Monthly Archives: October 2012

Last day in Tangier

Today is my last day in Tangier. It has been a fascinating five days. The hotel manager explained when I arrived that the city was more quiet than usual because of the yearly “Festival of the Sheep”. It took me awhile to understand the importance of this holiday. I didn’t think the city seemed all that quiet for the first few days, but today, I saw the difference.

The city is busy as I learned once I got outside of the hotel. I checked out and walked across the street to the place where you can look out and see the cruise ship that had just come in and unloaded a lot of tourists, mostly from the U.K.

I had brunch which was a cheese and mushroom omelette inside a fried bread sandwich, and a small bowl of a variety of delicious olives, and a small salad. I ordered fresh squeezed orange juice…yum. After that I ordered the usual Moroccan tea (dark tea with peppermint leaves) served in a metal tea pot for one person, and is drunk from a glass. The tea pot is hot so the handle is covered with a ‘cozy’. The tea pot is placed over a metal plate that is covered with a matching cloth.

Now, let me explain walking across the street. There are pedestrian marked places at street corners that no one adheres to. People walk across the street with cars going up and down the street, with few breaks in between. If you wait for a break, you’d never get across the street. So  I waited until someone else began to walk across and I piggy backed on their bravery. There’s was no way I could walk out in front of fast moving cars, taking a chance they’d stop for me.

I could see first-hand how drivers get around people when I sat inside the taxi. I could swear he would hit the person who just jutted out in front of him. So far I haven’t seen any accidents, and more important: I have survived!

After brunch, I waved down a taxi – something you must do very aggressively – and went  to the Kasbah Museum. That’s the word for fort, and is  the former sultan’s palace (where Portuguese and British governors also lived) and has recently been completely redone. The new focus is on the history of the area from prehistoric times to the 19th century, most of it presented in seven rooms around a central courtyard.

It at one time housed  Malcolm Forbes’ military collection of toy soldiers, but the building was sold to the Moroccan government for a history museum.

Inside are rooms of artifacts and wall maps of old trade routes. A garden is found outside the museum and is full of plants, trees and Moroccan art – pillars and pots and Arabic calligraphy.

A small part of a tiled floor; it looked like carpet.

When I arrived I was approached by a young man who obviously wanted to be my guide and I told him politely that I wanted to be on my own. Meanwhile some folks from the ship came in and I spoke to some of them regarding their RV caravan trip.

 

The garden gate

Then I walked back out to get a taxi and was confronted again by the same young man. Finally I told him, a la Greta Garbo, “I want to be alone.” He said something that sounded as if it could be a swear word, but whatever it was, he got the message and left me alone.

Most Moroccan’s guess I’m German, which is one half correct, but I’m an American, and that gets some surprised looks.

I got into a conversation earlier with the manager about my traveling alone. It is unusual, as most people my age sit at home and are looked after by their children.

“I see my mother every day, and if I’m out of town, I call her six or seven times a day to see if there’s anything she needs or if everything is okay. My three other brothers do the same.”

“What do you think about me with my travels?”

“I think you’re running away from something…or you just like to travel. It seems strange.”

“I like to travel,” was my reply.

While in a taxi going back to the hotel from the museum, there were two women beggars near the street and the taxi driver gave one of them a coin. I opened up my billfold and did likewise to the other woman. It is sad to see tiny children begging for their daily bread.

Later, another mother and a boy, barely two years old, if that, was begging for money and when he got some, he quickly handed it over to his mother. He was the cutest little guy, and that got attention of the women. One young woman couldn’t resist giving him a coin and a smooch.

Little tyke begs and gives the coins to his mother

Speaking of smooching: I have noticed the way men greet each other. They hug and kiss each other on both cheeks, when they are good friends. Some, if they are not standing close enough for the hug and kiss, they wave and put their hand on their heart. I feel that  gesture is beautiful and heartwarming.

I am working at staying busy for I leave on a night train at 9 p.m. and will sleep on the train all they way to Marrakech. So I was allowed to leave my luggage at the hotel lobby while I stay busy until time to get a taxi and head to the train station.

