Gibraltar & Granada, UK/Spain
From Morocco it was a short boat ride across choppy water to transport us back to windy Tarifa, which was somehow even more windier than when we left. Apparently there were a few days last week when no ferries were going across to Morocco at all because of the wild weather conditions. Danny desperately wanted internet, so I dumped him and our bags at a cafe with Wi-Fi then wandered around the town to pass the time. I'm still not sure how I didn't get blown over. There were points were I physically couldn't take a step because the wind was so strong. I could hear it blowing sand into my ears. The most incredible sight was the waves on the water - they were actually crashing backwards, something I had never seen before. I managed a quick walk around a lighthouse, over a sandbank to a sign that said I had reached the most southern part of continental Europe, then to more signs that pointed out the division between the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea - that's pretty much all there was to see in Tarifa. I struggled my way back to Danny, exchanged our money back to Euro (where we lost about €20 – exchange rates were much better in Morocco, surprisingly) then headed back to the car.
Our car parking situation turned out to be great, until Danny tried to drive under a low beam on the way out, knocking the antenna right off the roof. He said he will fix it. I don't think it will be any time soon.
We drove away from the wind and on to Gibraltar which, being UK-owned, meant it was the third country we had visited today. It also meant we were required to line up to enter the Territory, as they wanted to see our passports and ask if we had to declare anything. Everywhere else in continental Europe it was come and go as you like but England had to have border control for a tiny bit of rock. After finally being allowed to enter we realised that, firstly, it was going to be a tough ask to find a car park, and secondly, that it was very much a town for rich people. Twenty minutes later we located a car spot, which of course was nowhere near the main town. We discovered that there was an astronomical charge to visit the national park, so we bypassed that and instead stopped in at a British pub. They served Australian beer but it was Fosters, which Danny avoided like the plague. Luckily we still had a few British pounds on us, the third currency we used today. (It was odd that Gibraltar was doing everything it could to show it was British, yet still drove on the right hand side of the road.) After a quick drink we walked back to the car and tried to leave, only the line to exit Gibraltar was about 45 minutes long. Our one piece of advice: don't drive to Gibraltar.
After Gibraltar it was on to Granada, with the start of the journey following the Mediterranean. Being a sunny day, the water was a brilliant blue. Unfortunately the marine scenery didn't last very long before we were inland again. It was over 30ºC outside, we were in t-shirts and shorts, the windows were open and we were driving into snow-capped mountains. All around us was mostly bare, rocky mountains (part of the Sierra Nevada) but there was one huge mountain covered in snow that looked over Granada. Like Morocco, it didn't seem right to be so hot and have snow so close. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic end to the day, sitting in the van, eating dinner and looking out at landscape before us.
We woke up at 7 a.m. to find it was pitch black outside, so we went back to bed and got up at 8 a.m. instead. As soon as I was ready I went searching for the Alhambra, the biggest attraction in Granada, because I read that you should arrive early if you wanted to buy tickets. It didn't happen. It took me an hour and a half just to locate the tourist office. Without a map, I had walked in completely the wrong direction and only by sheer luck did I stumble upon the cathedral, which led me to the tourist office nearby. From there it was a short walk up a ridiculously steep hill to the Alhambra, with a forest-type garden and small cascades lining the path. The Alhambra is an old Moorish town, including a fortress, palaces and several gardens. Most of it I could walk around without getting a ticket, but I was prevented from entering some of the buildings without forking over money. So in the end I didn't bother with the ticket and instead explored the free parts.
Where I had walked this morning was a fairly boring part of Granada and I didn't think I was going to like the town much. However, after I left the Alhambra I walked down the main street of Granada, which was lively and full of cafes, shops and street sellers. It had the look of an old town but well maintained and clean. I made my way back to the car, collected Danny, then we explored the town together. We ate fancy ice cream (no plain varieties here), stopped in at a bar to buy cheap drinks and average-tasting tapas, then split up again so I could put my tourist hat back on.
My journey took me through the Muslim quarter, containing tiny shops similar to the markets in Morocco, plus Arabic restaurants. I walked through quiet laneways that led up a hill to a lookout over the Alhambra, with the snow-capped mountains providing the perfect backdrop. The lookout was a popular place, with loads of hippies selling jewellery or practising their juggling skills. After tearing myself away (from the view, not the hippies) I wandered back to the car, through another series of laneways. These ones were full of people drinking at outdoor bars, which sort of reminded me of Melbourne in the summer. In fact the whole town had a Melbourne vibe about it. We both loved it, and hoped to return one day.
We knew our next stop in Spain was about six hours away, so we decided to make a head start on it tonight. The scenery was breathtaking, with the sun setting behind the looming mountains. We ended up spending the night in a tiny town, where the only highlight was a fountain that changed colour every 30 seconds. The town consisted of about four restaurants and it seemed that every resident in this town was at one of those restaurants, if the noise level was anything to go by. Thankfully it quieted down early on and we managed a peaceful sleep.