Mysteries of the Rock of Gibraltar and the Barbary Apes


Barbary Apes

 

I love travel mysteries and Gibraltar has lot of deep stories that make it one of the most powerful, interesting and mysterious places.  It’s said that this place once held greek temple to Hercules and the caves inhibited by early man… maybe even the last hold out for the Neanderthal.  There is a labyrinth of tunnels that are longer than the trails that go over the top and caves filled with mystery from early inhabitants.  It is first recorded in history as the “pillars of Hercules” from Greek Mythology. Until Columbus it marked the edge of the known world.  It’s a magical place filled with mystery that transcends time.

Here are a few of the things we saw..

  • Wild Barbary Apes in Europe – Living on the Rock of Gibraltar are the only wild apes in Europe
  • An International Airport runway that people can drive across, the only road into Gibraltar
  • A gigantic gun that can shoot from Europe to Africa
  • A viewpoint for viewing the straights of Gibraltar to Africa
  • Hop a ferry to Africa or Spanish Morocco on the African Continent
  • Century’s old military Tunnels and caves inhabited by Neanderthals and Neolithic times

gibraltar map

Here’s a snippet on the history of Gibraltar… “It was first inhabited over 50,000 years ago by Neanderthals and may have been one of their last places of habitation before they died out around 24,000 years ago. Gibraltar’s recorded history began with the Phoenicians around 950 BC; the Carthaginians and Romans later worshipped Hercules in shrines said to have been built on the Rock of Gibraltar, which they called Mons Calpe, the “Hollow Mountain”, and which they regarded as one of the twin Pillars of Hercules.”

One of the craziest airports in the world, Gibraltair International (GIB) has daily flights to and from Heathrow, Gatwick, and Luton.  Went through all 3 airports in one day once.  I don’t recommend it.  As well Malaga is only 120 kilometers away.  Notice how the airport goes through the only road that goes into Gibraltar.  Locals call it Gib (sounds like jib).  The locals even have a British sounding accent, but they used GIP Pounds or Euros in most of the places where I went.  There are a number of Spanish as well that live in Gib.  While the Gibraltarians have their own culture, it’s definitely a mix of english and spanish supporting a very strategic military installation mostly turned tourist attraction.  I don’t think the apes realize just how important that little strip of land has been over time.  It get’s stirred up every 50-100 years it seems to me.  Spain still doesn’t seem too happy for it to be there.   

Gibraltar is not part of the Schengen Area. This means that there are immigration and customs controls when travelling between Spain and Gibraltar. Citizens of the European Union are required to have a national identity card or passport, while all others are required to have a passport to enter.  Right after you cross the border you cross the airport.  Hopefully while you’re there you’ll see a plane coming in or out… it’s a beautiful site.

I do encourage you to read the history.  The wikitravel article on Gibraltar has a sview of africa from europehort but decent write up.  The history of Gib goes all the way back to Neolithic times, some evidence in St Michael’s cave. 

As far as visits go, take the gondola up the rock and spend time with the apes.

Quite the view… across the straights, you can see Africa!

There are very few spots in Europe where on the other side you can see Africa.  It’s a real treat as a traveler to be able to be this close to two of the huge continents and see history reveal itself.  I had no idea that it was real UK territory. It’s fascinating.  If you like traveling to unique places this is a real draw for a number of reasons.  The Apes, the military arsenal, the huge iconic and powerful rock, the majestic views, and the point at which Africa is close to Europe.  There’s a lot of symbolism and exciting parts to this story.  I’m sure you’ll love it.  I mean come on, it’s also very close to Morocco, one of my favorite places to time travel, and to some of the most relaxing parts of Europe.  The Ferry is just down the road to visit the islands… It’s a great destination.

When I visited, we went to Spanish Morocco and then a night taxi ride to Fez.  What a fabulous place cultural that is. 

 

big guns

The Barbary macaque or Barbary ape, is a species of macaque with no tail. Traditionally found in the Atlas Mountains.  There is a small population, about 5 troops and 300 individuals in Gibraltar with an unknown origin.  They are the only monkeys or apes in Europe. The Barbary apes are the best known species from the old world.  They are recognized as an endangered species.  If you visit Morocco you can visit a troop in the forest. 

