Grant and Susan in Gibraltar

October 9, 1996 - Gibraltar

We are currently in Gibraltar, and are looking to stay awhile. We seem to be able to find most everything we need here, and people speak English - much less work when chasing things down. Also, people are extremely friendly and helpful - we've been escorted down the street and around the block several times now to point the way best. Apartment rents are quite reasonable, about 130 to 150 pounds a week for a fully furnished apartment. The weather's fairly pleasant, their rainy season hasn't started yet.

Gibraltar has lots of shops, mostly duty free liquor and jewellery and electronics for the Spanish tourists. But also bookshops to stock up on English pocketbooks, and we hope to finish off our medical kit here, as well as get checkups and dentist appointments in English.

Anyway, we should have an address here within a couple of days, and hopefully a phone number too. Gee, almost like normal people!

October 11, 1996

We moved in today and the phone is working already so we're online again, albeit at 9600 baud. The place is a studio apartment, and quite cozy, but the building has a swimming pool and is very convenient to everything - not that anything is far away here, but we're within walking distance of the main street and shops, etc.

The person who lived here before left almost everything except clothing, so it's quite homey, and even has a small washing machine in the bathroom, which is very convenient. Of course dryers seem to be unheard of in Europe, so we bought some wire and strung it out the window for a clothesline. And there's a huge Safeway within a ten minute walk, so we're enjoying finding things we haven't seen for awhile (like peanut butter). In the same way that experiencing winter is supposed to make you appreciate spring more, I think the greatest benefit of travelling is that it makes you value the simple things you take for granted at home.

October 31, 1996

Well, the job this week and next is to organize 60 boxes of slides - numbering them, entering them in the database, printing labels at a local computer store and stamping copyright on them before they go to the stock agency - what a job! The boxes for the front of the bike are made, now Grant has to make the frame for them, and still has some work to do on the bike. So, looks like we'll be here for a couple of weeks yet.

November 11, 1996

Grant's off to the shop to work on the bike so I'm at home facing slides to label and various items of gear to sew/mend. Exciting stuff!

Unfortunately, after the barometer dropped like a stone last night, the weather has turned nasty, high winds and it is raining as I look out the window, with whitecaps on the harbour and the far side (Spain) obscured completely. Poor Grant is working partly outdoors (the bike doesn't fit in the shop, so when he has to fit anything on it he has to go outside). At least the temperature is still in the high teens.

Most of the repair work is done, and the additional boxes are in progress, delayed by at least a week chasing around trying to find bits and pieces of things he needs for them. Grant speaks nostalgically of Canadian Tire! The side boxes are built but not anodized yet, and he's working on the frame for them, and the metal tank box is still a cardboard prototype. We'll send you a picture when it's all done, it will be quite a sight.

As for my tasks, I've entered about half the slides in the database, but he has to cull them before I enter them, and he can only do that in the evenings. Then I have to print labels for them and put them on. Meanwhile, I'm Copyright stamping them, which is a tricky little job requiring good concentration. And I still have sewing to do.

So we're realistically expecting it will be the weekend of 22nd November before we leave here. I'm not looking forward to driving north again, that's for sure. When we actually get ready to hit the road, we'll decide on the route.

We've met an interesting couple here, Floyd & Farah Cowan, fellow Canadian itinerants, who've travelled a lot in Asia and North Africa (Farah's Iranian by birth, got out just after Khomeini took over), lived in Cyprus and Japan and are here for about a year. Anyway, we've been to their place a couple of times now, and they've got a lovely apartment with a big balcony on the beach side of the Rock, nice views and fully furnished as well, and only paying 350 pounds a month - but, they had to take a 6 month lease. (We're paying week to week).

Saturday night we went to a "Games Night" at the Cowans' house. There were ten of us all together, (all expat Canadians) some playing Scrabble, some playing Trivial Pursuit, some playing Othello (2 person strategy board game), and a couple in the bedroom playing Hearts on the laptops (ours and the Cowans'). And Floyd had actually made up a "mini-golf" course on their apartment balcony, using plant pots and their barbeque as part of the course. The rules were that you got 3 points for every game you won, 2 points for second and 1 point for third, noted on a score sheet and totalled at the end of the evening.

