The two ships arrived at Tidore, one of the spice islands, and the king, Almanzor, welcomed them warmly.
Juan Sebastián apologised for the violent acts his men had committed during their journey.
Not all news was good news however. There were not enough cloves and this delayed the loading of the ships. Fear of betrayal on behalf of the islanders caused a nervous Juan Sebastián to urge the king to act as they depended on favourable winds to get them home. Almanzor saw his business in danger and tried to calm everyone's nerves with a ceremony on board the captain ship. The two captains pledged allegiance on the cross, while the king did the same, but swore on an enormous, luxurious copy of the Koran.
A spectacular bird caught Juan Sebastián's attention: the bird of paradise, a sacred animal for the islanders. We believe that Juan Sebastián was the first person to introduce the bird in Europe when he brought back several stuffed examples.
Juan Sebastián compared clove blossom to apple blossom, which he surely knew well from Getaria. He was surprised by the fact that, in spite of an abundance of spices, the island-dwellers lived in relative poverty. Nonetheless, on his return, he also conveyed his admiration to the Emperor's secretary for the peace and calm of the natives way of life.
Even though the wine, bread and oil produced in the sixteenth century was similar to today's foodstuffs, there were many other foods which had a far less efficient production process and whose price seems exorbitant to us today. One such example is chicken, which used to cost the equivalent of a day's wages. The same thing happened with gold which, at the start of the sixteenth century was an estimate five times more valuable than it is today. Even more extreme was the price of silver, which was essential for minting new coins, and was thirty-five times today's value.
With spices everything was tastier and easier to digest. Some spices were a luxury, but in truth there were spices for every purse. If you couldn't afford pepper, then the tip of a ginger root, which was much cheaper, would give you a similarly tasty dish.
Thanks to the powerful nature of their active ingredients, a pinch is enough to enjoy their virtues, and this is what finally made spices affordable. For a few coins, a family could make up a cough syrup for their son or a liquor to clear the cloudy vision of their grandfather. The women of the house made up toothpaste to take away their bad breath, and everybody enjoyed the food which was now more tasty and aromatic.
It is just not true that spices were worth their weight in gold. If that had been the case, nobody would have been able to do business with them - the cloves which the Victoria brought home were sold at three hundred times less than their weight in gold.
Nevertheless, business was profitable because as this was agricultural produce, it was incredibly cheap in origin. So the 1,000 maravedis invested in buying cloves in the Spice Islands would become 100,000 maravedis when those cloves were sold in Europe, even taking into account the expenses of the journey.