Back on the Rock again!

31 July to 4 August 2022

La Linea to Queensway Quay, 36° 8’15″N 5° 21’35” W, 1nm (if that!), 30 minutes with a stop for cheap fuel!

As we bobbed about at anchor off La Linea we heard news from across the bay that Gibraltar was in the middle of a bit of a crisis. A serious fire in one of its tunnels had caused a rockfall that had done devastating damage to Gibraltar’s water and electricity infrastructure. Messages from my friend Chris reported panic buying of bottled water and bowsers in the streets. Having topped up our tanks in Tangier we weren’t immediately concerned but Stefan’s supply of clean underpants was running low and we hoped the water might return soon to enable us to do some laundry at least during our stay. Seriously though, it was another reminder of just how out on a limb this British overseas territory is and how not being on the best of terms with your neighbour isn’t such a good idea.

After filling up Pintail’s tanks with some of Gibraltar’s lovely, cheap diesel, we slipped back into Queensway Quay Marina. We thought we had left for the last time in May 2021 yet here we were again – the familiar voices on the radio, the iconic backdrop, the promise of unexpected reunions with friends and some of our favourite places. It felt really good to be back. We didn’t mind that there wasn’t water to wash Pintail down or for a visit to the showers.

We had never been in Gibraltar in summer. We expected stifling heat and crowds of tourists. It was certainly hot but the streets were strangely quiet.

We had Main Street and Commonwealth Park almost to ourselves as we became instantly reacquainted.

In our short visit, we had time to check out some of Gibraltar’s new landmarks – a tribute to John Lennon (who married Yoko Ono in 1969 in Gibraltar) and a memorial to Gibraltar’s role in the Falkland Islands Conflict. We were bemused to find a new mural depicting Nelson’s Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar seemingly defaced at the bottom with grey paint. It turns out that, whilst painting the mural, the artist Diego Heran Rondan had felt increasingly uncomfortable depicting a scene of war whilst the war in Ukraine was happening. In an act of sabotage of his own work and of protest he had added the words “Now is not the time to paint war”. It was a fair point.

No trip to Gibraltar will ever be complete for me without a wander through the Alameda Gardens. It remains one of my favourite places on this planet.

Despite the heat the gardens were surprisingly green and it was good to see new beds planted with weather hardy cacti.

But we visited mainly to check on progress of the biodome, the project that had been the focus of the children’s gardening club that I had worked with in 2016-17. The infrastructure of the biodome was going up and was a lot more extensive and impressive than I had imagined it would be and it was lovely to see my tiny contribution acknowledged on a plaque acknowledging those who have made it possible.

Of course, the one person who should take all of the credit for the biodome is my friend, Chris, who although she retired from the Gardens before it came out of the ground, conceived of the idea and laid the groundwork for its construction.

And we couldn’t come to Gibraltar without spending time with that icon of the Rock. I had time to meet up with Chris for our traditional walk to the lighthouse and Stefan visited her to help her fit her new water heater.

Of course we also found time to revisit old haunts and favourite restaurants and bars, Bianca’s, the Lounge and Raj’s. In fact in 5 days we enjoyed Raj’s twice – the second with former marina neighbours, John and Alex.

Stefan set off on his familiar cycle up the Rock only to find the road closed and had to make do with a ride around it instead. I was more successful in finding friend and personal trainer, Lucia, in her usual place at Wellington Front and somehow found time to join her for a HIIT class and Pilates.

It was a whirlwind of a week during which we experienced the stifling humidity of a Gibraltar summer. Although it was too hot to visit the monkeys on a hike up the Rock, we were grateful to have caught up with some of our favourite humans. Having accepted safe delivery of the hydrovane and spotted a weather window for heading back west we had to prise ourselves away before Pintail took root again in Queensway Quay.

But we decided we hadn’t seen quite enough of Chris and hatched a plan to take her with us when we left…

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