By Robin Graham
Spain has land borders with France, Portugal, and Andorra but also of course with Britain, in the form of the Overseas British Territory of Gibraltar. Though the town itself could be described as an acquired taste, there’s no doubting the physical beauty of what is arguably the south coast’s most striking feature.
Although the majority of tourists come here (whether it be from nearby resorts, on a day trip from the Costa del Sol or from one the cruise ships that dock here regularly) for booze, cigarettes, fish & chips, and maybe the odd snippet of history, the Rock has much more to offer, including something for the nature lover.
The upper reaches of the enclave are a nature reserve and one of its walking routes provides the hiker with some of the most dizzying views along this coast and the chance to glimpse a secret Gibraltar, far removed from the bustling town below. The route is called the Mediterranean Steps and begins near the entrance to the park itself, at Jew’s Gate. History lesson: The Utrecht Treaty of 1713 stipulated that the British in Gibraltar honour the insistence of the Spanish crown that no Jews or “moors” (Arabs or Berbers) be given a home on the Rock.
With no intention of complying, the Gibraltarians simply hid their Jewish cemetery up here at Jew’s Gate. The Mediterranean Steps are not for the unfit or the wary of heights. They were created for military purposes, as a line of communication and transport between various gun installations – O’Hara’s Battery is at the very top and around halfway up are the remains of a World War II installation. They curl around the southern tip of the Rock and its sheer cliffs, climbing upward where those cliffs are parted by a ravine covered in subtropical vegetation, much of which is unique to Gibraltar -Candytuft, Thyme, Chickweed, Campion and Saxifrage.
The steps, which had been abandoned as unsafe, were refurbished in 2007 and are now merely scary. Steep and uneven, it’s a route with something of a thrill factor and at certain points, with only Africa visible on the horizon and the shining sea below, you could be anywhere, anytime.
At a determined pace the ascent will take little over an hour, more if you stop often to rest or take photos. With the gun battery and numerous little bunkers accessible along the way, you might even bring a picnic. You’ll certainly be burning those calories off.
Robin Graham writes about Andalusia, Spain and some other stuff. His stories can be found,with accompanying photography, at alotofwindHe’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed: @robinjgraham or liked: alotofwind.com. Photography at 500px.