Rocksy & Gib’s Med Steps Adventure

Do you remember Rocksy & Gib the mascots of the Gibraltar Crochet Collective? Last week, when the sun was shining they ran off and left the balls of yarn and hooks behind for a Med Steps adventure… do you want to see what they got up to?

It was hard work climbing up the hill to the start of the Med Steps. First pit stop was to admire one of the new signs which have appeared recently… This spot is 160 metres above sea level and this is just the beginning of the trail.

Ahh, time for a breather before the real work begins. So lovely to the feel the sunshine on your back after what feels like weeks of grey, damp and windy weather. These two posed for photos in the sun… admiring the view.

First climb completed and Gib soaked up a few rays at the entrance to the Twin Caves. Rocksy looked completely composed … not even a spot of perspiration yet! Next up… more steps and then the tunnel. Surely everyone who climbs this trail has their picture taken here by the sign? Not Rocksy, she was powering on through to the next bit!

Ahh, now that’s what you call a VIEW!

Knowing what lay ahead of them, Gib and Rocksy took a few moments to chill before attempting the final climb to the summit…

Here goes… these steps weren’t built for little crochet ape legs were they?

Phew, collecting themselves for the next mega step ahead….

Slowly but surely…

What more steps??

Holy Moly, I can see the top! But there’s a heck of a lot of steps to get up there!!

Did we really climb all that way up??

Time for another breather before the final push! What a great view of the Mediterranean…

They didn’t get very far before the next pit stop… Gib was looking a bit overwhelmed. Little did they know that they weren’t alone…

Literally seconds later, look who was sitting in exactly the same spot!

Better not monkey around any more then (sorry couldn’t help myself), last few steps and they were at the summit!

Phew – made it! That’s enough adventuring for one day… back home now for a cup of tea and some crochet!

If you are interested in joining the Gibraltar Crochet Collective, please check out our Facebook page for details of our next get-together. Beginners are welcome as well as experienced crocheters.

Our current project is a blanket for the Sixty Million Trebles project, the project aims to raise awareness about the plight of refugees worldwide. Today’s the first day of Lent, how about making a crochet square each day of Lent to help us make as many blankets as possible? (It’s far more pleasurable than giving up chocolate don’t you think?😉)

If you want to find out more about the Med Steps you can read all about it in my post: The Med Steps: a few facts & figures

And for some Med Steps inspired crochet you might like this: Wild flowers of the Med Steps.

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 13 : Windsor Suspension Bridge 

Hello there, the school summer holidays are well underway here in Gibraltar, so today I took the little Postcards for a trip to the Rock’s newest visitor attraction; the Windsor suspension bridge. Construction of the bridge took many months and those of us who live on the Rock were able to see this bridge appear up high above the town and we were guessing exactly what it was for.

At one stage, once the main frame of the bridge was in place but the section you actually walk on wasn’t complete, we wondered whether it would have a glass bottom so you could walk ‘in mid-air’! I have to say, if that had been the case, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to attempt it. I’m not great up a ladder at the best of times…

Last month the completed bridge was officially opened by Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo and since then many local residents and tourists alike have benefitted from being able to walk across it and take in the view of the town below from a new angle. Having seen many of my friends’ Facebook photos of them and their loved ones taking a trip up there, I figured it was high time I had a go myself. As it’s school holiday time, that meant taking my three boys with me too.

We began our walk from the Pillars of Hercules statue and spotted a large Royal Caribbean cruise ship approaching Gibraltar. The little Postcards thought it would be fun to try and race it. Would it dock at the cruise terminal before we reached the bridge? It was moving quite fast…

We soon picked up our path when we saw this new sign post marking the way where a road had previously been closed. (Can you see the cruise ship closing in on us in the background?). After quite a steep climb for little legs, the downward stretch was very welcome.

It was at this point I noticed something I don’t think I’ve seen before in Gibraltar. You may remember from my post On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me… I make mention of the rings which were used by the military to haul the cannons up to the top of the Rock. You see them embedded into walls and the Rock itself all over the Upper Rock. We found one right in the middle of the road!

Our first port of call on this walk was Rooke Battery. It’s named after Sir George Rooke who commanded the British Fleet when Gibraltar came under British rule. It was the site of a large gun and was later used as the base for one of the huge search lights used during World War II.

The view from Rooke Battery this morning was just beautiful looking across to Morocco over the Strait.

The path led us on downwards past a small picnic area. I’m afraid picnic areas in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve bemuse me slightly bearing in mind the local hairy residents aka Barbary Macaques can hear a picnic bag unzipping from miles away and descend to steal your lunch! Anyway, as I was saying, the path led us to the southern side of the magnificent new Windsor Suspension Bridge.

