Gibraltar – a hike up “The Rock”

Today we were pleasantly surprised again.  Like when we visited Kotor, we had no real expectations other than to see “The Rock”.  We ended up having one of the best port experiences that we’ve had on this cruise thus far.  It was an incredible day!

While we ate breakfast on the ship, we looked over the possible things that we could do during our brief day.  Kayla, Fred, and Kyle slept in until past nine, so we would only have about 6.5 hours to explore Gibraltar.  Kayla was open to anything.  The rest of us had strong opinions about what we should do.  I wanted to hike, Kyle wanted to see Saint Michael’s Cave, and Fred wanted to see the Barbary apes.  He claims them as his kin, as you will undoubtedly see.  We decided that a hike up to the cave and the top of the rock, where we would see plenty of apes, would be great for everyone.

Just outside the port, we saw something that immediately caught Fred’s eye.  He had to stop and take a quick photo with them.  At some point when the kids were really young, they started calling Fred their monkey.  It’s one of those silly “family things”, so just roll with me here 🙂

Fred is very happy to have found his family.

Within about the length of a New York city block, we got an idea of just how many different cultural influences exist in Gibraltar.  We saw Moorish cuisine, several British pubs, Indian restaurants, and several others.  We even saw this place.  I’m not really sure what to think about this place.  What exactly is Indian Tex Mex?  Anyone?

Indian Tex Mex? Can anyone help me out here?

Here’s a view of what we saw on our way to the bus station.  I love how the clouds engulf the top.

Our first view of part of “The Rock”

We took bus #2, since it stops near both the cable car to the “Top of the Rock” and St. Michael’s Cave.  Everyone else had the same idea, so there was a long line for the bus.  We were some of the last people to get on the bus. I got the last seat and bumped my head.  I ended up with a headache the rest of the day – not great for an uphill hike that takes 1.5 hours, but I’m a glutton for punishment.  Everyone else in the family had to stand on the bus.  It wasn’t more than a ten-minute ride though.

The city bus that took us to the start of our approximately 1.5 hour uphill hike

Once we reached our starting point, we began the long, uphill climb.  Here’s a shot of the crew near the beginning, with everyone still looking quite fresh.

Kyle is starting to get tired of taking photos, so he’s ruining them in every way he can. This is a shot I took at the beginning of our hike.

It took us about 45 minutes of climbing uphill to reach St. Michael’s Cave.  We would then rest at the cave and do the remainder of the hike, another 45 minutes or so, after we were done exploring there.  Here’s a photo taken near the start of the road we needed to climb.  It wasn’t much to look at in the beginning, but some of the signage was photo-worthy.

The nondescript road that leads up to Saint Michael’s Cave and the top of “The Rock”
We didn’t see any birds, but we walked slowly through the area 🙂
We hadn’t seen any apes yet, but we walked slowly through this area, too  🙂
Again, we didn’t see any butterflies, but we walked slowly through the area 🙂

As we climbed further up the hill, we started to get some nice views of the ocean.  They got progressively more amazing as we climbed higher and higher.

This is a view from a little less than halfway through the hike to the cave. The distant shore is Africa.
A family shot from about halfway through the hike to the caves

Here’s a shot of the rise in elevation on the road.  You can see Fred was leading the pack. Does anyone know where he gets all of his energy?

I took a picture of Kayla taking a picture of Fred, who was setting a fast pace for all of us.

Our first encounter with a Barbary ape was right at the entrance to St. Michael’s Cave.  They are completely comfortable around humans.  In fact, some of them seemed completely oblivious to us.  You definitely have to watch out for the younger ones, though.  They will try to take things!  We saw one ape jump onto the back of a woman and grab something from inside her handbag!

The first Barbary ape that we saw was right outside of St. Michael’s cave.

There’s a restaurant at the entrance to the cave, so we stopped to rest.  We were all tired and drenched with sweat from the climb up, so we sat down for just a few minutes to recover.  Afterwards, we showed our tickets and entered the cave.

My family goofing around in St. Michael’s cave

To me, being in St. Michael’s Cave feels like being in a nightclub.  There are colored lights everywhere and music is being piped into the large cavern.  The lights are added in an attempt to enhance the natural beauty of what’s already there, but I feel like they are a distraction.  It’s a strange place.  The lights are constantly changing colors, so I couldn’t always get good photos.  Here’s a look at a few that I got.

An image from St. Michael’s Cave
Kayla felt like she should start dancing in the “nightclub” atmosphere, but we told her to tone it down 🙂
One of the few shots where the lighting actually enhanced the cave formations
A shot of an interesting formation near the top of the cave                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As we left the cave, Fred felt a really strong urge to connect with his kinfolk again.  I can see the resemblance, can’t you?  Do you think that perhaps it’s his link to his ape past that gives him the boundless energy?  It’s my current theory 🙂
Fred with his distant family member

We still had another 45 minute walk to the “Top of the Rock”.  These apes were just resting on the roadway.  There were quite a few people passing by and they didn’t seem to care in the least!

Barbary apes that decided to sleep in the roadway

As we got closer to the top, we saw more apes.  Here’s another shot of an ape.  I got a little closer to this one, but I was still wary.  I was worried that one of them might try to take my phone.

A Barbary ape enjoying the view

Once we reached the top, we were greeted with amazing views!  We could see our cruise ship.  We could also see the coast of Africa.  It’s the distant shore with the port that you can see in some of the photos below.

A view from the top of “The Rock”
Another view from the top of “The Rock”
The view from the top that shows the coast of Africa in the distance

We discovered that one area, The Skywalk, was just inaugurated by Mark Hamill in March of this year.  So the force was with us as we enjoyed the amazing views!

The Skywalk was inaugurated by Mark Hamill earlier this year.

We walked all the way down to the bus stop where we began.  There was no denying that it was time for some serious food.  Of course, Fred is a huge fan of Indian cuisine, and we had already spotted what looked like a good place on our way into town.  We saw that it was filled with locals when we first passed by and that is always a good sign.

A great local “hole in the wall” restaurant right near the cruise ship port in Gibraltar

Khan’s turned out to be quite good.  It’s just a small place with a few basic tables – nothing as far as “atmosphere” goes, but that’s fine with us. We found out later that a lot of people from the Princess crew eat here regularly.  It’s only a short walk from the cruise ship and is on the main street that leads from the port into the town.  The meal we had a Khan’s is one of the best that we’ve had since we left home.  I tried to get some good photos of everyone while we were waiting for our food, but boys will be boys, right?

Kayla and I sitting in the restaurant
Fred and Kyle are misbehaving as usual. Now you can see why Fred feels at home with the apes!

Gibraltar was beautiful, quirky, and fun.  We all decided that we enjoyed the strenuous hike that rewarded us with stunning views and opportunities to see the apes.  We plan to do more activities that are similar to what we did today whenever we can.  It was a really rewarding day.