The introduction to Tangier has opened my imagination to art and design, with fabrics, tile and use of metal. I was told that many people ship carpets, chandeliers and other goods back to their homes, so they can decorate Arab-style. I wouldn’t mind doing that, but my luggage carries a minimum of ‘stuff’ and I’m on a limited budget. So, perhaps when I am motivated to pick up some items from Morocco, I’ll do so at World Market.

 

 

 

 

The most outlandish day…today

The town of Chefchaouen had been mentioned to me by three different people, and because of what they said, it sounded too alluring to pass up. I knew it was high in  the mountains, the houses were unique, and it was very ‘old world’ in it’s ambience.

So this morning, I caught a taxi to the bus station to purchase a ticket that would leave at 10 a.m. and take two hours to get there, so I was told. I crossed the fast moving traffic, to get to the ticket office. The first sign it wasn’t going to be easy came when the agent said the bus wouldn’t leave  until 1 p.m. The last taxi from Chefchaouen would leave at 6 p.m.  I got a taxi to get back to the hotel. I had to re-think going somewhere that would take two hours and would leave me nearly 3 hours to look around. I went for it.

So around noon, I went back to the station by taxi, walked in past people who stared, and some made comments at the strange white-haired woman who gave away that she was a tourist and traveling alone.

I went to the coffee shop, ordered mint tea, and sat with arms folded over my chest, and delivered no eye contact the entire time I waited. Body language like that tells people you are not approachable.

So, the bus went up the hills, up to the mountains, past little villages, donkeys and mules carrying packs, past pottery and tile shops, cafe’s restaurants, bus terminals, gas stations, and many people out walking around.

After about one and one half hour, we stopped and picked up some other passengers in another city. A lady sat next to me and smelled bad, and it got worse. We drove past a very smelly dump along the road that wasn’t covered up and reeked. I think that may have triggered the lady’s sickness, but she may have been sick before boarding. She threw up three times into a plastic bag. I handed her a towelette that I had put into my purse at the last minute. She accepted that. Her face was grey-green.

When she began to throw up, I nearly gagged myself, but held the towelette close to my nose. What I had understood to take two hours to Chefchaouen, took over three hours.

When we arrived, I had one and a quarter hour to look around the city, but the bus left us off at the station, not near the city. I wandered around a bit wondering what I should do. I was hungry, too.

I couldn’t get any practical wisdom from anyone. When I asked how to get up to the town, it drew a crowd of men, each vying to be the one to take me in their car up to the top of the mountain where the city is located.

They must have seen dollar signs on my forehead. There was a hotel and restaurant across the road, so I went over there and asked if he had food there. He said he’d make me something to eat. But it wasn’t really a restaurant, so I went back to the station and began asking again for a restaurant and how to get to the city, and how far was it, and could I make it back to the bus on time?  Deaf ears.

I went back to the restaurant (so-called) and the man made a fried egg and cheese sandwich. If I had anything unhealthy growing in my system, the penicillin on the bread cleared it up after the first taste. I left the bread and ate the egg and cheese.

When I paid him, he acted as though he couldn’t understand what I was telling him in Spanish about the bread being bad.

I also needed a bathroom, and he showed me where the bathroom was. Well, let me be discreet here: When I was a skier, I could snowplow pretty good. That’s is when you put your feet in a particular spot and crouch down slightly, just as I needed to do today. It was difficult: need I say more?

But sitting outside at that place, eating that (gag) food, gave me opportunity to see where the taxi stand was and how people used them to get to the top of the mountain. I went to the taxi stand and met two young men who understood that I wanted a taxi and had just a little bit of time. Well, a conversation like that draws people like flies. Again, there was more help than I needed…a taxi, just a taxi was my wish.

Then one came breezing by and the two young guys flagged him down and told him what I needed. It turned out that he understood a bit of English. He agreed to drive me up to the city and around so I could take photos. He picked up passengers along the way. He had a lovely soft voice and great laugh. I liked him immediately. He was an angel.

He stopped up on top of the hill so I could get out and take a photo of the city down below.

The city of blue houses

The city, known for the blue houses was founded in 1471 as a fortress, and the fortress (kasbah) still stands.  I saw it from the road. The town was known as one of the main concentrations of Moriscos and Jews who sought refuge in the mountainous city after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval times.

