Built by the British the Med Steps were originally designed as part of their military communications system and to allow access to their various defence posts on the southern side of the Rock (Wikipedia); today, however, after being restored in 2007 they are now used by civilians as a pedestrian route to access amazing views over the Straits and of Gibraltar’s Eastern beaches as well as Europa Point and beyond.
The Med Steps are also such a wonderful place to ‘just be’; to be yourself, to be you, or in my case to be me. Like most people much of my life is spent being someone or something for someone else whether that’s as an employee, a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a friend, the list is endless. Though all of those relationships are very much a blessing to me I still cherish ‘me-time’ (when I can get it) and where better to spend a bit of solitude than on the Med Steps under a Mediterranean sun.
As I lay back and pondered (to the sound of tweeting birds and the occasional wave) thinking I’d died and gone to heaven someone suddenly said: “Excuse me, can you take our photo please?”. Two young women on the challenge wanted the first of many photos taken on their way round; I know it was the first of many because I took quite a few more of them later in the route. Having said that they too took photos of me (including my RockHeart profile photo seen at the top of every post – and by the time we all eventually get to the top we do become fair friends who I’m still in touch with today). For now though I took their photo with Europa Point in the background and they then shot off (wearing all the latest climbing gear) leaving me to continue my bumbling onwards and upwards dressed in chop-offs, badly fitting sandals, a ‘Why Aye Man’ tee shirt and a hat.
Naturally many people doing the challenge that day were locals who knew the route like the back of their hand and judging by the way they overtook me they were doing the challenge against the clock. For me though every step was one into a new world that I’d never been into before and I wasn’t about to blink and miss it. Whenever I heard athletes behind me I just stepped to the side to let them charge past but moreover I spent most of the time just sitting down and soaking up the views. Every view I looked at invoked a different emotion which (in that environment) I was able to examine safely; I sat down next to wild poppies for a while which (apart from being my absolute favourite little flower) reminded me of my birth father who had survived being shot in the head during WW2 only to develop schizophrenia as a result of it. Looking out at the ships passing by reminded me of my own ten years service in the Royal Navy and some of the amazing countries I had visited during that time.
Periodically my two new ‘friends’ would either wait for me to catch up (to take their photo) or offer to push me when the going started to get a bit tough – for example when the steps were so deep I had my knees in my mouth. The blend of ‘me-time’ to myself and shared time with others was really nice; as well as having the space to examine deep seated feelings I also felt as though other people were watching out for me and that I ‘sort of’ belonged? Feeling like I ‘sort of’ belonged was better than feeling like I didn’t; in fact it was very touching.
If I’d never been to Gibraltar in my life and suddenly found myself up on the Med Steps looking down on the Eastern beaches I’d think I was in a dream; and so to be revisiting after 40 YEARS to find it was still the paradise I had left behind was a moment so special to me I find it difficult to put into words. And so I won’t even try. On this occasion you’ll just have to take my word for it.