleas off of each other with lazy solemness. It was as if they were just going through the motions of being typical monkeys to give us tourist a good show, and this show did not seem real. But I took pictures anyway.

It rattles up a human a little to get close to other primates. How do you react towards them? Do you approach them like people or animals? My initially reaction is to think of them as I would other animals, but then one of them looks me in the eye and I momentarily feel as if I am looking into a portal of true depth and character. I feel as if I am meeting a human, and it makes me feel awkward to not offer a handshake and a greeting. There is a feeling that arises at being close to primates that jumps the bounds of species and genus; I suddenly feel as I imagine little kids do in the back country of non-English speaking countries who cannot believe that I do not understand their language. It all seems so human, but not quite . . .

After coming back down from the Rock of Gibraltar, Mira and I returned to Spain. We quickly made way to a cheap 24 hour diner, that was modeled off of the American style, and ate a cheap hamburger and a cheese sandwich, with the brooding view of Gibraltar taking his rightful place at our table just outside of the window. At this point we were beginning to take Gibraltar as being one of our friends and began referring to him in human terms. “Do you think Gibraltar would like to eat this hamburger?” “What do you think Gibraltar did before all those humans were walking all over him building prisons and all that stuff?” We kind of like our new companion, and sought to find a place to bed down for the night that offered a great view of him, so that we could go to sleep together as well.

We found an appropriate sleeping place right on the beach at the foot of Gibraltar in the midst of some ancient ruins. It was all too perfect. Gibraltar stood proud and tall above us with search lights shining on his every flank, the sea sang out a pleasant song as it crashed against the beach, and the fishing boats in the nighttime sea rode back and forth in front of us in search of fish. It was romantic, and the bottle of wine that Mira and I passed between us just added to this romance. We began talking to Gibraltar for real, and we became good pals through the course of the night. It got really cold that night, as there was a sharp breeze coming in from the sea and we had no blanket to abscond into, but I was high on the moment and just sat there on the beach gazing upwards at the magnificence of that great king Gibraltar. I do not know if I slept at all that night. Between listening to sea, watching the fishing boats, chatting with Gibraltar, and Mira’s incessant shivering, sleep was not something that really occurred to me.

I just sat there.

Feeling Romantic.


Anyone who can travel and doesn’t, is cheating themselves out of a thousand lives.

  • Europe
  • Gibraltar
  • Rock Monkeys
  • Gibraltar Monkeys


Filed under: Europe, Gibraltar, Travel Problems

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

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