Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 143: Gibraltar: Rock of the Apes!

A few days after I had been back from Ronda, Monica and David showed up at the Alegraluz Tantra Center and abducted me. They took me to heir condo where they cooked me a feast. We ate and enjoyed one another's company. We all laughed a lot and told travel stories and gossiped about old friends. I was only going to stay with them until the next morning but I decided to go to Gibraltar with them mañana.

This article is dedicated to all my fuzzy friends in Gibraltar.

From their condo in Estapona the drive to Gibraltar was a little over an hour. The rock was visible long before we reached it. After parking the car we walk began walking. The sky was overcast and a little drizzly. Even worse, there was so much traffic in the area that the air tasted like gasoline. Showing our passports to get in was exciting but then we had to wait for two airplanes to take off from the airport which forced us to wait 20 minutes.

Weird place for an airport.

Being at Gibraltar was a surreal feeling. I didn't know that it was a British colony so the red telephone booths, use of pounds, and police officers' hats caught me by surprise. At last, my chance to try fish and chips!

It was like we were in bloody ol' London, chap!

We did a bit of exploring in the streets at the base of the rock before doubling back to get lunch. Once Monica and David were satiated by their Subway hoagies and I had a greasy pile of fish and chips we set off up the mountain. The weather was dreary but it added to my feeling of surreality. The streets in the lower town were touristy but once we began climbing the vibe changed completely. We were soon lost among a maze of staircases and twisty roads; antennas and clotheslines sliced through the air of Gibraltar's upper town.

I've fallen in love with lots of things in Europe, antennas are one of them.
Cat photos are another passion of mine.
We were totally lost.

The higher we climbed the better the view got. It was a bit discouraging when we learned that it was going to cost £10 to see the historical parts like the siege tunnels and that we could have brought the car for £2. On the bright side by walking we saw a lot of stuff that we wouldn't have had the opportunity to see if we had taken a car. Plus if we were in a car we wouldn't have had as interesting of a monkey encounter.

Hey baby!
I felt like a giant (goon).

I had no idea that Gibraltar was full of monkeys. We saw a few posters advertising the hairy monsters but I didn't think I'd actually see any... boy was I wrong.

Look closely at the monkey leaping off the bus.

Once we were past the upper town, we were walking up roads on the rock for about an hour before we saw them. The first monkey sighting was a scene out of a monkey action movie; one of the fuzzy devils was riding on the mirror of a bus and then PACHOW! he jumped off into the bushes. From there, it was only a few seconds until we were surrounded. We found their stronghold. Knee-deep in monkey territory surrounded by knee-high monkeys. They were all over the place, playing on cars, jumping on people's backpacks, having sex in the street.

"What's up? How are you?"
I wonder if there's Tantra for monkeys.
Even monkeys are into post nookie cuddling.

So cute yet so vicious.

If I were a monkey I'd like to live on the rock of Gibraltar. I would live a charmed life. My diet would consist of whatever goodies the tourists bring (hopefully Twinkies) healthily balanced by some berries and leaves. My life would be one with nature, living outside and playing all day without the worry of predators. Plus, I would be able to jump on all the cute girls without any legal repercussions.

Whoa man chill, it was just a joke!!!
One of these beauties found its way onto the bottom of my shoe.

Finally we found a crazy big staircase that would take us the rest of the way to the top – it wasn't for the faint of heart. Monica and David were funny going up and even funnier going down. David shies away from heights so he wasn't a big fan of a 200 meter tumble down a stone staircase as the result of a mis-step. While I was fine with the height, passing the monkeys on the stairs freaked me out. I kept imagining one jumping onto my face or biting me in the leg. I suppose all of our imaginations run wild, playing out various horrific fantasies.

Apes in trees.
Just a few more steps, Monica!
"Can't you see I'm busy?"

When we got to the top of the rock, the same fog that coated our day kept us from seeing Africa. Spooty fog! Looking down over the edge was awesome because you couldn't see anything and then the clouds would part for a second and show you how high you are. The view over the harbor was superb. I met a dude from Morocco who fed a banana to one of the monkeys and a girl who wore one of the monkeys as a hat.

We made it to the top!
Some people use shampoo...
A mother's nipples have a rough life.
Who's the monkey now?
Family bonding.
Isn't Monica the cutest?
Laser eye.
Primary scooters.
Haha. You're wearing a funny hat.

Thankfully we got back to the car in time to avoid any fees on the parking meeter. I was glad that we walked not only because of all the spectacular views and weirdness we encountered but my stomach felt a lot better after working off some of the fish and chips. We were all exhausted from the climb and I fell asleep in the back seat.

Back at the Alegraluz Tantra Center I asked Peter and Elizabeth (a new recruit) if they wanted to join us for paella. Fortunately they agreed and we all piled in the car and headed to a local restaurant for some seafood paella. I had the black version that's made with squid ink while I was in Cádiz and I was excited to eat it again. We ordered it for four and they brought it out in the biggest frying pan ever. Delicioso!

I bet the monkeys would have enjoyed this meal.

Saying goodbye to Monica and David was really nice. It meant a lot to me to spend some time with people that have known me for more than a few days. Old friends are so comfortable and natural to be around. I love meeting new people because I grow faster with them but old friends are like anchors. It may be a bit odd to admit saying goodbye was nice but it made me realize how close I am with both Monica and David and reinforce how special our time together was. I cannot wait to see them when I return to the United States. Peace, love, and monkeys.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 141: Ronda... Wow...

In Osho's Tao: The Golden Gate, The Venerable Master said:

"The supreme Tao is formless, yet it produces and nurtures Heaven and Earth. The supreme Tao has no desires, yet by its power the sun and the moon revolve in their orbits. The supreme Tao is nameless, yet it ever supports all things. I do not know its name but for title call it Tao."

