Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Walking Gibraltar

Gibraltar: Top Left: View from Douglas Path looking north. Top Right: Our walking path. Red is the starting point. Green is our stop and snack point. Bottom Left: View from the Mediterranean Steps. Bottom Right: Start of the Mediterranean Steps.View from Douglas Path looking northOur walking path. Red is the starting point. Green is our stop and snack pointView from the Mediterranean Steps.Start of the Mediterranean Steps

Gibraltar is an British Overseas Territory of 2.6 square miles situated at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula. Every since I was young, Gibraltar fascinated me and so in our second tour of Andalusia, it made sense to stop here. For an overview of our tour of Andalusia and Portugal, see the post A Second Tour of Andalusia: Ronda, Cádiz, and Algeciras.

We based ourselves in Algeciras for three nights. We spent one day in Tangier and one day in Gibraltar. We took the taxi from Algeciras to the border between La Linea de la Concepción (Spanish) and Gibraltar. The taxi took about 20 minutes and 25 euros. From La Linea, we walked across the border, which entails walking across the Gibraltar International Airport runway. After passing through some checkpoints, there were people waiting to sell us a tour or taxi ride. One of the tour guides was particularly helpful. He gave us a map and said Gibraltar was easily walked. We were of the mind to walk anyway, and his confirmation was all we needed. So, we set off on foot and spent the whole day walking around Gibraltar.

There are a lot of things to see in Gibraltar and, by far, we didn’t get to them all (as you can see from the photo showing our path). We were intent on just enjoying a day outside with some exercise and, in particular, walking the Mediterranean Steps. The weather, as you can see from the pictures, was beautiful. From the border, we passed through Landport Tunnel to emerge onto the bustling Main Street. Continuing south, we made our way to Europa Road, then to Engineer Road until we came to the entry gate to the reserve. The Mediterranean Steps begin just after the entry gate.

So how are the steps going up? Not bad. I don’t like heights and I was able to manage them just fine. In fact, I think it would be worse coming down the steps because you’d get more of a sense of vertigo. The trail are part path, part steps. There were good ropes and rails to hold on to. At several places there are short side paths or ruins to explore. Overall, if you are in reasonable shape, it shouldn’t be hard to walk this trail. You might consider the time of day you do the steps to maximize or minimize (depending on season) sun exposure.

In terms of plants, we were out of the main blooming season, but mangaged to see a few plants shown in this post. Some common things you’ll see include:

Wild Olive (Olea europea)
Cut-leaved Lavender (Lavandula multifida)
Giant Tangier Fennel (Ferula tingitana)
Sea Squill (Drimia maritima)
Rusty-back Fern (Asplenium ceterach)
Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolachia baetica)
Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica)
Gibraltar Candytuft (Iberis gibraltarica)
Gibraltar Saxifrage (Saxifraga globulifera gibraltarica)
Gibraltar Campion (Silence tormentosa)
Gibraltar Chickweed (Cerastium gibraltaricum)
Gibraltar Sea Lavender (Limonium emarginatum)
Gibraltar Thyme (Thymus willdenowii)

Here are a couple of resources to go deeper into plants of Gibraltar: HM Government of Gibraltar Plant Description and The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society. The Mediterranean Steps path takes you through maquis and garigue scrublands.

Once at the top of the Mediteranean Steps, we headed for St. Michael’s Cave. After exploring the cave, we slowly made our way back down to Devil’s Gap Footpath, which was a great way to drop back into the town. In fact, I would recommend considering that as a way up into the reserve. There seems to be more than one way up to the top of the rock as shown here in the Footpaths of Gibraltar.

Around 4:30 pm we sauntered into town after about 5 hours of walking and had a snack at Sacarallos: good quiches and apple pie. Started back at 6:00 pm, crossed the border and took a taxi to Algeceris.


Left: Gibraltar’s Barbary Macaques. Right: View from Gibraltar west toward Algeciras.
Gibraltar’s Barbary MacaquesView from Gibraltar west toward Algeciras

Mediterranean Steps. Left: Entry gate to the Nature Reserve. Center Left: The start of the Med Steps. Center Right and RIght: Examples of the climb.
Entry gate to the Nature ReserveThe start of the Med StepsExamples of the climbExamples of the climb

Mediterranean Steps Plants. Far Left: Clematis? Center Left: Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolachia baetica). Center Right: Narcissus papyraceus. Far Right: Oxalis pes-caprae lining the way on the Mediterranean Steps.
 ClematisDutchman’s Pipe (Aristolachia baetica)Narcissus papyraceusOxalis pes-caprae lining the way on the Mediterranean Steps

Mediterranean Steps Plants. Left: Three different types of leaves, Dutchman’s Pipe, Acanthus, Giant Tangier Fennel. Right: Sea Squill (Drimia maritima).
hree different types of leaves, Dutchman’s Pipe, Acanthus, Giant Tangier FennelSea Squill (Drimia maritima)

Gibraltar and Gibraltar Nature Reserve, Upper Rock Brochuress and MapsGibraltar and Gibraltar Nature Reserve, Upper Rock Brochuress and MapsGibraltar and Gibraltar Nature Reserve, Upper Rock Brochuress and MapsGibraltar and Gibraltar Nature Reserve, Upper Rock Brochuress and MapsGibraltar and Gibraltar Nature Reserve, Upper Rock Brochuress and Maps

Various signs in the Upper Rock Reserve. Top Left: Barbary Macaque information. Top Right: Gibraltar’s Special Flowers. Bottom Left: Mediterranean Steps Map. Bottom Right: Plants along the Upper Rock Footpath.
Barbary Macaque informationGibraltar’s Special FlowersMediterranean Steps MapPlants along the Upper Rock Footpath

Gibraltar Signs. Left: Slow – serpents. Center: Slow – all kinds of critters. Right: Spain this way! (Except the guy on the sign is walking the wrong way.)
Slow – serpentsSlow – all kinds of critters Spain this way!

St. Michael’s Cave
St. Michael’s CaveSt. Michael’s Cave

Left: View from the start of the Mediterranean Steps looking south toward Africa and Jebel Musa. Right: View from the Mediterranean Steps east toward Alboran Sea.
View from the start of the Mediterranean Steps looking south toward Africa and Jebel MusaView from the Mediterranean Steps east toward Alboran Sea

Left: View from the Mediterranean Steps looking north along the East Coast of Gibraltar. Right: Walking across the runway to enter Gibraltar.
View from the Mediterranean Steps looking north along the East Coast of GibraltarWalking across the runway to enter Gibraltar

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