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Gibraltar points out from the southern tip of Spain, offering a perfect vantage point for watching ships as they pass move from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, and vice versa. The coast of North Africa -- Morocco -- is less than 8 miles (13 km) away.

The peninsula has been a British possession since the early 1700s, and the Royal Navy retains a base there to this day.

For the full story about exploring The Rock, check out Tour the Rock of Gibraltar: WWII tunnels, Bond movie location, and more.

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Walk a runway

From Spain, you just walk across the border (if you're not driving, obviously). I didn't even get my passport stamped. I crossed twice each way during my stay, and half the time no one even looked at it.

The only way into Gibraltar, other than by boat, is crossing the airport's runway. Road and foot traffic is halted during takeoffs and landings. It's rare being able to be so close to an active runway. Even stranger, I imagine, for airline passengers, since you can walk from the airport terminal into town.

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Runway sunset

When I first arrived I crossed over from Spain for dinner, and got to see a gorgeous sunset as I walked across the runway.

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Small town

There is a decidedly British feel to Gibraltar, a contrast to the (obviously) Spanish feel of Algeciras and La Línea de la Concepción.

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Heading up

The morning I set off on my hike up the Rock started as overcast. The town reminded me of Monte Carlo, in that it was squeezed between sea and mountain. Where Monte Carlo reeked of old money, Gibraltar just felt like a quiet British seaside town.

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The view gets better

You can tour the Moorish castle that's halfway up the hill (on the left here), but it's fairly underwhelming. If you've visiting this part of the world, chances are you're headed to or coming from the Alhambra Fortress in Granada, which is infinitely cooler.

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Enter the Labyrinth

Up the hill from the castle is the entrance to the WWII tunnels. This small, simple opening belies the complexity within.

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Just a start

The tunnels and man-made caverns near the entrance have photos and diagrams on display showing the long and storied history of the Gibraltar tunnel systems (yes, plural).

One cool picture showed a 93-year-old WWII vet who recognized himself in one of the pictures on display from his time serving in Gibraltar.

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Unused

There are miles and miles of tunnels and caverns, most off limits to civilians. This area curved around the corner and showed more photos from the history of the tunnels, but seemed unused and partially for storage for the museum.

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Staging and storage

Dug over the course of 200 years, the tunnels of Gibraltar stored supplies and troops during many conflicts. This is the largest cavern you get to visit on the tour, and is near the main entrance. It's about as long as an aircraft hanger, but half as wide and not as tall.

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Into the deep

This is a view back towards the entrance. Goodbye daylight!

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Huts in caves

This building in a cave should give you an idea of the size of some of the spaces.

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Long and creepy

A view up one of the long connecting tunnels. There are actually more miles of tunnels in the Rock than there are roads on the surface of Gibraltar.

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Nissen huts

This long tunnel served as the main hospital. To make the spaces a little more livable, troops didn't live against the exposed rock. Instead, structures like the Nissen hut you see down the end were built and used.

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Hours of darkness

This diorama hints at the conditions in the tunnels. Cold, damp and poorly lit. Not exactly the best place for a hospital (or to live in long term).

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Brick and rock

Most of the tunnels you see on the tour are built an an angle. The hospital you saw earlier is lower than these brick buildings, and the ones you'll see in later pictures are higher. It all aids ventilation.

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Barracks

Though this makes it look like there was lots of room to spread out and live, during the war there were far more bunks and troops stationed in the limited space of the tunnels.

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Showers

You didn't get to shower very often, given that the fresh water has been an issue for Gibraltar since the British first took over.

There were some women stationed in the tunnels during WWII (nurses, mostly). They had an armed escort from their bunks to the showers, and then were locked in while showering.

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Old and new

Some of the WWII tunnels connect with older tunnels built in the previous 100-plus years.

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Supplies for 16,000

There were enough supplies to support the entire population of Gibraltar (all military during WWII) for 16 months.

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Intersections

It's bizarre being in tunnels, then stumble into an intersection, which leads off into even more tunnels.

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Spain

At multiple points in the tunnel network, there's access to overlooks like this one, Jock's Balcony.

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Power

This rather creepy setup is one of the generator rooms. I can only imagine the racket when there was actually a diesel engine running in here.

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Out into the air

You leave the tunnel tour a little higher up the Rock than where you entered, where some aging and rusting batteries aim out towards...well actually these were pointed at Spain. Odd, that.

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Unique runway

Here's a shot north where you can see the unique runway, bisected by the only road in or out of the territory.

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Great siege tunnels

Hike up a bit more, and you can enter the caves dug during the 1700 and 1800s. These are, understandably, a lot smaller than the WWII tunnels.

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St George's Hall

St George's Hall is one of the biggest rooms in the older tunnel sections.

Only four of the people you see here are real.

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Loooong tunnel

From St George's Hall you can continue down and along...

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Overlook

Though it feels like you've walked the length of the Rock, you're only about halfway. Note the camouflaged lookout post.

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Bond!

Ever seen "The Living Daylights"? The intro scene takes place on Gibraltar.

Much has changed (as you can imagine) but this gate is in the movie! While Bond, played by Timothy Dalton, is running down hill to catch up with the assassin in a Land Rover he passes this gate (at 0:25 in that video), which you can see as he jumps on the truck.

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Clearing skies

The skies had cleared and sun was beating down. Good thing I'd drank all the water about an hour earlier. Though you walk on paved paths and roads, they're quite steep so the going is slow. Most people take the gondola up, and walk down.

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Down the side

There isn't much on the eastern side of Gibraltar. This hotel being one of the few sights.

Sorry, also, if you don't like heights you should skip this photo. Should I have mentioned that first?

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Africa

The Strait of Gibraltar is far narrower than I'd pictured. That's Africa in the distance.

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Top of the Rock

A view north past the British military installation. It was quite a hike up here, but the view was worth it (as was the snack bar, but then, I was really hungry).

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Chillin'

Macaque monkeys are all over the island. They could not care less about you.

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Southward

The view south. There's actually more to explore on the southern end of the Rock, but I'd taken too long to get to the top, and the other sites were already closed.

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Sunset

The day's clouds treated me to an epic sunset as the sun dipped behind Algeciras.

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Red clouds

With Gibraltar in shadow, the sun still made a show of it behind the moutains.

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Back down

Down is much easier than up, and weaving my way through the stair-separated houses and apartments, my legs reminded me how out of shape I am.

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Rock in the darkness

An amazing day complete, I headed back across the tarmac to Spain and my hotel.

For the full story about exploring the Rock, check out Tour the Rock of Gibraltar: WWII tunnels, Bond movie location, and more.

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