Burton Dane Travels

We're traveling through Europe and parts nearby for a year. We'll be posting our pix and adventures here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


The Peninsula of Spain contains not one country, but three. At the Southernmost tip is British Gibraltar and at the Westernmost edge is Portugal. The Greeks believed Hercules set the Rock of Gibraltar and its African companion chunk to mark the end of the known world--The Pillars of Hercules. Islamic adventurer Jebel Tariq came there in 711 and gave it his name.

We spent a few days in Gibraltar in early December to add yet another animal to our chain of beast sightings. There has been a colony of Barbary Apes living on the “Rock” for some time, its often quoted that if the Apes were to leave the Rock, the British would also leave Gibraltar (there are similar quotes about the ravens at the Tour of London). George Orwell, in The Ides of March, quotes that Julius Caesar’s time, chickens indicated whether the Romans would win or lose, so I suppose we are still pretty superstitious. So these macaques have lived on the big chunk of limestone since the 18th century, we think, which roughly corresponds to the date in 1713 that the Rock was ceded to Britain by Spain.

What we know is that these beasts enjoy a good game. After hiking the Rock one afternoon and enjoying the drop-dead (literally) views and gun batteries, we dropped down to St. Michael’s Cave for soup and bread. The white bread attracted the beasts like chum attracts sharks and before we could even get into our soup, there was a macaque that JUMPED UP,GRABBED OUR BREAD, LEAPED IN THE AIR , and after other acrobatic feats jumped up on the table and grabbed a hostess “sno-ball”(a sort of round twinky covered with sugar) and then ran out--this action-packed part provided by Ben. (Back to mom now) Ben suffered most as he still had vivid memories of being rushed by macaques in Malaysia, his instincts told him to lock himself into the toilet until it was all over with. The bartender and her stick convinced him all was well, so we slurped down the soup as fast as we could (between laughing fits) but as we left we heard a crash and a beast came galloping out with a white styrofoam cup of sugar packets that it enjoyed on the roof.

Gibraltar also was a great place to score books--in fact, Horrible Histories!--and there is no VAT, so diesel was cheap, AND there is a Safeway that sold us a big chunk of Red Leister cheese for the road--speaking of roads, everyone who comes in or out of Gibraltar has to do so across the airport runway!


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