 

Blue is the color in this town. This was taken from the car window

Not only were the houses pretty so were the gowns worn by the ladies. They wore color coordinated gowns with head scarves. If it hadn’t been for the bright colors of their clothing, I would have thought I had stepped back into the Bible days.

on a hillside

My taxi driver got me back just in time to catch the bus back to Tangier.

Going back a young man sitting next to me kept falling asleep on my shoulder. I had to shove him back a few times.

A outlandish day, indeed.

Seeing Tangier with a guide

“Don’t go very far away from the hotel,” were the hotel manager’s words. There are coffee shops up and down the street, and I’d be safe in any of them, but they are full of men. Not many women are seen here, and if seen, they wear the long robes and head covering. I’ve seen other women in western dress, however, but not as often.

So one morning I took an early walk around about two blocks and at a point where I took a photo of the port where the ferry docked.

I found a grocery store down under another building, and made some purchases. While at the cheese counter, I spoke English to a man from here who told me I should go to Marrakech. “It’s very beautiful and safe. You should see it before you leave Morocco. It’s the best city here.”

I then found a large coffee shop and ordered coffee from a nice young waiter and asked if they had wifi there. He came back with an Arabic newspaper with the code written down on it. He had asked another customer to do that for me.

Later back at the same coffee shop, now with my computer, he offered me a seat, but I needed a place to plug the computer cord into for electricity.

He asked another man, who I assumed was the owner, and he motioned for me and the waiter to go upstairs.

The waiter plugged the computer into a TV set and I was ready to open and begin writing. The balcony room where I sat alone comes close to circling the whole bottom part of the building. A huge crystal chandelier, that almost takes up the entire space above the room, hangs over the bottom floor. Upstairs the walls were painted a bright salmon color with filigree trimmed in white, a common color choice here in Morocco.

I ordered lunch in French, my coffee in Spanish, and I said ‘thank you’ in Arabic.

Lunch was a hard bread cut into triangles with cheese, a dish of spiced olives, and a small cup of yoghurt.

When I arrived back to the hotel, the manager said he would arrange a guide for me, as I mentioned I wanted to see the old town. “Don’t go alone,” he advised, again.

Later:  Today is Sunday and I went on a tour of the city with the guide, Chariff Alami. He explained that the country has been celebrating the Festival of Sacrifice. This age-old festival commemorates the prophet Abraham’s willingness to obey God when he envisioned he was to sacrifice his son. Sheep are slaughtered according to humane Islamic guidelines, and then every bit of the animal is used in meals or in other ways.

On the tour I saw a pile of wool off of freshly slaughtered sheep that would go to tanning companies. Horns and bones go elsewhere. Any left over meat that families cannot finish goes to charity.

Wool gathered on the street waiting to be picked up for tanning

Chariff and I went through the new market and the older market, called medina, as well. On the way, he pointed out the Kasbah – the old Portuguese Fort, and the wall that is left from that. We saw narrow streets and narrow walkways along houses. The narrow walkway is room for one person.

The scent of food and spices surrounded us from the houses sitting right on the pathway and up and down many steps.

The city is separated by a fountain and a park. Tangier can be roughly divided into three distinct sections: the old medina, the Kasbah and the new city.

A house in the medina that is now a B&B. The inside of houses are misleading from the outside

 

I yearned to see the inside of a Moroccan house and on our way we stopped into a converted house for a B&B. La Tangerina was right on our path and we went all the way up to the top of the house where we could see the ocean and across the bay to Spain, and on the other side of the roof-top was the city with Mosques – old and new, and before that, I was inside of the Anglican Church which was about to begin a service. I was allowed in to take a photo of the front worship center. Chariff, a Muslim, was willing to take an hour out of my time with him so I could attend the service. But I declined that kind offer, as I really wanted to see the markets and learn about the interesting history of Morocco.

“Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States,” Chariff told me.

From Wikipedia: “Relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the United States date back to the earliest days of U.S. history. On December 20, 1777, Morocco formally recognized the colonies as a unified sovereign nation. Morocco remains one of America’s oldest and closest allies in the Middle East and North Africa, a status affirmed by Morocco’s zero-tolerance policy towards al-Qaeda and their affiliated groups. Morocco also assisted the U.S. CIA with questioning al-Qaeda members captured in Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Somalia and elsewhere during the administration of George W. Bush, 2001–2009.