Some call it Tao, I call it Ronda.

Ronda's famous Puente Neuvo.

Andalusia is a one of the most breathtaking places that I have ever seen. It is a treasure trove of quaint villages who's white washed walls bathe in endless sunshine. Its rolling green hills and lush valleys have often appeared in my dreams. Its natural perfection tingles the tongue and lingers on the palate. It's a feast for the soul as well as the eyes.

Considering my past experiences at the Alegraluz Tantra Center, I was hard-pressed to believe my life could get any better. The morning after Martin's weekend Tantra workshop, we were sitting around having breakfast. Today Martin was driving to his house in Ronda to take his son Liam to school. Anna asked me "Are you going?" As I got in the car, I would shortly discover this was one of the best decisions I ever made.

The drive through the mountain road was awesome!
Too bad we weren't on motorcycles!

Even before I saw Ronda, I fell in love with the scenery. About an hour's drive from San Pedro, Ronda is nestled amongst majestic mountain ranges. The appropriately named, Serranía de Ronda wind their way from the coast to the village. 12 years ago Ronda was only accessible to people with strong constitutions and 4x4 trucks. Thankfully Spain built a modern road which allows easy access to this spectacular city. If you're not too distracted by the views and motorcycles, along the way you can catch glimpses of the old road. Martin told stories and showed me interesting points along the way but I could only divert so much of my attention. When we turned a corner and saw those white buildings for the first time, it was magical. Sunlight beamed upon the white houses and Ronda shone like a pearl.

Ronda off in the distance.

Getting out of the car and squeezing my pack through the half open French door, felt like my first day in Italy. It was fun for me to experience where Martin calls home. While he rents a building to house the Tantra center, he owns a quaint apartment in Ronda. It was small but cozy, with a small kitchen, living room, bathroom, and two bedrooms on the second floor. Once we settled in he offered to take me for a tour.

Martin's street!
In Ronda you will get robbed if you don't have a dog.

Having lived in Ronda for seven years, Martin knew enough about Ronda to make me think he'd lived here his whole life. He took me down his street and around the outskirts of the town. It has been under the control of the Romans, Christians, and Muslims, and Spanish, and each has left their mark. Ronda is not only culturally unique but geographically impressive. Sought after not only for its views but a spring on top of the hill, It's easy to see why it was so highly fought over. Today, Ronda is the third most visited place in Spain; where all of Europe comes to vacation. Martin's tour was my favorite tour since I've been in Europe. He seemed to know about everything, which was excellent because I would soon be giving a similar tour.

The entrance to the old city.
The stairs on the left are 3,000 years old!
The Christians destroyed all the mosques' domes and made steeples.
Microsoft background.
A panorama of the old entrance to the city.
Costume or not, I was still the biggest cock.
In order to be considered a gentlemen you have to own a horse.
Here's 'Pene Rock'. Heh heh.
Rooooooollllling hills.
"Just one more step back, you're almost in the frame, Martin!"
A long way down.
Which is the new house? 
Reasons why Ronda is my favorite.
Even the panoramas don't do it justice.
A beautiful system of carefully dug irrigation ditches.
Heat will kill all of the wildlife soon – I was there at the best time of year.
The Romans carved this pathway out of the solid rock.
Not sure how this moss worked but it makes for a great photo.
A house's spring fed sink.
One of the ruins near Ronda's old mill.

When we got home I received an email from my childhood friend, Monica, who I was hoping to meet. She told me that she arrived in Spain safely and gave me a run-down of her itinerary. I couldn't believe it, she was coming to Ronda tomorrow! I went to bed that night thankful to be in such a magnificent place and excited to share it with Monica and David mañana.

It was shortly after 3 by the time we met. Walking to McDonalds, Martin and I bet on whether they would be there or not. Sure enough, there they were, crossing the street with their backs turned to us. Locked onto my target, I took off at a full sprint. Closer, closer, closer... When she turned around it was too late. She screamed and David almost had a heart attack as I picked Monica up and twirled her around. Hugging her and beaming, she started laughing. The feeling was surreal. I never imagined I would see Monica in Europe. What a treat. I introduced Martin and we headed off to get ice cream and coffee.

No matter how long it's been since I've seen any of my friends, when I see them again, I always feel like nothing has changed. It was the same with Monica. I didn't want to talk, I just wanted to enjoy her company. I'm getting all fuzzy reminiscing. Phew!

It was such a pleasure to see Monica and David!

I was excited to share Martin's knowledge by giving Monica and David a tour. Earlier that morning Martin took me for a second tour, down one of the cliffs that Ronda's famous Puente Nuevo bridges. It was an adventure down narrow trails, through crumbling ruins, and across treacherous drops that was not for the faint of heart. As Monica and David worried about getting home before dark, I thought this would be a great route to take them on.

Isn't she the cutest?
David wouldn't follow me across the cliff... What's wrong with him?
Go to Ronda as soon as you can.
Seriously, buy the next plane ticket.
I miss Ronda already!

The tour began well but as it continued, their aversion to danger increased. Finally we came upon a bit where we had to shimmy along a narrow edge with a steep drop below us. It was too much for them so we turned back. "Everyone travels differently," I said. We continued the tour along a more appropriate route but soon it was time for them to go. We had a beautiful time together. Luckily they were staying just minutes away from San Pedro. I knew I would see them again in a few days. With warm hearts we parted ways and I made my way back to Martin's apartment.

The sun sets after an amazing day.

I was looking forward to spending a few days in Ronda, but the next morning Martin told me that I was needed back in San Pedro. Initially I was slightly upset but when I found the girls would be practicing their massage training on me I had my seatbelt buckled in a flash.


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