Goodbyes at Gibraltar Before a House Sit in Spain

Sunday lunch at the Nelson in Casemate's Square with a pint or three of Old Speckled Hen. Heaven.
Sunday lunch at the Nelson in Casemate's Square with a pint or three of Old Speckled Hen. Heaven.

Zagan the motorhome’s facing the sheer white face of the Rock of Gibraltar for his third morning in a row, watching Monarch flights taking off and landing on the Rock’s air strip just ahead. After almost three months in Morocco our last few days there were spent a little fixated on the idea of roast dinners and, for me and Phil, a few pints of real ale in a British pub. Gib delivered, and we ate and quaffed in a somewhat giddy state, made even giddier when Phil, the man who haggled a Moroccan man down from 45p to 5p for a second hand serving spoon, went and coughed up for the entire (massive after Moroccan prices) bill! Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re at the official motorhome aire in the marina alongside La Línea de la Concepción, and it costs €12 per 24 hours with services, but without electricity (N36.156372, W5.356651). Our 12V system remains fully working, insh’allah.

Phil and Jules leaving the aire at La Linea in Big Ben this morning
Sunday lunch at the Nelson in Casemate's Square with a pint or three of Old Speckled Hen. Heaven.
Sunday lunch at the Nelson in Casemate’s Square with a pint or three of Old Speckled Hen. Heaven.

Morocco was, to me, again an education. Getting first hand experience of the Muslim world, and of a developing country, is both a serious method to get a handle on media reports, and to also learn something about my own country and subsequently who I am as a person. Morocco threw up a myriad of questions to me while I was there. Government structure, corruption, class systems, healthcare, poverty, education and literacy, water treatment, domestic security, architecture, road building, religious tolerance, waste disposal, food and cooking, distribution of wealth, animal welfare, female equality, you name it, it all whirled in my mind and sprang out into conversations with Ju, Phil and Jules and other travellers we met along the way. The fundamental question beneath all of this is: “how can Morocco be how it is?” But that mind-bending question’s behind us now, for the time being at least, we’re moving on.

Here's me and Phil, moving on from Morocco.
Here’s me and Phil, moving on from Morocco, with some Old Speckled Hen.

The last time we left Morocco I felt flat, sad that a huge adventure (which it was for us) was over. It had taken a good deal of our meagre supplies of courage to get us over there, and we lived in sheer elation at times during our one month tour. This time, having now spent five and a half months travelling across North Africa (Morocco and Tunisia), we’re feeling quite comfortable to be here in Spain. Both places are quite shockingly different, especially given the fact I can see Morocco from a short walk way. Suddenly we’re able to walk about in shorts and T shirts (and even strappy tops for Ju). We can sit in public and drink a beer. We can walk Charlie without nippers all legging it over and staring at him. We can walk about a town without the ubiquitous calls of “hello? bonjour? wie gehts? where you from? first time in Morocco?” We don’t have to cope with the endless moral dilemmas posed by beggars and sights of the very poor. But the flip side is, of course, the fact we’re now in normality. It’s not as exciting to be here, but it’s not as mentally demanding either.

Morocco is a still a stretch for Ju and I, and we’ve had a real roller coaster of a three months, but we’re not unhappy it’s over. If we were, we’d stock up on beer and bacon, get another ferry ticket and sail back over there tomorrow; as EU citizens we can spend up to 6 months in any 12 months there without applying for residency. We’re not though, we’re feeling happy to be back in Europe, and Ju’s engineered another opportunity for us to try out a slightly different lifestyle for a while, which has injected a sudden newness into what we’re doing.

Last night at the aire a farewell feast was laid on. Four motorhomes who’d spent time together in Morocco came together for a beautiful curry, a few beers and a few yarns. Today the inspirational mother and daughter pair Sarah and Tabitha headed off towards Portugal. Our mates Phil and Jules have a date with an Italian ski slope/mountain bar in three weeks, and have blasted off east along the southern Spanish coast. Swiss couple Jurg and Margot are still here, having nipped into Gib today for their first taste of the British-themed Disney Land of a place.

How's that! Jurg delivers a delicious ground coffee to our van on the way to the service point. Perfect.
How’s that! Jurg delivers a delicious ground coffee to our van on the way to the service point. Perfect.
Gibratar: more British than Britain. It has replica post boxes across the place for different regents!
Gibratar: more British than Britain. It has replica post boxes across the place for different regents!
And, being in charge of all of its own affairs but for foreign policy and defence, has low tax levels. Fuel costs the same as Morocco and Spaniards queue at a booth just inside the UK border to buy cigs
And, being in charge of all of its own affairs but for foreign policy and defence, has low tax levels. Fuel costs the same as Morocco and Spaniards queue at a booth just inside the UK border to buy cigs