Formal U.S. relations with Morocco date from 1787 when the United States Congress ratified a Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations. Renegotiated in 1836, the treaty is still in force, constituting the longest unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history, and  is home to the oldest U.S. diplomatic property in the world.”

As we walked along the pathways and the streets, people Chariff knew would greet him with a wave, some men with hugs, and all with an obvious respect. He is one of thirteen children and a part of where we walked was his “hood”.

A narrow pathway through the Medina (old town) residences

Chariff pointed out that Tangier was home of many well know people including, the artist Henri Matisse, Malcom Forbes, Barbara Hutton and others. Just a few years ago, the film, The Borne Ultimatum with Matt Damon was filmed on the streets in the very old part of the city.

 

 

 

 

 

The street named for a famous traveler and his tomb is nearby where he lived

We saw the market stalls of fruits and vegetables that come from farms. Chariff said he remembers not too long ago when farmers would come to the city on market days on mules and carts to sell their wares.

This photo is the name of a famous Moroccan traveler. His burial tomb is near here.

a typical door of Tangier

We stopped off for a drink and I was introduced to the most famous drink of all: a mint tea. It was so delicious that I want to go get some right now.

I learned a bit about tipping here from Chariff. I paid for the tea and a the server put my change in a small plate – which I’ve seen done many times before. I took my change, and Chariff handed him some change.

When we got outside I asked him about that, and he said everyone likes to be tipped, and he saw that I wasn’t going to leave the change so he did it for me. Well now I know a bit more tipping etiquette than before.

We walked a good three hours up and down steps and on ramps and in narrow streets and pathways, which without my great guide, I would have been lost without question.

Backtrack to Gibraltar

Tom, Kim, Keith joined Harvey at Gibraltar a few days ago, and I had more to add to that adventure.

Keith, Tom, Harvey, Me and Kim in Gibraltar

Harvey and Kim have been friends all their lives, as the family have known each other throughout the generation/s. Harvey works in Gibraltar and agreed to take Kim and Keith on tour for part of the day. Tom and I met two days earlier and decided to see Gibraltar together, and that’s when we met up with Kim and Keith and they invited us to go with them when Harvey would join us.

Before we met Harvey, all four of us sat in the town square and had a delicious lunch. While we sat there, Tom saw a camera chip under a chair a bit away from us. He picked it up and asked around if anyone had lost one, and when the answer was no, he took it into the restaurant. No sooner did he do that, then a couple from Norway came looking for it.

Tom was the man of the hour, when the couple found he had turned it in, and they insisted on having their photo taken with him.

After lunch we met Harvey, who is the most interesting fellow. He works with nuclear submarines for the government of Gibraltar and England. I hope this is correct, as hearing exactly what he does was not always easy. He did explain it a bit, and it seems to be something for which he first gained the knowledge while he was in the British Navy in submarine work.

We met him at the tunnel from the city square away from the port.

We toured a museum that was established by the 1928 General Sir Alexander Godley who was the Governor of Gibraltar in 1928.

In his desire to reform and restore Gibraltar, he created the national museum, after he got permission to use the ordinance house, which had chambers of Moorish bath houses and also was used as a semi-underground stable. The museum was open in 1930.

At most interesting museum, and a gift shop full of books about Gibraltar. At the end of the tour, I began speaking with the woman who ran the shop and took admissions to the museum. She was born and raised in Gibraltar, as was her parents, and her grandparents. They had some ancestor Spanish heritage, and I noticed she used both a little Spanish and English mixed together, which is not uncommon in Gibraltar.

Harvey explained later that it is where the word ‘gibberish’ comes from.

After touring the museum, we waited for Keith, and when he finally came out of the museum,he told us he had been trapped inside the toilet, and had to force his way out.

This made us all laugh, as first it was the monkey who jumped on Kim’s head, and Tom being celebrated, and then Keith’s experience. It made the day, almost.

Harvey lives in Algeciras and commutes to Gibraltar every day, so he agreed to take Tom and I to our respective hotels.

