A Gibralter Experience – Not To Be Repeated.

A trip to Gibraltar yesterday was an exhausting experience to say the least. My first since the trouble with Spain brewed up, and I witnessed first hand what so many people of late had have had to endure when they visit The Rock, and as the Yanks say, “It ain’t purty”.

The Rock

The Rock

Like many Brits living on the Costa I go there regularly to buy the usual UK things you cannot buy in the Spanish shops, like good old English tea, and of course cigarettes which are much cheaper in Gibraltar than in Spain where they are taxed heavily.

I have to admit that going in was not a problem, for although there is almost always a queue and it takes anything from 30 minutes to an hour to get in, I was lucky today and did it in about 40 minutes. I had heard on the news that people had been queuing for three or four hours just to get in, but thankfully today was a good day.

The Square -  Roy's Fish and Chips The Best Place

The Square – Roy’s Fish and Chips The Best Place

I had parked the car in Morrison’s car park at exactly 13.45 and had three hours before the dreaded clamp men came around. After walking into town I had a wonderful English style fish and chips which went down very well, and then proceeded to do my shopping. When that was finished I made to leave, after filling up the car with fuel (that’s much cheaper there too) and had no trouble until I got to Churchill Avenue which runs past the old airport building. From there it’s not more than about four hundred metres to the frontier so I thought I was doing well and looked forward to a normal exit of perhaps 30-40 minutes. The time was 16.45 and that’s when it all went pear-shaped!

Timeframe Of Leaving Gibraltar

Timeframe Of Leaving Gibraltar

I was soon to find out that the Spanish Customs Authority were up to their nasty tricks again. We waited there until 17.20 when we were allowed into the ‘oval’ leading to the exit into Spain. The oval is maybe 200 metres long and all the vehicles travel down one side, turn 180 degrees at the bottom and then go back up the other side to the gate. It is five lanes wide and the lanes are controlled by police who allow so many cars from each lane at a time in a rotation. This means each lane moves forward so much in turn. Now that is a lot of cars in a relatively small space, but the system does work even when the Spanish are not cooperating.

Packed In Like Sardines In A Can

Packed In Like Sardines In A Can

So, I was in lane 4 and fed into the end of the queue like a good soldier. After about 15 minutes I could see no movement at all from any of them and that was odd. It became apparent in no time that the Spanish were on a ‘go slow’ again. It took a very long time before any of the lanes could move forward. Suffice it to say, it took me until 18.25 for my lane to move forward 100 metres and I still had at least another 300 to go.

It was interesting to note that during the period there was a cameraman and his sidekick going around talking to a few drivers, and it was funny that they always seemed to head straight for any car with Gibraltar plates and an attractive female behind the wheel.

It was somewhat amusing many times when Spanish drivers showed their annoyance by blowing their car horns for the benefit of the Customs on the other side. First one would start, and then another until there was a cacophony of sound for a minute or two. This happened on a regular basis throughout the entire session.

Exhibition To Pass The Time

Exhibition To Pass The Time

At one point I saw people getting out of their cars and staring across the oval at something. Curiosity getting the better of me I joined in, and in the distance I saw a pretty young blonde girl without any top posing on the roof of a car for a  man with a camera on the ground. He took several pictures, but sadly I was too far away to see very much even though I took some with my phone. Damn! It was without doubt a frustrating moment. After she got down I saw a couple of Gibraltar ‘bobbies’ (policemen for the uninitiated) wander over and begin talking to the two. I hope they weren’t arrested, but our police can often turn a blind eye to such things in the interests of common sense.

'Nearly' There

‘Nearly’ There

As the sun disappeared from view after more interminable waiting I finally got to within about 25 yards of the head of my lane near the gate, fully expecting to be there for another 30 to 45 minutes at least, when suddenly cars started streaming through the Customs shed and away. It would seem that the Customs men had made their point and finally given up. Thank goodness!

I finally left Gibraltar at 20.50 after an exhausting four hours waiting in the hot sun along with hundreds of others, including young children, babies and pets, and for what? The interesting thing is that the most people hurt by this exhibition of obstinacy were the Spanish, for nine out of every ten cars there had Spanish number plates. Mind you, there may well have been a few English Spain residents like myself there.

Every shop you go to in Gibraltar employs Spaniards and there are literally thousands who cross the border every day to go to work. You walk the streets in the town and all you hear spoken is Spanish. Many from the local area go there to do their shopping, and especially to buy cigarettes.

Spanish Customs Shed

Spanish Customs Shed

Every time we have been before there has always been a constant stream of motorbikes and scooters with Spanish plates heading for the border. Every one of them always carries a knapsack on their backs, but today, I only saw one person with a bag. Just one! The Spanish government has given as its excuse for this action their wish to stamp out the smuggling of cigarettes into Spain from Gibraltar, and there is a lot of it I agree. But today’s evidence shows that those who do most of the smuggling are the Spanish themselves for it is a good little earner for them. With the crackdown all the bikers have left their cigarette bags at home.

It is clear that the Spanish Governments action is causing tremendous upset for anyone visiting Gibraltar at this time, and to me the reason for it is also obvious. This action, and the current renewed demands of Spain for the return of Gibraltar to their country is nothing more than a blind, for it has totally taken over from the top press stories of a month ago of the state of the economy, the joblessness, and Rajoy’s suspected corruption. These are no longer the topics of conversation in the press, it’s all about Gibraltar. Most of the Spanish people themselves don’t seem to care one way or another about the current spat with the UK.

It will be some time before I go back that is for sure, but once Rajoy has successfully silenced the criticism against him perhaps things will return to normal. The moral of the story is: Never trust a Spanish politician.

Roy.

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