Archive for the ‘Gibraltar’ Category

The Army of the 200 Monkeys

September 9, 2010 2 comments

“Beware of the monkeys”.

Most people will live their entire life without ever being offered this piece of advice, but prior to a recent journey across the Strait of Gibraltar, I heard it far more times than could be considered normal.

“Ooh, you’re going to Gibraltar? Watch out for the monkeys!”

“Morocco, interesting place…but stay away from the monkeys.”

Er…sorry, did I miss something? When did monkey attack become such a pressing concern? Fearing the rest of the planet had undergone some sort of bizarre “Planet of the Apes” style reverse evolution since I’d left home, I felt it would be wise to do some research before setting off. Fortunately, some quick reading at my local book store informed me that things weren’t quite as bad as I’d been led to believe. While the aforementioned monkeys  – barbary macaques for those who are interested – were still present in sizeable numbers in parts of Algeria and Morocco, the population in Gibraltar, the first destination on my itinerary, was a moderate two-hundred creatures.

Now, given the image of rabid primate legions I’d built up in my mind, this didn’t sound too bad; I was pretty confident I could take two-hundred monkeys in a battle to the death if it came down to it. At the very least I would be able to test my monkey-battling prowess before deciding whether it was safe to move on to the substantially more monkey-plagued continent of Africa.

I therefore decided to risk the remote possibility I might end up the unwilling life-partner of an oversized primate and headed south to Spain. After a thankfully short stopover in the inconceivably popular tourist town of Malaga (an experience only marginally preferable to being assaulted by rabid monkeys), I reached the border of Gibraltar and was very soon face to face with the infamous macaque horde.

Despite all their bad publicity, the hairy little beasties didn’t appear too nasty at first glance. A few appeared to be acting as sentries on the rooftops, and a rather sizeable one eyed me suspiciously as I walked past it on a bridge, but none of them seemed to be planning any sort of hostile takeover. In fact, they seemed quite content sitting around in the sun, staring bemusedly at passing tourists and doing whatever it is that monkeys like to do.

At least, that is, until they smelt food.

I pity the poor, unwitting European tourist carrying a packet of potato chips  – unopened and inside a shopping bag, mind you – who inadvertently walked upwind of a small but obviously hungry gathering. With absolutely no warning, one of the larger creatures leapt from its rock, weaved through a crowd of people and launched itself on to his chest in a level of frenzy not seen since the last Boxing Day sale at Myer.

Now, this thing was not exactly small – I’m guessing it weighed about fifteen kilos – so watching it cling to the bewildered man’s chest, screeching wildly while trying to tear the shopping bag from his hand, was rather freaky…although probably more so for him than me I would imagine. Fortunately, concern for personal well-being took precedence over desire for tasty potato snacks and he gave up the bag before any major appendages were removed.

Macaque eating chips

The monkeys are coming...don't say Brad Pitt didn't warn you

In response, the monkey – with the shopping bag now grasped firmly in it’s hand – released its death-grip and ran back up on to the rocks with its prize. It then proceeded to remove the foil packet from the bag, open it neatly and munch politely on the chips inside. Not surprisingly, those of us in the crowd that had never witnessed a wild monkey eating from a family-sized packet of Lays found this quite an amusing sight.

Equally unsurprising was the fact that said victim of said monkey had a slightly harder time seeing the humor in the situation.

The important lesson we all learned from this though, was that the warnings I had received were genuine. After becoming a first-hand witness to a mugging by monkey, I now realized that, in the event of a simian power coup, I would be no match for even one of these beasts, let alone two hundred.

Therefore, on behalf of the unidentified man with chips (and now rather soiled underwear), I would like to offer travellers to Gibraltar and Morocco the following, very valuable, advice:

Beware of the monkeys.

Categories: Gibraltar Tags: , ,

The Boom Gates from Hell

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Gibraltar's literally jumbo-sized level crossing

If you’ve ever sat at a level crossing and sworn profusely as multiple trains crawled past, spare a thought for the poor residents of Gibraltar. The only road into the main town runs directly across the Airport runway and there’s a set of boom gates that stops traffic every time a plane takes off or lands. Fortunately there’s only a handful of flights scheduled each day so it’s not considered too much of an inconvenience…although I’m sure anyone unfortunate enough to find themself stuck here waiting for a 400-tonne jumbo to taxi across their path would disagree.

Categories: Gibraltar Tags: ,