Spain was exercising its peeve with Gibraltar for ages old history, and once in awhile makes it difficult for people to get back to Spain. We sat bumper-to-bumper and when we almost got out of Gibraltar, we were sent back into the queue, but finally got out and on the way.

Wars:

I’m not doing justice here with the whole picture of Gibraltar and how tunnels were bored into the rock for various wars throughout the ages, including the use of tunnels for WWII.

For those of you who want to know more about how the rock was used in that way, there are many websites with that information. To tell the truth, I was a bit more interested in the monkeys.

However, there are caves with stalactites and stalagmites, and in one very large cave, a complete amphitheater was built for concerts. The acoustics are amazing, the guide told us before we went down the long tunnel.

Getting to Tangier, Morocco

THIS IS RATHER LONG, SO READ IT IN PARTS

Seen on the hillside from the ferry as we get close to Tangier

It took twelve hours but I’m in Tangier, Morocco in Africa, near the Straight of Gibraltar.

Friend Tom of Australia, sent me an email about his previous day getting here so I was for-warned and even given  some instruction. His journey took four hours.

I left the Albergue Interloven Hostel, by taxi at 9 a.m. for the 11 o’clock ferry from Algeciras.

My ticket originally was for the 8 a.m. ferry, but I thought the 11 a.m. ferry sounded better since it rained all night and was foggy in the morning.

So when I got there I went right up to the information window and asked what I was supposed to do first to catch the 11 a.m. ferry. She said, “there is no 11 o’clock ferry.”

“What? Here are my papers. I was told last night that I could catch the 11 o’clock and not the 8 o’clock and here is the name of the man who told me that.”(A woman at the hostel made the call).

She looked at the paper and gave me the first dreadful news, “the 11 o’clock ferry has been cancelled. Now you have to take the 2 o’clock.”

“Two o’clock? What will I do here for five and one half hours?”

“You can go up there to the cafeteria.” She pointed to the escalator.

“I have all this stuff. Is there a lift somewhere?”

“Over there.” She yawned.

“By the way, do you have wifi here?” (It’s pronounced we fee.)

“Yes, upstairs.”

I trudged to the lift – the elevator in American terms – and arrived upstairs to a cafeteria and adjoining another large room that was vacant.

I got cafe con leche in a glass on top of a saucer. These saucers do not have the usual indentations that saucers in the rest of the world have, so the small glass slides around.

So, there began, what I thought would be a five and one half hour wait. But there were more set backs and I’ll get to that later.

First, I decided to look up the address of the hotel in Tangier so I could be prepared when I got there to give to the taxi driver. The little red notebook wasn’t anywhere to be found. I had looked at it in the taxi to make certain I had the words written down in Arabic; those words that would help me say ‘no thank you’ and ‘leave me alone’, if needed.

I can only think that I must have left that little red notebook in the taxi.

I have several red notebooks and two of those were with me, except the one I needed. So, now I needed ‘we fee’ so I could get the address of the Tangier Hotel off of my email address, but no one could help me find the password to the system.

Now it was getting close to 1 p.m., and I needed that address before I left. Don’t know why, when during transitions, I make so many bad judgement calls, feel disorganized and worried I’ll forget something, lose something, or do something unintentionally illegal for a tourist. And it’s a self-fulfilled prophecy every time.

“Do you know the password for wifi,” I asked several people whenever I saw someone walk nearby.

“No was the usual answer.” I went back downstairs and asked again. The unconcerned woman at the information desk said you had to pay for it and to do that you have to go upstairs in the waiting room.

So back upstairs I went with my things and looked around for a place to pay. There was a strange looking wooden box that said wifi on it, with a slot for money.It didn’t say how much to put into it, so I put two coins and they came back. Tried again; they came back again.

Now I was starting to panic; I pulled most everything out of the carry-on bag, including underwear, medicine, papers, you name it…but not the right red notebook. Then I saw a man who looked like a professor sitting with his computer and I asked him if he knew the password. He only spoke French and handed me a bottle of water.

“No thank you. I need the password for my computer.” I did manage to understand that he was working on something but not on-line.

Then there was a Moroccan lady sitting nearby waiting for her husband and I asked her if she knew the password for wifi, and she didn’t understand me, but somehow I communicated to her that I had to find the name of the hotel in Tangier before I left on the ferry.