As you can see above, the bridge stretches over a 50m gorge and is suspended between two batteries. It’s 75 metres long and most exciting of all, it moves with the wind and movement of people on it. This was a particular highlight for the two smallest Postcards, who despite warnings not to, took great pleasure in trying to make it vibrate as they stomped across.

The view you get from the bridge is just stunning (I guess the glorious weather this morning probably helped a bit). Regular readers of this blog will know I am a frequent visitor to the Upper Rock and I always enjoy spying down on the town below from a great height. This ‘new’ section of old path which has only just reopened gives you a completely different perspective on the town below and I really enjoyed seeing it from a new angle.

Despite the fact the sun had just popped up over the top of the Rock when we were on the bridge, being on the western side at this time in the morning with the cool sea breezes blowing, it was a really cool place to be (in more ways than one). The little Postcards enjoyed seeing three navy ships in the Naval Dockyard below. After a game of Battleship earlier this week, they were thrilled to be able to see the ‘real thing’.

To put the 75metre length of the bridge into context a helpful sign nearby points out that this is equivalent to 7 1/2 double decker London buses parked end to end.

I’m no bridge expert, but it’s a beauty in my book!

Along side the new bridge and improved pathways are some disused military buildings nearby. I find these kinds of things fascinating. Having never known Gibraltar when there was a large military presence here, my mind plays overtime wondering what it was like back in the military’s heyday here. What were these rooms and pipes hidden within a deep gorge used for?

The bridge was such a hit with the smaller members of the family, we crossed it not once but three times before climbing up the steps on the other side and onto the pathway.

There was yet another picnic area, the perfect spot to risk opening the rucksack for a drink – which we managed without any of our ape friends joining us. The dappled shade from the olive trees above was very welcome.

The lush green vegetation of the Upper Rock which was evident back in spring when I was doing my Med Steps 5 training is now all crispy and brown. Such a shame that the lushness has been parched by the hot sun. The threat of fires in the area were very close to home yesterday as a large wildfire burned on the mountains above our neighbours in La Linea across the border and threatened homes and lives in the San Roque, Santa Margarita and Alcaidesa areas. Homes had to be evacuated and planes and helicopters were used to fight the fire. It must have been a very frightening experience for all those involved.

So did we make it to the bridge before the cruise shipped docked a the cruise terminal? The answer is yes (just)! Did you spot it in the background of this photo?

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed this trip up the Rock with us today 🙂

10 things I’ve learned about Gibraltar 

  
Today’s a special day here in Gibraltar, it’s the 10th September which means it’s National Day 2015. It’s a day when shops, schools and offices close and the population of the Rock heads outside attired in the national colours of red & white to celebrate their national pride. There are political rallies reaffirming the people’s right to self determination, concerts, firework displays and a not insignificant amount of alcohol imbibed. 

 
 
This was the scene in Casemates Square last National Day, it was hot, incredibly busy but really good natured. As you wander along Main Street during the day you see all sorts of sights with musicians, performers and fancy dress costumes. Oh, and there are usually a few bemused tourists made conspicuous by the fact they didn’t get the red and white memo!

 
 So on such an auspicious day I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned about Gibraltar since I arrived a few years back. Here we go:

1. It’s small but perfectly formed

Considering how much the people of Gibraltar achieve on the world stage, (being represented at the United Nations on the matter of relations with Spain, having a football team in UEFA, and being home to a Miss World winner – Kaiane Aldorino in 2009 to name but three) it’s comparatively tiny. If you were to walk or run around the Rock, you would cover a distance of approximately 10 kilometres.

2. It’s a long way up

The Rock of Gibraltar is 426 metres high, which makes it taller than the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building or the Shard.

3. You can enjoy four seasons in one day (well kind of) 

 

Due to the geography of Gibraltar, proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Iberian peninsular and it’s height, there are several micro climates around the Rock. It can humid on Main Street, blowing a gale at the airport, be misty in South District and sunny and hot at Catalan Bay all on the same day! Oh and I may sound like I have gone soft living in these southern climes, but it really does get cold, wet and windy in winter. Homes here don’t have central heating, we rely on electrical heating, which isn’t great – our lounge fell below 10 degrees Celsius last winter a few times brrrrr!

