The church at Zipaquira
So on New Years day I headed back to Zipaquira to finally see the salt cathedral, assured that it would be open by the posted schedule that I saw. Another 20 minutes on the Transmillenio, an hour by bus, and a fifteen minute walk and I was there with a ticket in hand. It was amazing how deserted the streets of Bogota were in the late morning, it was almost eery. I entered the underground labrynth of the salt cathedral and there was a series of crosses carved into the stone in various forms as you continuously make your way further down underground. I didn´t really understand much of what the tour guide was saying as it was difficult to understand the spanish echoing off the cavernous stone walls.
Another carved cross
Eventually we reached the overlook for the main cathedral, an immense room with wooden benches and and a huge cross carved into the stone wall at the back with various lighting effects creating a great scene. Soon the room filled up with people attending the service and I began to wander back up to the surface. Many of the pictures that I had scene of the salt cathedral were of the old version, which was ornately decorated to the point where it made the cave unstable and the area was sealed off. That was in 1985 and since then this new one had been constructed, though it is much less elaborate, its shear size was impressive.
When I surfaced to the bright mid-day sun I sat down to look at the map of Bogota and decide what I was going to do next. While sitting there, a Colombia family came up to me and asked if I needed help.
The underground church at Zipaquira
He spoke English pretty well and so we talked for a while and I spoke with his and their children and his wife´s parents a little in Spanish. They asked if I wanted to come back to Bogota with them to a New Year´s party. So we show up at their friend´s appartment in Bogota and I walk in with them while everyone is staring at me. We proceed to go up to the rooftop where they are busy grilling all sorts of meat and vegetables and they are hanging around talking and enjoying the nice weather. Of course they introduced me to everyone and we waited for the food to finish cooking while I talked with the guy about various things. When the food came his wife´s mother made sure that I tried everything, there was lots of steak, various sausages, potatoes, and other things that I couldn´t identify.
The blacklit salt ceiling
When I asked what the one sausage was, it had rice and peas and a red paste in it, he said it didn´t really translate but said that I should try it. I tasted it and it was pretty good. Then I asked him what the red stuff was inside it and he said, oh that´s the blood of the pig. After eating we played a traditional Colombia game called Tejo which involves throwing a metal disk that weighs about 2 pounds towards a sloped board covered in clay. At the center there is a metal ring and at the top and bottom two explosive triangels. Normally you throw from very far distances like 30 yards or so, but since we were on a rooftop it was only possible to throw from about 20 feet. The object is to hit the explosive and make it explode, but you also score points for hitting the center of the ring and for being the closest to the center.
The Colombian family that adopted me for the afternoon
It was pretty fun and the loud bang that happens when you hit the explosive is pretty startling. We played several games and I was able to hit the explosive a few times, so not too bad for the first time. As it began to get dark everyone started to leave so the Colombians took me to the bus station to get a bus ticket to San Agustin
. I thought that they would merely drop me off there but they parked the car and came inside with me and helped me buy a ticket. It was quite an ordeal because the bus terminal in Bogota is rather big and it has separate terminals for each direction that you are going. So after finding the south terminal there were about 20-30 different companies there. I asked how do you know which company goes where and apparently you don´t, you have to go up and ask each one.
The Tejo board with two white explosive triangles and green clay
Quite the system they have developed. But I was able to get a ticket and then the Colombians were nice enough to drive me home which was more than generous. They said that I could stay with them the next time I was in Bogota.
So far on my trip I have been very lucky and have met some really great people and it has definitely made my trip much more enjoyable. While traveling has much to offer such as the opportunity to see and experience a wealth of different things, the problem with traveling is that you are doing just that, traveling. And when you travel, you are always leaving something behind, whether it be a unique place or fun people, the only consolation is the expectation and hope that your next destination holds more of the same.