“Wait. My husband will be back.”

He did come back and spoke a little bit of Spanish and he understood my dilemma, and said, “let’s go, I’ll help you.”

We went back to the box and he figured that was useless, so downstairs he asked inside two shops and neither one spoke English to understand what I needed. Finally we went to another ferry ticket window and he asked the Moroccan lady if she could speak English to help me.

She could, and got my email address up and found the email about the hotel, and I wrote it down, thanked her and the gentleman for saving my day.

Ready to board:

I juggled around to be first in queue at the check-in station, so not to have to stand long. But I got tired of waiting, and noticed that others were getting tired, as well, so we all sat down on benches until a man opened up the window and we all got in line again.

He looked at passports; which became the first of many times throughout the day that passports had to be shown. Then he stamped the ticket and handed out two boarding passes. By then it was after 2 p.m., and no ferry had arrived.

However, a group of us became a little village. There was a lovely Moroccan mother who lives in London with her two sons. One of her sons, a delightful little boy with the most fetching smile, was in a stroller because he had mobility issues, his mother said. The other boy, age eleven, was almost as tall as his mother and was polite and sweet to his mother and brother.

Then there were two young couples from the U.K., and another from Denmark, and a movie-star looking Frenchman, the French-professor-looking guy, and myself.

The mother began talking to some other Moroccan women about the delay and they didn’t seem to know anything about it. So we all just stood around in the queue talking and wondering why someone didn’t tell us what was going on.

It became 2:30 and still no ferry had been docked. Around 3 p.m. the Moroccan women and the mother of the two sons spoke and while they did, other people began to leave. I learned that those who left were going to leave on another ferry from a different company. And the mother with the sons followed suit. Soon, however, they all came back because the company wouldn’t give their money back.

Somehow, someone heard the ferry was ready and we would leave at 4 p.m. But it didn’t. We waited.

Finally at 5 p.m., at the usual next scheduled time, we boarded the boat along with the 5 p.m. scheduled passengers.

The boat left at 5:30 p.m. Our little village stayed close together, and helped each other. Someone was always there to help me with my luggage, and someone helped the little boy in the stroller up and down stairs.

When we arrived at the Tangier port, people with cars were first off the boat, then our little village was next.  We made mistake going down the wrong staircase and all of us had to go back up and, you guessed it:  wait.

Finally, someone from the ferry company opened a door for us and pointed to metal stairs that, I believe, could have easily been called a ladder.

Then, there was the bus to get on, which was free and took us to the terminal, where, once again, for the fourth time, we showed our passports. We waited on the bus for one last passenger who had a huge trunk and was trying to move it herself. The French professor helped her drag it on the bus, after someone from the ferry company offered her a cart.

At the terminal, there was a choice to make; take a taxi to the city or a bus. I opted to follow the young folks and go by bus. We all gave our farewell to the lovely mother and her two sons, and the rest of us waited in pouring rain for the bus.

Before the bus, I got a little bit of dirham (Moroccan money) so I could pay the bus and the taxi later.

I got on the bus, and the driver smiled at me and handed a ticket which I put in my pocket with the change he handed back, and I sat up front with my bag on top of my lap which was soaking wet, and had my computer in it.

A man got on the bus and asked everyone for their ticket. I searched my pockets, my billfold, my purse, my brain and I couldn’t find it. Meanwhile there was an argument between the man and a passenger, which ended when the passenger paid the bus driver. I was next. The bus driver saved me; told the man he remembered me.

While we drove to Tangier about 55 kilometers away, the driver laughed and talked to two men who sat on the steps near the driver, and I observed him texting, as well.

We got to Tangier, and I got a taxi to the hotel. I woke up this morning and went downstairs for breakfast and find there is a two hour time difference.  It was 6 a.m. and I have heard the morning amplified call for Islam prayers.

Now it is 8 a.m. and I’m heading for breakfast. After? Hmmm, don’t know yet.

 

I’m in Tangier, Morocco

Taxi’s, buses, ferry, rain, people helping people, twelve hours it took and now I’m here. Will write the story tomorrow.

 

 

More monkeys

That's me on the right

I will write more about the awesome trip to Gibraltar tomorrow. It was a great day!

