On a refreshingly brisk April morning I arrived to my last accommodation within Spain, and Europe for that matter, on this trip. The border town of La Línea de la Concepción contained a small hotel reminiscent of the colonial houses in Malacca and contained within the hotel was me, at least for the duration of a small nap under a lazily rotating ceiling fan. After being quickly awoken by the sounds of children playing football outside my small blue window, I hoisted my day bag and headed for the airport. Or rather the border. Or rather, the two were one and the same.
The border crossing between Spain and the UK colony of Gibraltar is one of the strangest I’ve encountered among the dozens of borders I’ve penetrated. Crowds wait behind a red light, as if in an intersection, but instead of passing buses and cars it’s hulking airplanes that are roaring past this pedestrian crossing. As the light turns green and you enter the tarmac separating the two countries like a string of licorice, the smell of jet fuel rushes into your nostrils and cranks the neurons in your brain.
Once the frivolous border glance is complete, you enter a strange amusement park of a world. Red mailboxes dot the sides of streets, the smell of freshly cooked fish & chips wafts from open restaurant doors and people converse in a mishmash of Spanglish coated in thick English accents.
As the day had already started to roll into an afternoon, I had to make haste and cable-car myself up onto the most important and perhaps only attraction on this tiny peninsula, Tariq’s Mountain or as it’s more commonly known the Rock of Gibraltar.
Once up on the hill, I was immediately greeted with fantastic views of the Spanish coast, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Rif Mountains of Morocco. With little to no tree cover and sun reflecting from the sea on all sides I became aware of a developing sunstroke rushing onto me. As I made for shelter under a small concrete awning the local vermin quickly surrounded me and began to plan their assault. Apes. While I hold no particular grudge towards these creatures, the ones living near or among humans seem to develop nasty habits of theft, assault and the hurling of excrement. I guess the company of homo sapiens is so unbearable and damaging to our hominoid cousins, that it warps their culture and minds in this way. Nevertheless I’ve had some bad personal experiences with this particular branch of wildlife and as such always try to avoid them when possible. Unlucky for me, the narrow summit of this rock seemed to be a breeding ground for hundreds of them.
Not really enjoying the company of the locals, I decided to get some workout for this body so varnished with Spanish wines and lards. The hike down along the Mediterranean Steps was one of the more beautiful I’ve had in Europe. Strolling down cobble stoned paths on the shady side of the hill with beautiful nature and calm blue seas surrounding me on all sides would have been entirely meditative if not for the understanding of the 426 meter sheer drop down knocking around the back of my head.
As I reached the bottom of the rock, and the southernmost tip of the peninsula, my clothes were soaked with sweat and chlorophyll and my veins shook from lack of hydration. I guess bringing a single 500ml bottle of water for a 6 hour walk in the sun was not the best of ideas.
But no worries. Between a mosque and a lighthouse was a small gas station selling ale and the sunset was already upon my eve. With the Union Jack flapping up above me and the sun blessing the back of my neck with it’s last rays, the moment was right to gaze out onto the mountains of Morocco and ponder the journey ahead. As I drained the last drops of Heineken from my can, the minaret behind me started it’s evening call. A sound I would once again grow accustomed to starting tomorrow.