On our journeys, we actually relish experiencing the unexpected (unless it’s the bad kind, like a flat tire, a plane crash, or an empty minibar in your hotel room). We like going off the beaten track once in a while, because you never know who or what you might run into.
So when we found ourselves with an opportunity to meet the Rock, well, we of course had to make the most of that opportunity. We were delighted to have almost a full day together.
But before we get into our adventures with the Rock, while we were driving from Grenada toward the coast of Spain, we decided to take a detour into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Some of our American friends might wonder why we drove all the way to California and didn’t bother visiting them, but they might be surprised to find out the original Sierra Nevadas are in Spain. Just like the original Matterhorn is in Switzerland, not Disneyland.
Sierra Nevada means “mountain range covered in snow” in Spanish, which means the Spanish think just about every mountain range in the world is called the Sierra Nevada. The actual version contains the highest point of continental Spain, and the third highest in Europe, just ahead of the Matterhorn in Disneyland Paris.
When Carolyn first pointed out that there was snow on them thar hills while looking up at them from Grenada, I scoffed, thinking there was no way in this 100 degree weather in late July that snow could still be on the peaks. But as we took the drive up the mountains and got closer to them, I could see she was right. To which I say, “tens razão Carolyn,” which means “you’re right” in Portuguese; otherwise translated as, “I bow to your incredible wisdom, oh wise one, please forgive me for scoffing… so, um, can we still have some nookie tonight?”
Our ultimate destination was a village called Capileira, so-named because you need a lot of extra capillaries to live at that altitude. It is the highest and most northerly of the three villages in the gorge of the Poqueira river. Cars are not permitted to continue across the mountains, so Capileira is the highest village that public traffic can reach, unless you’re driving a tank, in which case you can pretty much go wherever you want.
On the twisty-turny drive up we spotted this little cave with a small building built inside.
So of course I had to inspect it. It was just some sort of abandoned one-room hovel. I guess a mountain man or some such built his little castle and then either died or left it when the road was put through. Love to know the story about it! Probably just a cave troll, though, who are now mostly extinct.
There was also this small castle on a small hill. We love castles, but this one was pretty small and not something you could visit. Probably built for elves, who are now mostly extinct.
The road up was full of twists and turns, some with minimal protection right next to a steep cliff. The good news about that is they don’t have a problem with drunk drivers there. Whoever tries it the first time generally has taken their last drive.
The village is built right into the side of a cliff. They used to play baseball up there, but after the 430th time the ball went bouncing down the hill, ending up about ten kilometers away, they switched to backgammon.
Cool, clear, free, unfiltered water ushers forth from faucets scattered about the town. It honestly was possibly the tastiest and most refreshing water we’ve ever drunk. It was as fresh and delicious as water gets. Of course, we had the shits real bad a few days later, but hey, we got a photo op out of it beforehand! Just kiddin’ about the shits. It made us poop flavored yogurt for a couple of days, actually.
It’s a charming little town with quaint shops and gorgeous views of the countryside. The items in the shops were even reasonably priced; we don’t buy much on our travels but we did buy some things there. Like Imodium. Just kiddin’.
The views were definitely breathtaking, especially if you walked anywhere because there was nothing that wasn’t on an incline.
After a thoroughly pleasant visit, and gratitude that we’d veered off the beaten track and seen a place not many American tourists ever visit, we mushed on to the Spanish coast… and the Rock!
Most Americans have heard of the Rock of Gibraltar (aka the Rock), and– what? You thought we meant the Rock, as in Dwayne Johnson, the guy who gives every professional wrestler hope that they can go from pretending to wrestle to pretending to act? I never said that. As you should already know, he wasn’t even in Spain at the time!
Anyway, it’s a famous rock that stands guard over the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. I think Dwayne needs to make a movie there.
On the other side of the channel, in Morocco, stands the other “Pillar of Hercules.” In ancient times, the two points marked the limit to the known world. Legend has it that it’s where the earth actually ended; that there was nothing whatsoever beyond. That’s why they sent Columbus past there, hoping he’d just fall off the end of the earth. Instead, he discovered Indians running around America, and so invented McDonalds in the hopes of eradicating them all because they were a bit more tan.
