History Lives Through Nelson’s Challenge Tour

Mon, May 12th, 2014 - By Colin

Muskets were firing, bodies were falling, and swords were clashing, and at one stage a soldier threw me a musket which nearly dwarfed me. I had gone back in time to 1797 when Horatio Nelson tried to invade Santa Cruz, I didn’t need a time machine as I was on the Nelson’s Challenge tour.

 

The Nelson Experience

 

Plaza de España was the starting point and as our guide Alejandro pointed out in Spanish and English, we were at centre stage of the third failed British invasion of Tenerife. After a scene-setting introduction we descended under the plaza to see the remnants of the Castillo de San Cristobal, one of the main defences against sea attack. There’s not much left of the old castle wall but the chambers have display panels showing a much longer history of Santa Cruz than just its most famous battle. The star attraction is the Tigre canon that played such a big part in repelling Nelson.

 

El Tigre, the canon that took Nelson's arm

 

The castle centre contains lots of historical information and I had also read quite a bit about the gallant Admiral but our guide went way beyond that, an impressive depth of knowledge and lots of supporting factual nuggets and anecdotes to add colour to the story.

After 30 minutes we came up and transferred onto the coach which took us to the southern entrance of Santa Cruz and the Castillo de San Juan, also known as the Black Castle. On the short journey we were shown a video of the attempt to take Santa Cruz with a mix of maps, photos, and live action. The founder of the tour, Teodoro Rios is a film director and founder of the society that keeps the memory of the battle alive. Each year on 25 July is La Gesta, when they stage events and re-enactments around the city and the dramatic scenes on the video were just a taster for what was to unfold.

 

The Nelson Experience

 

The castle, between the Auditorio and the Parque Maritimo, was flying the Spanish flag as the guard let us in. The captain was in his office quarters and a disgraced soldier was in the cell while other troops were in their cramped sleeping quarters. We were given the run of the place and were right in the thick of it as the troops sprang into action to defend threats from within and without. Even minus real ammunition the muskets made quite a noise and produced smoke and a sense of power. The children on the tour were loving it, especially being recruited into the parade during a lull in the action.

 

The Nelson Experience

 

It was a tremendous show and the actors skillfully made us feel like more than mere spectators. History can be a little dry even with an event that is so important in the history of Tenerife but this will implant the facts and figures with a real feel for the battle and the key places. As the soldiers cleaned their muskets and tended their “wounds” we got our coach back to Plaza de España about 90 minutes after we stepped back in time.

Nelson’s Challenge; every Saturday at 11am and noon from Plaza de España, Santa Cruz; €23 adults, €13 children, group rates available and discounted rates for Canary Islands residents.

Posted : Monday, May 12th, 2014 at 9:57 am
Category : days out
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