Tomorrow

Tomorrow will challenge me…good thoughts, okay?

Monkeying around with monkeys and friends on the Rock of Gibraltar

Yesterday marked one of the best days so far on the one year journey. You could probably say it began on Tuesday – two days ago when I met Tom Johnstone, from Australia, on the bus heading from Granada to Algeciras. Seats are reserved.

I believe there are no accidents, especially when Tom was assigned as my seat-mate.

We chatted the whole four hours to Algeciras and the next day he accompanied me to the Rock of Gibraltar. It was there where we met three other people and we became instant friends.

But first let me say, it is pouring down rain – thunder and wind –  today and I’m trapped inside a convention spa-like facility. There must be room for two hundred or more people here. It has been the worst mistake of my journey, so far. When we got to Algecias on Tuesday, Tom was dropped off in the city where he made a good judgement call, and stayed in town. My place, however, was so far away I cannot get to town (grocery store, bus stop, port) easily. Yes, there are buses, but as I reported yesterday the bus stop is on a busy freeway that I must walk across. Since it is storming right now, and it’s difficult to see outside, I’ll stay inside this place today. I leave tomorrow – thank goodness. By the way, I am the only person staying in this resort. I have been given no special privileges. I slept a few minutes past breakfast, because of a sleepless night and was told there would be no breakfast for me. That means I had to purchase a packed lunch. There are also no kitchen privileges, and only a microwave, which is off-limits, as well. I do have a French press coffee maker and some ground coffee. I was handed a cup and hot water and made my coffee on the steps near the locked-up cafeteria.

Okay, that’s enough of the challenge, let’s go on to the great day, yesterday.

I met Tom at the bus stop, after the bus ride from the freeway, and together we traveled by bus to the border between Spain and Gibraltar.

After searching and asking a question from a taxi driver, who pointed out the walk-way to the entrance of the border, we arrived, got our passports stamped into Gibraltar – the Colony of Great Britain, and continued on.

We heard a man speaking to a couple, who are also from Australia, about touring the rock in a van with him as a guide, going to the top where taxi’s cannot go, and also where it would take several hours to walk.

“That’s what I want to do,” I said to Tom.

“You could save some money if all four of you go together,” the guide said.

We turned and looked at the couple and we all agreed without further delay. It turned out to be one of the best decisions in my journey.

“Will we see monkeys at the top of the rock?” I asked the driver.

He replied with humor: “If you don’t see any monkeys, I’ll give you your money back. Yes, you will see monkeys.”

Okay, I found my way to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, but how did the 200-plus monkeys get there?

According to everything I have read and accounts from the guide, the tail-less Macaca Sylvanus monkeys arrival to Gibraltar still has experts guessing, and so far, no one knows for certain.

 

Hangin’ with a monkey

One theory is that they came at a time when Europa and Africa were joined, another that they were brought over to the rock by the Moors, during their centuries-long occupation of the Iberian peninsula. There are those who believe they were introduced to the British as pets, and then allowed to go wild on the upper slopes of the rock.

Sir Winston Churchill, upon learning the numbers were diminishing, intervened ay ordering their numbers to be replenished. Thus, continues the saying, “Gibraltar will cease to be British on the day there are no apes left on the Rock.”

Today a bit of rivalry between Spain and Gibraltar was evidenced a later when we left by car at the end of the day. More about that later.

 

 

Leapin’ monkeys

There are centuries of history of the rock, the caves, the monkeys, and the city,  and wars, that to spend one day wouldn’t be enough time. Tom said he’s going back there after his trip into Morocco.

The guide took us to several viewing places where our new friends Kim, Keith and Tom and I took photos of the city and the bay, and one of the tunnels, before we got to the monkeys.

Then, all of a sudden there they were; monkeys walking among the people, sitting on fences and rocks, watching us make fools of ourselves, and even playing and rolling around on top of vehicles. We were instructed not to touch them, as they will bite. Also, be careful about rummaging around in bags, because they may think you’re about to feed them. That was also a no-no. But, dear monkeys: “Is it fair that you can jump on us, and bite us but we cannot touch you? C’mon.”

