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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The ruins of Gordejuela in Tenerife, rated among the most beautiful on the planet

Elevador de la Gordejuela Maesi64, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Social media has made this corner of Los Realejos, where the island's first steam engine was installed, into an international phenomenon

At first glance it looks like an abandoned castle, an enchanted mansion, or the secret lair of a pirate ... The centuries-old ruins of the Gordejuela water lift, on the Los Realejos coast, have unintentionally become a new tourist attraction in the town, since photos and videos of this evocative corner have been shared around the world through social networks.

Civitatis, the leading company in the sale of guided tours, excursions and free tours, has prepared a list that includes some of the most beautiful abandoned places on the planet. And in first place on that ranking appear the ruins of Gordejuela. The rickety walls of this great complex built at the beginning of the 20th century, where the first steam engine on the island of Tenerife was installed, resist imposingly against the swell of the Atlantic Ocean, forming a postcard picture that is impressive from the first glance. On that international list, Gordejuela rivals other extraordinary ruins in beauty, such as Bannerman Castle (USA), Rubjerg Knude Fyr lighthouse (Denmark), Kolmanskop (Namibia), Belchite (Zaragoza), Salar de Uyuni ( Bolivia) and the ghost town of Bannack (Montana. USA).

For decades, the ruins of the water lift remained forgotten and practically unknown to outsiders to Los Realejos. They began to become popular as a result of the conditioning of the tourist trail, up to the nearby Rambla de Castro, by the council and the Cabildo. The path connects this natural setting with Playa Los Roques and the Punta Brava neighbourhood, in Puerto de la Cruz. Halfway there are the ruins of Gordejuela, at the bottom of a steep ravine, attached to the cliff, on the almost wild beach of La Fajana.

The conditioning of the path along this coastal strip, of great natural and scenic beauty, immediately attracted both tourists and the people of the island, to the point that the Rambla de Castro is currently one of the most visited corners of Tenerife. As a consequence of the growing popularity of the trail, the expansive effect of social networks and the internet arrived very soon, where the spectacular landscapes of Castro and Gordejuela are the usual setting for reports and videos of all kinds. One of them, in particular, went viral years ago when a young man appeared who was walking on the edge of the abyss on one of the walls of the ruins of the water lift, while he was recorded from a drone. Images like this definitely turned Gordejuela into a point of attraction for the curious and lovers of adventure.

At present, the ruins of Gordejuela lack any specific protection. The building still stands without the roof, which fell in decades ago, as did the wooden floors on the different levels. Nor does it retain the arches, doors or windows, and the lower gaps have been bricked up by the council for security reasons. The Asociación Hispania Nostra, a non-profit organization dedicated to the defence, safeguarding and enhancement of Spain's cultural and natural heritage, has included it on the Red List of Heritage due to the risk of collapse.

The mayor of Los Realejos, Manuel Domínguez, welcomes the idea of this place being used as an interpretation centre on the use of water in Tenerife, but given the scale of the project to rehabilitate the property, it would only be feasible if the Cabildo and the Government of the Canary Islands collaborated on it. Therefore, at the moment that idea is more a dream.

The truth is that the ruins of the Gordejuela elevator are a historical and cultural treasure in Los Realejos, an important vestige of the industrial history of the Canary Islands. For this reason, and in order to avoid its definitive disappearance, promote its enhancement and, in addition, guarantee the safety of the many visitors who come to the vicinity, it has been proposed to the Los Realejos council that they initiate procedures for its declaration as an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC).

AN HISTORICAL MILESTONE

The Hamilton family, still of great importance in Tenerife, arrived on the island at the beginning of the 18th century. They were producers and exporters of bananas, tomatoes and potatoes, had a shipping company and operated coal ships. They were co-founders of CD Tenerife, the Hotel Taoro and the Real Club Náutico. In addition, they were responsible for the construction of the Semáforo de Igueste former semaphore station and, also, of the Elevador de Aguas de Gordejuela.

In 1898, the company Hamilton & Co. established the Sociedad de Aguas de la Gordejuela, whose objective was to exploit the existing springs on the coast of Los Realejos, in the area that owes its name to its first owner and founder of the convents of Los Realejos, the gentleman Juan de Gordejuela y Mesa. The work of the elevator, located in an old gofio mill, marked a milestone in its time because the first steam engine on the island of Tenerife was installed inside it. In 1902, the prospect of rising prices led the company to buy all the shares in the company. From that date on, a station with steam pumps was built to lift some 10,000 pipes a day - 8,000 cubic meters - to a reservoir located 270 meters high, through an iron pipe two kilometres long. For the subsequent distribution through the La Orotava Valley, a twelve-kilometre aqueduct was built.

The industry consisted of two units: the first, apart from a warehouse and the party house, had another house, with a 50 meter high chimney, in which the steam engine was located. The other building, the most representative of the complex, was at the time one of the largest in Tenerife, with five levels. The work, which was projected and supervised by the military engineer José Galván Balaguer, was described in its time as "the work of the Romans." La Laguna journalist Leoncio Rodríguez published an article in the newspaper El Progreso, under the pseudonym of Luis Roger, in 1908, after visiting the place, which he described as follows: "on a cliff cut across the sea, at the mouth of a huge and deep ravine, it will not be able to express the magnitude of the undertaking, nor will it give an exact idea of ​​the material efforts or the display of intelligence that its execution reveals".

The total cost of the installation exceeded one million pesetas at the time, which placed the promoter company in a delicate financial situation. In addition, economic expectations varied due to the international situation, which affected the fruit trade. In order to guarantee a remuneration for the investment, they opted to lease it in 1910 to Elder & Fyffes, and then sell it to them in 1919. The technological advances of the following years made it necessary to change the lifting method, which made the complex as it had been, unnecessary and was gradually abandoned.

A century later, and despite the dilapidated state of that pioneering complex, these words written by Leoncio Rodríguez are still valid: “Here is the spectacle of Gordejuela; where science is twinned with poetry and where life seems to feel the breath of tragedy”. 

Eligen las ruinas de Gordejuela entre las más bellas del planeta

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