Tangier to Gibraltar; Seven modes of transportation, three countries and two continents in 36 hours

The overnight train brought us into Tangier around 8 in the morning, and we headed directly to the ferry port. After getting shafted by a taxi driver once more for old times’ sake, and dropping off postcards to nephews and nieces, we headed for the ticket queue. The plan was to take the ferry directly to Gibraltar from Tangier, but that plan fell through when we found out that the Gibraltar ferry doesn’t run on Saturdays. So it was a choice between spending 500 dirham (about CAD$70) to go to Algeciras in Spain, or spending 350 dirham (about CAD$50) to go to Tarifa and taking a free bus to Algeciras, which was a no-brainer.

The ferry got us into Tarifa about 1pm. Unfortunately we dawdled in customs and the free bus was full, and so we had to wait until 2:30 for the next bus, which at least gave us time to grab some food and chat with a nice party of Americans who were gathering in La Línea to celebrate one of the group’s 75th birthday. Arriving in Algeciras, we waited again for the municipal bus to La Línea, and got there at 5. The girls and a nice guy we met on the bus (Keivan?) went off to look for accommodations in La Línea while I guarded the packs. They returned, having secured a hostal, and we dropped off the packs and walked across the border into Gibraltar.

For those who weren’t paying attention, this meant that in the past 36 hours we’d taken seven separate modes of transportation (camel, van, taxi, train, ferry, bus and foot) covering two continents and three countries. It was a bit of an epic journey and we felt fully justified in heading for the pub.

Gibraltar’s border with Spain is, to be honest, a bit of a joke. The Spanish border… guy (I can’t call him a guard, I just can’t) glanced at our passports, but I think he only wanted to make sure we actually had passports and didn’t really care what was in them. His Gibraltarian counterpart didn’t even care to look. After all the centuries of bad blood between Britian and Spain over Gibraltar, you’d think crossing the border would be more difficult.

The first thing you see is the Rock, naturally - it dominates the whole peninsula. It’s every bit as impressive as it sounds, hulking huge and white and green over the city, which huddles at its foot. It has a majestic shape with a soaring point, and little white clouds streamed from it like pennons. It felt strange and somehow anachronistic to see the Union Jack flying over white sand and palm trees, and to see red London telephone boxes everywhere.

Aside from the flags and the pubs and the English signs, Gibraltar seemed much the same as La Línea across the border - it has no distinctive architectural style and doesn’t look especially post-colonial. I was amused by having to cross the airport runway after entering the country, though - the whole place is only seven square kilometers and there’s only one place for an airstrip, so the road and all pedestrian traffic has to cross the runway. There were warning signs and sirens on both sides, with a guard to ensure that no one crossed the barriers when they came down. We were too hungry to wait and watch a plane take off and land, though. I bought the girls dinner and we wandered for a bit around the port and looked at all the new building being constructed - housing in Gib is booming, apparently. We didn’t last long, though - the journey had tired us all out and after a couple of hours we crossed back into Spain and headed for bed.

Flourish

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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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