The groups formed and re-formed for different games, and the more competitive types (not me, though) took it very seriously. Anyway, we stayed much too late (3:30 a.m. for one last game of Scrabble with Floyd, who displayed an amazingly competitive streak). Sunday we were up by noon, but not feeling very energetic all day, so we went out for meals and in the afternoon I helped Grant build the cardboard prototype for the tank box. We don't have TV, though, so at least we aren't wasting time on that. It was costing 10 pounds a week, so we gave it up a couple of weeks ago since all we could get was BBC, which is not very interesting.

There's evidently a fairly large expat community in Gib, with quite a few Canadians. Attracted by the warmth, I expect, and the ability to get by without speaking a foreign language. Gib's tax rates are also fairly low compared to Canada or Europe.

It's funny to hear the (lack of) accents of the Canadians, as they sound quite different from the Gibraltarians' English. The locals will literally start sentences in English, switch to Spanish half way through and back to English, or vice versa. Or two of them will be conversing with each other, one speaking English, one speaking Spanish and obviously both quite comfortable in either. It's quite humorous to hear them talk. I guess that's what being really bilingual is like, though.

We finally spent a few hours on the Rock Tour Sunday afternoon, saw St. Michael's Caves, the Apes (shot a whole roll just of them!), the Siege Tunnels, etc. The apes really are cute, in one place they were climbing all over people's cars and just lolling around enjoying the sunshine, so we got some good shots. The weather was clear and cool, so good for photographs.

Rock of Gibraltar and airport runway (also the road into Gib).

Rock of Gibraltar and airport runway (also the road into Gib)

Now we have done the tourist thing and can focus on just finishing things off so we can get out of here before winter! The only way in a studio apartment to keep it from being a total mess was to put unfinished stuff on shelves with little yellow post-it notes as to what needed to be done with them, and finished stuff into drawers or the lid of the top box. Finally, the stuff on the shelves is down to just a few items! Not having a sewing machine slowed down some things, but my hand sewing is not too bad.

Post-it notes for organising in Gibraltar.

I only have about 10 more rolls of slides to enter (takes about half an hour per roll), then I can go down to the computer store and print the labels on their printer and put them on. Finally, they all have to be copyright stamped, which is a really fiddly operation, but then they're virtually ready to send to the agency. We have over 60 rolls since the Isle of Man, which is a Herculean task. Next time we'll have to be more disciplined and get them processed, cull and enter them in the database before there's too many of them.

November 23, 1996

The new boxes make the bike look really odd - sort of like machine gun holders. But it basically provides lots more SECURE lockable storage capacity for Africa - so we won't have all the pockets etc. which could just be sliced open. For Europe it wasn't too much of a concern, but when you're in countries where the annual income is $300 or less there's no point in tempting fate.

Grant and Mike with the bike and its new boxes in Gibraltar.

Grant and Mike with the bike and its new boxes in Gibraltar

Grant got delayed because the aluminum welding machine broke down where he's getting the welding done. The repair guy has to come from Spain, and the welding shop has been waiting for several days already for him to show up. This is a brand new very expensive machine to do aluminum welding, and they're losing lots of business every day this guy doesn't turn up. I guess they're pretty casual about it in Spain.

The winter seems to be early this year everywhere. We get UK weather reports here on the radio as a matter of routine (British Forces Broadcasting System is one of the two radio stations for Gibraltar), and they've had some nasty winter storms already with them having to use snowmobiles to rescue stranded travelers etc. And Margaret has mentioned small amounts of snow in Victoria and large amounts in the Fraser Valley, so the ski resorts are opening already, earliest season in a long time.

December 16, 1996

Yes, we are indeed off today, Monday - crossed fingers that we don't have any problems with the Spanish border guards. When they see the bike with all the boxes they'll be convinced we're smuggling duty-free cigarettes into Spain from Gibraltar! We expect to be in Barcelona by Wednesday, and we'll be in Barcelona for just under a week, getting the leathers finished and the aluminum boxes anodized.

Seems amazing we've been here this long, but we have met some wonderful people and made good friends, and we are definitely ready for Africa!!!


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