Viva Espana! – Andalusia, Southern Spain – October 2016
Saturday, October 15th, 2016 – Tarifa – Jiména de la Frontera – Gibraltar – Puerto de la Duquesa
In the morning it was dry so we packed almost regretfully (it WAS a lovely hotel) and left.
First, we headed a short distance inland to Jimena de la Frontera. Our original plan was to see the Loja Alta caves, but when Lucie was looking for information, it stated that it was not easy to find them. So it proved – we did not locate them at all and there were no signs. So we decided to ride up to the castle, high above the town, to see if we could find someone who knew something about the caves. Jimena is a small town with white houses, built on a hill and with narrow, winding streets. We reached the castle after a steep ride but, as I suspected, given the general air of desertion in the town, there was nobody in sight to help us. The castle is ancient and had the remains of Roman foundations including baths and was well maintained with EU money according to a sign there. It also had a beautiful view of the Rock of Gibraltar about 50 km away in the distance. Apparently, on a really clear day, Morocco is also visible, but although the visibility was good, it was not that good.
On the way out down from the castle I soon discovered that on a motorcycle, particularly one with a kerb weight of over 420 kilograms, it is much easier to ascend steep streets than to descend them. Nerve wracking scarcely describes it ! In one place the road we had driven up forked with a large “No Entry“ sign and we were directed to our right. This led, instead, to a sheer descent that was unbelievably steep, probably forty-five degrees downwards, or even more. I made Lucie get off and walk down, with strict instructions that, if I fell off, she must wait until I stopped sliding before coming to help me. In the end, everything turned out well, but my heart was thumping madly as I waited for Lucie to pick her way down to me. Even walking down in hiking boots was not easy for her at all.
As she climbed aboard, a car came to the top of the slope and, blithely ignoring the “No Entry“ sign, casually drove the wrong way down the upward direction one-way street. You cannot beat a bit of local knowledge !
Up at the castle, we had found out that we had forgotten to charge the camera. We were able to recharge it a little at the bar where we had a (much needed) drink and we bought a cigarette lighter adapter at the nearest petrol station. The rear top box had a little power socket, so there is SOME advantage to all that bulk. Our camera was totally recharged by the time we had had made the 50 km trip to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar, as everybody knows, is a huge and imposing monolith standing alone a short way from the land. As a British possession, it has a border and, directly behind that, there is the runway of its airport. Traffic lights and barriers are in evidence, probably in case something is landing or departing.
We skirted cliffs through the narrow streets to the cable car, where there was quite a queue. As it was lunch-time, we went to a nearby “English“ pub for Fish and Chips, British style. As might be expected in a “garrison“ town, the Fish and Chips was excellent, but the English non-alcoholic beer was truly disgusting.
In the meantime, the cable car queue had disappeared completely, so we went straight to the cabin and went to the top. During the ascent, there was an audio warning that the Barbary Apes, Gibraltar’s iconic, simian residents, were very prone to steal rucksacks and handbags and make off with them across the precipitous rocks. Lucie told me that I was, on no account, to let some ape either jump on her back or make off with her belongings !
I had been to Gibraltar twice before. Once, in 1985, my friend and I rode there (on our BMWs !!) when the Spanish finally reopened the border that had been closed by General Franco. That was in a fit of pique when the island’s inhabitants had voted 12,000+ to 44 against re-unification with Spain. After a gap of some years, when no vehicles were allowed over the border, I had been the second vehicle across, my friend had been the fourth. The first time I had been there was in 1968. On that visit, a Barbary Ape actually bit me when I forcibly prevented its attempts to get its hairy little hand into my backpack. I was sure that its great, great grandchildren, were circling and looking for their revenge as we walked around admiring the stunning views. In the event, there were easier, more gullible targets around and we went unmolested. It did give me an opportunity to regale Lucie with tales of that first trip which was made on a cruise ship, with my school. She had probably heard the stories of misappropriated camel drums, under age drinking and monkey mania before, but she dutifully laughed anyway.
The views from the top are spectacular. Our huge motorcycle, parked far below, was just a tiny speck !
On the way back, so many vehicles were leaving that we had to wait on the airport runway in a really long column of cars forming. It seemed an odd place to be stuck at a traffic light. The hold up was caused by customs checks. Because many things are cheaper in Gibraltar than 5 metres away in Spain, smuggling, particularly of cigarettes, is a slight problem.
We left Gibraltar behind us and headed east along the coast road to our overnight accommodation at the Hotel la Mecadora, which was near the highway, at the resort of Puerto de la Duquesa. We chose this as we still did not really trust our Harley’s navigation.
It seemed that our hotel, along with the nearby church, were the oldest buildings in what was now a sparkling and upmarket resort. Only a few hundred meters away is a classy, but really beautiful, residential area, with a marina in the middle. Around the marina was a host of restaurants with cuisines from around the world.
For a change, we chose a Moroccan restaurant and had a pleasant meal. After a few days on the road, we were a bit shabby compared with the other clients. But, let us face it, even if we had not been a bit dusty, our other clothes would have been the same .