Kim screamed and jumped when a monkey used her head as a bridge from on top of a van to a rock.

It was difficult sometimes to be somewhere close to a monkey, but not cause it to get nervous and lean over to hit you or bite you. They were everywhere, and I have many photos of monkeys on vehicles, on fences, watching us, with their babies, and then on the way out, I saw a cat.

I walked close to get a photo of the cat, and another guide scared me on purpose with a loud, “meow”.  Then after my surprise he told me there was once a cat who gave birth to kittens and one of the monkey’s nursed it and took care of it.

To be continued…

 

P.S. It has taken two hours to post two photos. I’m tired of monkeying around with this. I’ve got some really good ones, and maybe later…disappointed.

 

 

 

 

Look up at the art while I watch the road

Greetings – 9:40 a.m. Bus station, Granada

I’m sitting in the bus station and will wait in the coffee shop until it’s time to catch the bus to Algeciras.

Now picture this: I have a suitcase on wheels, a stuffed bag sitting on top of that, a purse over one shoulder, a camera over the other one, my laptop bag in one hand and I’m walking to the table holding my glass of cafe con leche. I feel like a contortionist.

Someone suggested I get a backpack, but I do not think it would hold all my ‘stuff’, and if it was a larger backpack, it would hurt my already weakened back.

I wake up nearly every morning with a backache, but after walking for awhile, it goes away.

“Don’t worry” is a standard comment here in Granada, used for just about everything.

So I’m saying that now, “Don’t worry!”

The lady in the hostel called a taxi that arrived in a few minutes.The driver was a young woman. I was so happy to see a woman driving, and one who could speak English, that I jumped right up in the front seat. (Something I learned not to do in Costa Rica!).

She, who looked barely old enough to drive a car, learned English while living in England. She liked a comment I made about a four story house that was painted pink with white trim.

“That is so pretty…it looks like a cake.”

“You are a very creative person. I drive by that place all the time and I have never thought of it as a cake; but now I will.”

The Taxi driver

It reminded me of the year I lived in my husband’s home town of The Hague, Holland.

“I’ve walked down this street nearly everyday of my life (until he immigrated to the U.S.) and have never looked up to the top of the building before I met you, you crazy lady.”

“Well, I may be crazy, but now you know how beautiful your city was when you weren’t looking.” The tops of buildings have the greatest art: look up people, and see what you own.

Later:

After nearly a five hour bus ride, sitting next to Tom, who is from Australia, the time went quickly by. We had a lot to talk about, and by the time it was to part, I felt I had made a friend. We got into the same taxi and he was dropped off first. It was only about a 2 minute drive to his hostel, while mine was nearly 15 minutes away. We drove, and drove, and drove, and finally, up near the mountains, high on a hill we came to where I’d be staying for three days. There is a view from the deck of the hostel. I hadn’t had anything to eat and the lovely lady in reception packed a bit of a lunch for me for a very reasonable price. I find that I’m far from the city, but within walking distance to the bus stop. Soon I’ll go shopping for the next few days.

Back from ‘shopping’ . Ha! The bus is across the freeway from the hostel, and too far for me to head right straight back to the same bus station to pick up some food. But the reception lady told me about another small market if I just walk down the road (freeway), and I’d come to a restaurant. The market is up a hill from there.

Here’s the truth: I walked down the freeway facing cars and trying to stay out of their way, however, a ditch next to the freeway prohibited my walking  further away from the traffic. But most cars gave me a wide berth.

I then found the restaurant that seemed to be about one mile away. Up the hill from there, up, up, up the hill, over rocks, pits in the road and dogs warning me with big white teeth that I was taking a chance.

I found the little shop with a step up to a window where I could look in and see that most everything for sale was large; large bottles of this and that. So I purchased a tomato, some  cans of tuna, and bread. I’m all set for two days worth of dinner, as breakfast comes with the deal here.

I think I’m the only person in this compound! There is a swimming pool, a tennis court and a lovely place to see the view of the ocean and mountains.

Anyway, I walked back, this time up a front road until I came to the end,then I had to get back on the freeway, so I swung the bag out at my side, whenever I heard a car coming so they could see me.

Tomorrow, I’m going to the Gibraltar for one day, and I bet there will be much to write about.