Accceso might have looked prohibido, but we went up to the top anyway.
Oops, maybe it was prohibido.
The Rock of Gibraltar is also famous for being home to a couple of hundred monkeys, who make a living looking cute and asking for handouts. The Barbary Macaque population in Gibraltar is the only wild monkey population in the European continent.
Here mom shows her baby how to deal with the tourists and beg for handouts.
Sometimes they don’t wait for handouts. This clever fella jumped on the back of this tourist, unzipped his backpack, and stole a plastic container full of food. Guess he was tired of the free fruit and vegetables. The man did get his container back, empty.
Sometimes its hard to tell which children belong to which family, so occasionally little kids are left to fend for themselves while the imposters who replace them puzzle their parents as to why they need so many haircuts.
After seeing the long line for the gondola ride up the mountain, we opted to take a van tour instead. The bonuses were ongoing and educational commentary from the driver, several stops along the way for views and sights, and…
…having a monkey sit in our laps. This little fella clambered up onto the van while it was moving, and proceeded to sit in both my and Carolyn’s lap. I didn’t want to take a picture of it because I was afraid he’d steal my iPhone and scamper away, subsequently racking up thousands of dollars of long-distance calls to his cousins in Africa.
Some of them are just begging for affection. This one looks more likely to rip my face off.
This baby was getting all the affection and grooming his little heart desired. His mama gets a free all-you-can-eat buffet of lice.
Inside the rock is a labyrinth of caves. This particular section was lit up with all sorts of colored lights. They even hold concerts inside there… I’d love to hear a concert with those unique acoustics. Obviously, they can only play rock.
They also have something called The Great Siege Tunne. I’m still not sure what a Tunne is, however.
They also had a bunch of tunnels, some of which were extended and modified during World War II.
Here I’m directing fire at all the terrorists flooding in from Morocco. I wonder if Trump would have wanted to build a wall across the Mediterranean if he was the President of Spain?
The Rock is heavily touristed, and so the vans pile up. Well, line up anyway. You wouldn’t want to be in a pile-up on the Rock. Most of the road up had only a flimsy guardrail protecting you from a ten thousand meter drop. The entire drive up, I was crossing my fingers that our driver never sneezed or had a sudden seizure.
But we made it safely, and enjoyed the amazing views from atop the famous promontory.
But wait, there’s more! For the same low price you also get to walk out onto a clear glass floor balcony, where you can stand and look down a very long way, with the pane of glass being the only thing between you and certain death.
I actually ventured out a little ways onto the glass, but there was this teeny tiny little thing that prevented me from going all the way:
Right next to it, there was a section of the balcony roped off with flimsy tape… because there were big cracks in the glass! How would you like to be the guy standing there when that happened?
So yeah, um, no. I ventured out far enough to check it off my bucket list, but I weigh too much to trust a piece of glass that’s identical to one that’s already cracked.
Speaking of death, for the life of us we couldn’t figure out what this was from our perch atop the rock. Closer inspection revealed it to be a cemetery, I think full of all the dead tourists who tried the glass floor thing.
By the way, that runway is one of the most dangerous runways in the world. On top of that, and possibly contributing to the danger, a highway runs right through it. The pilots conduct an ongoing sweepstakes to see how many cars they can take out while they land.
The Moors got their name from the fact that they made buildings moor-better.
Surrounding the Rock is the town of Gibraltar, which is still owned by the British. Accordingly, prices were in pounds, although they happily accepted Euros, especially since even the English can’t figure out what a pound is worth, or how much it weighs.
The town holds about 30,000 English refugees, who may get stranded there permanently when Brexit takes place and all flights to Europe from England are eliminated. At least I think that’s what is going to happen.
Carolyn snores, er- rests, on the drive home. That was a lot of hilly walking!
And so the sun sets on another adventure; more sights seen, more history learned, and a monkey in our car who refuses to get out.