Although we may well meet up with Phil and Jules again in July at a stage of the Tour de France, tears fell when they left. They were ever-cheerful friends during Xmas in Algarve, encouraged and cajoled us into running in Fes and Marrakech, were a steady sounding board for the inevitable debates about Morocco and Moroccan life, and fed us endless vegetables, which we’d never normally eat. Phil and Jules were also one of our role models back when we were attempting to engineer a dream lifestyle, and we can’t thank ’em enough: have fun guys, keep on ‘truckin’. About that Mercedes chassis though? Are you sure? Flog it, get yourself a trusty Fiat. :-)

So, what’s next for us? As the title gives away, we’re giving house sitting a go. This is a bit of a weird concept, but it’s a win-win scenario for many people. Say you have a house and a pet or three, and want to go away for a few weeks, maybe for work or to travel. You may not want or be able to take your pets with you, and don’t want to put them in kennels. Also, you want or need someone to be living in the house to help secure it, keep your insurance people happy, to look after the garden and so on. What’s the answer? You advertise your house on a site like trustedhousesitters.com, and someone like us two applies to come and live in your house (typically with no exchange of money – we’re not renting the place or charging for our services either). That’s what we’re up to: Ju’s found a couple with a villa in the hills north of Malaga who have three pooches who need looking after for about 6 weeks. We had a Skype interview last night and got the gig, which starts tomorrow! No messing, we’re straight up there tomorrow afternoon after stocking up on Morrisons’ sausages and bacon. So, we’ll be going quiet for a while now as we stay put, chill out and house sit. However we’ll be sure to let you know how we found house sitting as it looks like a great way to complement motorhome life – a few more photos before I go.

Gibraltar's been British for about 300 years (the USA's only been independent for about 230 years). Article 50 was invoked a few days ago to start devolving the UK from the EU, which has caused some nerves in the press about Gibraltar, but there aren't 1000 Union Flags flapping about down here or demonstrations on the streets.
Gibraltar’s been British for about 300 years (the USA’s only been independent for about 230 years). Article 50 was invoked a few days ago to start devolving the UK from the EU, which has caused some nerves in the press about Gibraltar, but there aren’t 1000 Union Flags flapping about down here or demonstrations on the streets.
A notice alongside the marina here. Someone's clearly not happy with Mario...
A notice alongside the marina here. Someone’s clearly not happy with Mario…
La Linea's not much of a town to look at. It seems half the folks here work in Gib, and walking about on the rock conversations between locals flip weirdly mid sentence between English and Spanish and back again
La Linea’s not much of a town to look at. It seems half the folks here work in Gib, and walking about on the rock conversations between locals flip weirdly mid sentence between English and Spanish and back again
Gibraltar (I love the fact the name of the place has an Arabic origin - derived from Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), Jabal being the Arabic for mountain.
Gibraltar creates its own clouds! I love the fact the name of the place has an Arabic origin – derived from Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), Jabal being the Arabic for mountain.
Easter is coming to Spain, and with it some wee men dressed strangely like KKK members off to a black tie do.
Easter is coming to Spain, and with it some wee men dressed strangely like KKK members off to a black tie do.

Cheers, Jay

P.S. We’ve filled up on LPG in Algeciras and had only used 20 litres of our LPG system’s 34 litre(ish) capacity in almost 3 months in Morocco. That was mainly down to us using campsites with showers and electrical hook-up for the fridge.

P.P.S Our MiFi is back up and running for Internet access. It wouldn’t work with a Maroc Telecom SIM in it (no one knows why not, some MiFi devices would work, some would not), so we had to put the SIM into a phone and create a mobile hot-spot with it. As this meant we lost use of the 4G antenna on our roof, we sometimes had a slow connection and had to put the phone on the roof with a cable to keep it charged, a bit of a faff. Not any more, the MiFi is again working, with a Three UK Feel at Home SIM, permanently charged from our 12V system and with Internet signal boosting from the antenna. Fantastic.

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6 Comments

  1. Great write up Jay – it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to be your travelling,running, drinking buddy for the last few months. Until we meet again ……Bon courage x

  2. Congrats Guys on a successful and superb recount of your lap around Morocco! You are an inspiration and provide a psychological “nudge” to us to grasp the nettle in our Hymer too. Were the lack of referrals an issue in lining up a house sit, as we’d like to do same in France or Spain after a bit more moho’ing? Enjoy the house sit while you freshen up your blog/book/life! Awesome :-)

  3. Great update as always. We have been house and pet sitting for over 10 years now all over the world and would highly recommend! 😊 Don’t hesitate to get in touch should you need any advice/tips etc.
    Have fun😎😎

    • Thanks guys. Just started our first sit today. The dogs and the villa are wonderful! Just getting to grips with pool cleaning and chemicals, while supping a cold beer in the sun looking out over a mountain village. Feels too good to be true! Jay

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