Tuesday 29 January 2013

To the Top of the Rock of Gibraltar - again

29 January 2013

 After some pretty miserable weather last week here in Gibraltar the last couple of days have been magnificent again. While still tied to the dock, we made the most of the sunshine and very light winds yesterday getting our main up and genoa unfurled to make sure they dried out after the rain. We also took the opportunity to mark our halyard and reefing lines to make it easier to set our first and second reefs in future. Throw in a half a dozen other boat jobs and it turned out a very productive day. Marc was particularly impressed as the AIS system he ordered from a New Zealand company, Watchmate, turned up right on time after its very express trip from downunder.

It's a long way to the top if you want to rock The Rock

Using the Universal Automatic Identification System (AIS) the AISWatchMate 850 Transponder will transmit our AIS data and display data from all AIS equipped vessels in our vicinity. Audible warning alarms are sounded if a potentially dangerous situation exists. The alarm sounds whenever a ship is detected that will come dangerously close even though the ship may still be many miles away. We will be alerted immediately with the closest point of approach (CPA) and the time until CPA. It means not only will we have accurate information about how close a big ship headed our way may get we’ll also show up on their AIS system so they’ll be aware of our presence. It’s going to make things a lot simpler in busy traffic areas, particularly at night. Now all we have to do is get it fitted. That should be fun.

Today Karen and Rob decided some exercise was in order and set out to climb to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar via a trail known as the Mediterranean Stairs that runs around the southern side and then up the east face of the rock. Rob had done the climb a couple of weeks ago and after seeing his photos Karen wanted to give it a go too.

We left Marc giving his Kindle another vigorous workout on the lounge in the salon and made our way about three kilometres up the hill to the start of the trail at Jew’s Gate. The whole top of the rock is nature reserve and we had to buy a fifty pence walking permit to tackle the climb. If you work it our as a per hour cost for the four hours or so we spent up there it is certainly extremely cheap entertainment.

The trail ranges from rough track in places to very steep stairs cut into the side of the rock. You make your way through moderately dense foliage in a couple of spots but mostly have clear, uninterrupted views looking across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco. It’s pretty cool to stand in Europe looking at Africa. As the trail reaches the Eastern side of the rock, the Mediterranean Sea and Spanish Coast come into view. Today we could see all the way to the snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada Ranges near Grenada.

While the path is fairly rough, the greatest danger is in fact the magnificent views. It takes discipline to keep your eyes focused on where you are putting your feet and not the incredible scenes that unfold at every turn. There’s even a couple of caves along the way to explore. The sea was so calm today we could see a distinct current line where the constant stream of water pouring into the Med from the Atlantic Ocean met the counter current that runs westwards along the Spanish Coast. Ships anchored on one side of the line hung off their chains facing the Straits while a couple of hundred metres away others faced exactly the other way towards the east. We will definitely be trying to make sure we stay on the advantageous side and use the current when we head back into the Med next month.

Ships anchored this side of the current line faced east while on the other
they all faced west pointed into the water pouring in from the Atlantic
It's a long, long way up. 
Awesome views unfolded at every turn
There's even a couple of caves to explore along the way

The climb to the top is certainly a challenge. The temperature topped 23C today which is the warmest it’s been since we arrived back in October and we were very glad we took plenty of water with us. Our Aussie friends will be thinking we’ve gone soft struggling in 23 degrees but when the average temperature range has been Mins of 10C to Maxes of 17C or so, the extra few degrees were felt. It would certainly be an arduous trek in the height of summer here. We were both a little puffed when we crested the top of the trail. Our high fives were well deserved but our jaunt was far from over.

We parted with an extra Three Pound Fifty each and paid to wander through the installations at O’Hara’s Battery. These massive gun emplacements were the Brit’s sentinels guarding the Straits of Gibraltar and were capable of pitching a massive explosive shell virtually all the way to Africa. The Battery is also located on the very highest point of the Rock. Of course Rob climbed the ladder onto the top of the turrets to make sure he got some photos from absolute highest vantage point possible. We’re not sure whether your actually permitted to do that but he does subscribe to the old theory, “Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.”  

The views from atop O'Hara's Battery were breathtaking
The big guns could virtually reach all the way to Africa
The Bay of Gibraltar from the very top of the rock

We took our trusty Spot Tracker GPS with us so if you’d like a look at the location of Gib’s highest spot, click the link, http://www.findmespot.com/mylocation/?id=A_U20/36.12392N/5.34290W Go to the satellite view for the best result.

From O’Hara’s Battery we made our way north along the ridgeline of the rock exploring other gun emplacements and sentry towers dating back centuries. Along the way we took a break to devour a couple of healthy nut bars for sustenance. The sound of plastic wrapper crinkling was all that was needed to attract one of the locals so we shared our lunch with a very well behaved Barbary Ape. She arrived out of the bushes, waited for food to be offered to her and then sat on the wall posing for the obligatory photographs afterwoods. A very cool ambassador for Gibraltan tourism.

Sentry Box on the ridge line in Gibraltar
Excellent hearing and impeccable manners - what more could you ask for in an ape?

By the time we stepped back onto Alcheringa in Queensway Quay Marina, Marc had defeated the battery of his kindle and moved onto the I-Pad. We very quickly headed for hot showers to sooth our complaining muscles.

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