Christopher Columbus explorations – La Rabida, Andalusia, Spain

This morning it was time to be on the road again so we used the campsite services and hit the road. However we were completely out of fresh supplies so we needed to stop into El Rocio to a supermarket that had been recommended there. So we got to use our nice big tyres on the sand roads of El Rocio even following the route that the Virgin Mary will take on the upcoming pilgrimage under the white flower garlands. The little local supermarket was great too with lots of Iberian jams hung from the ceiling and some of the local foods we had tried in restaurants to buy.

We had toyed with heading to Seville today, but the BBC forecast, which seems to be about 2-3 degrees lower than the actual temperature, was saying 34 degrees for today. That was way too hot for our dogs so we decided to head to the coast. We found just beside Huelva the port where my parents will soon be departing for their home in the Canaries. A small village called Palos de la Frontera which although now landlocked was originally riverside and was the site where Christopher Columbus disembarked for his exploration of the Americas.

As we had not yet had breakfast, we decided to stop off at a picnic area on route. We were on the coast road but could not see the sea due to the sandstone cliffs so stopped off near a nice beach for some brunch.

Next we moved on to our activity of the day, the Dock of the Caravels (Muelle de la Carabelas), which contains three replica ships of those sailed by Christopher Columbus (The Santa María) and two Pinzón brothers (The Pinta and the Niña), a third Pinzon brother was chief navigator on the Santa María. According to our camping apps, we are able to stay overnight on the carpark of the museum so we picked our spot for the night. We were able to leave Lizzy and Lola with aircon running from our Lithium battery bank, topped up from the solar panel.

The replicas of the ships were really impressive to see. It seems they were built for the 500th anniversary in 1992. The museum gives an account of the struggles Columbus to get funding for his idea to try to find a route by heading west to the Far East. In a world where only the learned at the time contemplated that the earth may not be flat. He was turned by the Portuguese, he was living in Madeira with his Portuguese wife. He persuaded King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to fund the trip in a document they signed called the Capitulations of Santa Fe which set out his right to govern the lands he found and his shares of the spoils. What it did not say in the museum but I just read on Wikipedia was after his third trip (1500) there was a dispute with the monarchy that they had gone back on this agreement and Christopher and his descendants embarked on a legal battle against them the first started in 1511, which confirmed his son Diego as Viceroy. However further litigation was filled in 1512 and the legal battles continued until 1790!!

We walked around the replica boats with the high bows and sterns plus very cambered decks. We had heard about how the Portuguese Caravel design had started the age of discoveries when we were in Lisbon. The first landfall in what is now Bahamas was 12th Oct 1492. Apparently the Santa Maria actually foundered on reefs and they left 39 men ashore in the first settlement of Navidad in what is now Haiti. The Niña and Pinta where separated by a storm coming back by the Azores to greet the Spanish royalty. Columbus was on the Niña and had to stop at the Azores and then Lisbon before finally being greeted as a hero in Spain, 32 weeks after they departed. Apparently though Martin Alonzo Pinzon arrived first in Spain on the Pinto at the port of Bayonne but was denied an audience with royalty and died of an unknown illness days later before he was able to meet again with Columbus.

There was a lot of interesting history about the historical accounts which Columbus researched to assist his navigation. This all took place in the Monastery of Rabida just behind where we were parked. So we decided to visit that as well and we were able to walk through the very rooms which Columbus visited to seek advice to form his petitions to the Spanish royalty and to recruit local sailors for his trip.

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