4. There’s great religious diversity here

  

The largest religious community in Gibraltar is Roman Catholic, but several other Christian denominations are represented, there’s the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity for Anglicans as well as the King’s Chapel, St Andrew’s Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, and several smaller evangelical churches. There’s also a large Jewish community with four active Synagogues here. In addition, there are two Mosques including the beautiful Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque pictured above situated at Europa Point. Tucked away behind Main Street you can find a Hindu Temple. There is also a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses a short walk from the Cruise Terminal.

5. The entire civilian population was evacuated during World War 2

Even today Gibraltar is home to Army, Navy and RAF bases, back in World War 2 it was seen as a strategic military strong hold. Tunnels were dug deep into the Rock and some servicemen were even on standby to be bricked up into secret tunnels in the event that Gibraltar was captured, in order to spy on the invading force. During the war Gibraltar residents were forcibly moved from their homeland, put into ships and sent to destinations like Casablanca, blitz bombed London, Madeira and Jamaica. For some it would be ten years before they were able to return home. This year is the 75th Anniversary of the Evacuation and on Monday this week there was an extra bank holiday, known as Evacuation Memorial Day, to commemorate it.   

6.  If you turn up at the beach without the right kit, locals know you’re an amateur  

 

There’s a particular type of beach culture here, no matter how early you turn up in the morning, there will be clusters of deck chairs and sun parasols there already. There are clearly spots where families regularly set up camp, and they guard their turf by marking it out early. Also, if you tip up to the beach with just a bag, a book and a towel, you will stand out a mile – you need to know what to bring. Deck chairs are a must, as is a parasol. But woe betide you if you just stick it in the sand and leave it like that. You’ll soon learn that the local winds whipping round the Rock will have your umbrella blowing halfway down the beach and spearing an unsuspecting sunbather before your bottom’s been heaved out of your folding chair! A screw in mechanism on the pointy end of the post is desirable but a couple of lengths of washing line tied to the top and anchored into the beach with sandbags or tent pegs are de rigeur. Special hooks on the stem of the parasol are common place allowing beach-goers to hang valuables and clothing out of the sand. Picnic tables, cool boxes and umbrella awnings are also useful. 

7. Gibraltarians love to chat

Where ever you are in Gibraltar you will see people chatting, in clusters on Main Street, at the tills in Morrisons, even in the middle of the road. Scooter riders will drive in pairs chatting or alongside a car chatting through an open window to the driver at speed. Traffic will stop dead in the road while one driver stops to chat to a pedestrian or someone coming the other way. It’s quite something to behold, although at times rather frustrating, when you have to wait for the conversation to finish before you can complete your journey. You can choose the shortest queue in Morrisons and still be the last one out as the person in front strikes up a conversation with the cashier. I can only assume it’s because many people have spent most of their lives here and therefore know practically everyone! One overwhelmingly positive side effect of all this chatting means that on arrival here, you’ll never be lonely. If you are at the bus stop, in the aforementioned queue in Morrisons or sitting on a bench in the Alameda Gardens, there’s a very good chance someone will come and speak to you. This openness is part of what endeared the people of Gibraltar to me, meaning you soon get to know people.

8. Gibraltar’s a hotspot for twitchers 

  

Due to it’s position at the very south of Europe and it’s proximity to the continent of Africa, many migrating birds pass through the skies above Gibraltar on their migration routes north and south. Kites, eagles, kestrels and vultures can be seen passing overhead, and of course there’s also the locally resident Barbary Partridges too.

9. The apes don’t just stay at the top of the Rock

  

Most visitors to Gibraltar make the trip to the summit of the Rock in order to encounter our hairy neighbours, the Barbary Macaques. However, at times (especially when they spot a cruise ship coming into port) they make their way down into town. They also take unsuspecting visitors by surprise by coming in through open hotel windows at the Caleta and Rock Hotels. I was once mugged by an ape who assumed the plastic bag I was carrying contained food. It was grabbed out of my hand while I waited to cross the road and ripped open. The balls of wool inside were jettisoned in disgust once they’d been spotted to be inedible.

10. Although it’s stirling, you can’t spend Gibraltar cash in the UK

  

The currency here is stirling, there’s no exchange rate – it’s worth exactly the same as notes and coins minted by the Bank of England. British notes and coins are readily excepted in retail outlets here in addition to the locally produced money. However, if you try to spend Gibraltar cash in the UK you won’t get very far with your transaction. You can’t even use it on a flight leaving from Gibraltar airport rendering you thirsty, hungry and unable to purchase duty free! So, if you come to visit, you need to spend it all before you leave OR keep it safe until your return. 
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round up of facts about the place I call home. Have a great Gibraltar National Day wherever you are in the world!