The 10,000 km journey from Lisbon to Cape of Good Hope was at that time the longest journey ever undertaken without the sight of land. Vasco da Gama and his crew had to overcome several challenges of sailing through waters that were not previously known to any European. In April 1498, Vasco da Gama became the first European to land on the Mombasa port in Kenya, which was on their route to India.
When Vasco da Gama’s fleet of ships touched Calicut (now Kozhikode) in May 1948, he became the first ever European to reach India by the sea. He linked Europe to Asia via the ocean route. The Malayalam King of Calicut, Samoothiri (Zamorin), gave him a grand reception. But their relation soured in no time as the gifts that Vasco da Gama had brought could not impress the king. He failed to strike a trade treaty with Samoothiri. But his expedition was highly successful because he took back cargo worth 60 times the cost of his voyage.
During his return trip to Portugal, Vasco da Gama had to face a lot of adversities. One of the lesser known Vasco da Gama facts is that he lost two of his ships and much of his crew. He reached Lisbon on 29 August 1498 and was rewarded by the king for the cargo he brought home. The total distance traveled by Vasco da Gama’s fleet to India and back was the longest ocean voyage at that time. It was much longer than going round the earth following the Equator.
King Manuel I bestowed the explorer with several titles upon his return. According to Vasco da Gama facts, he was made Admiral of the Indian Ocean, and later the Viceroy of Portugal to India. He was also awarded the court title of Dom (Count), and other accolades and wealthy presents. The titles he won are engraved on the epitaph at his final resting place.
Vasco da Gama and his crew had no idea of the trading capacity of the lands they set out to explore. They were scorned by the rulers and locals of the port cities because their goods were of inferior quality. It was only on his second voyage that Vasco da Gama could satisfy trade expectations.
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