During the night, La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, is mystically blinking with lights in the black ocean, and in the daytime it is often hidden by clouds and cannot be seen at all. This is the very piece of land from which the great conqueror of the oceans, Сhristopher Columbus, departed in search of the sea lane to India, but accidentally discovered America.
At the end of the 15th century, Isla La Gomera, lost in the Atlantic Ocean 1500 km away from the Peninsula, had become the last European station of Christopher Columbus’s ships before the trip from the Canary Islands, Spain, to the shores of an unknown continent. That is why the island has the second name, Isla Colombina. Plus, this historical event is supplemented by the love affair of Columbus and Beatriz de Bobadilla, governor of the island!
Today our story is about Christopher Columbus and Beatriz de Bobadilla. This love affair happened in 1492. One of Columbus’s ships leaked and the fleet had to make a forced stop at Isla La Gomera. Columbus was only 41 years old. He was above average height with a strong, healthy figure, blue eyes, an acute mind, the gift of the gab, and versatile experience.
The future vice-king of the new lands yielded to the charms of the bored widow, who held the position of the island’s governor and felt sincerely glad to see a decent man on her piece of land. The romance with Beatriz was short, but lively. Columbus’s ships stayed at the island from August 9th until September 6th, 1492, and then started their passage over the Atlantic Ocean, setting a course for the west.
Nobody knows whether it was a serious leak, or the ruler of the island was so charming, but the beginning of the expedition to the new lands was put off for a whole month. Judging by a poorly preserved portrait, Beatriz was really pretty. By the way, Сhristopher came back to the island in 1498, but the beauty had already married another conquistador.
The capital of the island–San Sebastian de La Gomera–is a small town. All the sightseeing is concentrated within the Calle Real and as you might understand is connected with the name of Christopher Columbus.
Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. This is the church where Columbus prayed before his journey to the banks of yet undiscovered America. Casa de Colon on Calle Real, 56. This is the house where the mariner stopped. And they will show you Pozo de la Aguada in the inner yard of the building of the former Customs Casa de Aduana. It is said that the Spanish fleet took the drinking water from this well. The inhabitants of the island are very proud of this fact, and the well is being kept as a relic. An inscription nearby says, “With this Water, America was Baptized.”
Of course, you’re going to see the tower where, according to the guides’ stories, Columbus secretly met with the governor of La Gomera. I’m afraid that a tower so insufficient for such needs is just a fiction for the tourists. Unattractive and tiny, Torre del Conde is the sole preserved fragment of the fortifications of the conquistadors’ epoch, and is more likely reminiscent of the other tragic events that occurred on the island before the arrival of the Columbus’s fleet.
Beatriz de Bobadilla, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Isabella of Castile, was quite successful in combining her official duties as maid-of-honor and the role of the lover of the Queen’s spouse, until her direct employer proposed that she choose: to lose her head or to leave the Royal Household, preferably forever.
The King was gallant enough to take care of the former lover: Beatriz de Bobadilla was at once bestowed with marriage to the governor of Isla La Gomera and deported to the Canary Islands, located somewhere in the ocean. The union of a former lover of a king and a governor free of any morality was quite harmonic, and lasted until the rebellious aboriginal Guanches killed their dissolute ruler. The seduction of their princess turned out to be the last straw for the usually non-aggressive aborigines.
During the rebellion of the locals, the widow of governor Hernán Peraza the young (~1460-1488), Beatriz de Bobadilla, barricaded herself, children, and other Spanish settlers within the walls of Torre del Conde and sat there until help arrived from Gran Canaria. Beatriz exacted cruel revenge for the assassination of her young spouse by killing almost all male Guanches.
The Canary Islands are called the archipelago of eternal spring, and tourists come here during the whole year. Some arrive to wait out winter, others to entertain themselves by climbing the highest mountain of Spain, the sleeping volcano Teide. By the way, the volcano is quite active; this giant is just sleeping now.
It was the second week for us on the island of Tenerife in the Atlantic Ocean. We have already enjoyed the legendary Spanish flamenco and the famous killer whales’ show in Loro Parque. We have even managed to reach the sky-high top of Teide. Isla La Gomera was the only place left to visit. Tenerife and La Gomera islands are separated from each other by only 30 kilometers and connected by regular ferry service. That’s why the majority of tourists come to La Gomera for a one-day excursion lasting for 10 hours. Unfortunately, the guides devote their attention to the history of the island only during the last hour. What about the other nine hours? Two for the ferry crossing, one for lunch, and the other six hours are fully devoted to the exploration of the local landscape.
The fact is that there is a piece of unique old-growth forest preserved on La Gomera, where you can find 400 species of plants which disappeared in Africa and Europe millions of years ago. So, you are going to spend the whole six hours in search of these very species.
After leaving the ferry and the harbor, the procession of tourist buses starts to drive slowly up the mountains. The destination point is Garajonay National Park with its subtropical laurel forest preserved in a small territory. Two million years ago such forests covered all of modern Europe, and now they are left only here, on the Azores and the Madeira Islands. The guide promised something incredible. We were waiting for it. Just in case, Irina, like all the others, was fussing over the ravines and taking photos of everything she was able to see. My wife had an iron logic–what if those were the rare endemics?
As you might guess, the unique ecosystem doesn’t tolerate interference from outside, and the greater part of the park is closed to visitors. That’s why tourists have to be content with a short stop at the spot called La Laguna Grande. Only for thirty minutes, we were allowed to stay at the fenced spot in order to look into the depths of the forest and wonder at the fancily inclined trees. My God, the tourists are so trusting.
If you do not practice applied botany and are barely able to distinguish between a chamomile and a blowball, think twice whether such a trip is interesting for you. Maybe it is better to go to the island by yourself and view all the historic places. This is our modest photo trophy; the guide paid a special attention to this herb.
As for us, we were looking forward to returning to the capital of La Gomera, but it seemed as if our bus was moving so slowly on the way back, and we were still awaiting the continuation of the story about the great mariner.
Few can be compared with Columbus when it comes to the number of stories related to his life and the number of unexplored facts in his biography. Many geographical objects bear his famous name: the country in South America, the Federal District and the river in the USA, the Canadian province, the capital of Sri-Lanka, and unofficially, Isla La Gomera.
Christopher Columbus was a constant wanderer. I mean constant: the vice-king and governor-general of all lands he discovered, had never found his eternal rest on earth. Most probably, the grave of the great mariner is lost forever.
Instead of this history, most of the time during the excursion to La Gomera you will be forced to listen to very interesting things about some rare plants.