The Rock is beautiful and iconic.  It rises in such a way that you can understand why it’s used in Greek Mythology, and why companies even now like Prudential take advantage of it’s symbolism.  It carries power.  Over time it has been one of the most densely fortified and fought-over places in Europe.

Did I wet your appetite?  Maybe you’ll consider this amazing place filled with mystery.

The Rock Hotel Barbary ape looks over the Gibraltar cliffs

Secret Destinations of Central America – Costa Rica


costa rica beach

On my way to Panama, I had a delay getting out of Salt Lake City, which resulted in me missing a connection and Atlanta.  My ride to my unplanned hotel stay was with a pleasant van driver who asked where I was going.  I told him I was headed to Costa Rica and Panama and he went on to explain that his friends had been going every year.  He was saying it was the best hidden secret destination of the world.  A great secret.  I had to agree with him.

Why weren’t his friends going to Hawaii?  Costa Rica was offering up warmer beaches, better waves, and the undiscovered and getting away from the crowds.

ARENAL

 

 

 

Costa Rica has so much to offer. 

  • private white and black sand beaches
  • leather back turtles
  • monkeys
  • waterfalls
  • tubing
  • white water rafting
  • bird watching
  • lava fields
  • swinging bridges
  • ziplining
  • sloths
  • volcanoes
  • hot springs
  • red blue and green frogs with red eyes
  • banana plantations
  • native tribes
  • rain forests

The Costa Rican’s are really smart and happy.  Gross national happiness in Costa Rica is even higher than in Bhutan where that’s the most important thing.

happy

I have been enchanted with the country.  It’s quite amazing and impressive.  A very peaceful place.  No army or military to speak of, they decided instead of focusing on arming up and providing defense they’d be better off spending that money building infrastructure and services.  The roads are quite good.  Having driven across much of Central America, it has great roads really minus those that are affected by volcanology.

Let me start with the sloths.  The slowest mammal in the world.  They’ve got 3 toed sloths and two toed sloths.  Very often they end up with problems.  One of the great places to visit is the reserves.  The jaguar reserve, a favorite of the Caribbean side of Costa Rica just outside of the surfing town of Puerto Viejo.  You can handle baby spider monkeys, and little howlers. 

 

SLOTHHOWLER 

The sloths you can look at, but you can’t touch them because of the special oils in their fur that grow and collect moss to hide them in the trees.  You can also see the toucan and a number of other birds and get close as you’ll want to get with the local vipers. 

SLOTHSLEEPING

The rain forest has trade offs.  There’s sure a lot of rain, but the dense forest is a must see.  Travel to the pacific side for a drier visit.  You’ll see resort cities and stretches of beach where you could see no one.  Throughout the country the national parks and volcanoes are amazing sights to see both the flora and fauna.  I recommend Arenal it’s a great volcano with cities that surround it designed for all types of tourists.  I highly recommend tracking down the hot springs.  Ask the locals where you can go behind the warm river water fall and at night to candle light.

 

 frog RAINFOREST

Big Iguanas, Toucans, and Waterfalls… It’s not hard to see why Costa really is a paradise.  You can also see why people are trying to keep is a secret.

iguana toucanwaterfall

Thailand Trekking: Traveling by Elephant in the Land of Smiles


I grew up really LOVING “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”, reading the comic strip, reading the books, and later watching the shows.  I imagined myself having a job like his.  Travel the world and capture images and stories the bizarre and fantastic.   My trip to the golden triangle of Thailand included amazing animals including elephants, tigers, monkeys, and cobras, with people so far removed from my world, from indigenous people living off the land, to refugee hill tribes are simply happy to find peace.  The refugees escaping oppression and seeing extreme contrast in Thai joy and Burmese oppression. Visiting the hill tribes especially the long neck Karen tribe was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.  What a joy to spend time in the “Land of Smiles.”

Long Neck Karen - Giraffe Hill Tribe

The big question is why did they start putting these rings on their necks?

Long Neck Karen Children Weaving

There are a number of reasons to describe why they have the rings on their necks.

  1. The rings actually coils make them more beautiful are a sign of beauty and wealth
  2. The coils are designed to protect their necks from tigers!
  3. The coils make the women unattractive to the nearby tribes.

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