Up early this morning to prepare for our outing. Jorge picked us up around 9:30am to take us to the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral.
The drive was relatively uneventful – traffic wasn’t too heavy. We headed north and turned off the main road just out of Bogota. We stopped at the town square in a small town called Cajica, but the coffee shop we were planning to stop at for morning tea was closed, so we decided to continue to Zipaquira instead.
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira is an underground Roman Catholic church built into the tunnels of an old salt mine, 200m below ground. Apparently, while it receives up to 3,000 visitors on Sundays to attend services, it actually has no official status as a “cathedral” in Catholicism – the name is mostly for the benefit of the tourists.
Rather than wait for an official tour, Jorge was able to act as our tour guide to the mine – he regularly brings tourists here, so knows the mine well.
We headed down into the mine along a wide, smooth road – I’m not a huge fan of mines and caves, but the ceilings were fairly high and it was not very claustrophobic at all.
Near the entrance to the church were 14 small chapels, representing the stations of the cross. Various crosses, either sculptured or carved into the rock, adorn this area.
At this point, we were feeling a bit disappointed by the whole thing – if this was all there was to see, it was a bit underwhelming.
However, we then continued down to a viewing platform over the main hall, with a huge cross carved into the wall at one end, with an altar, pulpit and pews making the main part of the cathedral where services are held. The area was massive, especially when you remembered we were so far underground.
What is more impressive was the distinct lack of supporting beams or other structural elements anywhere – the Halite mine is quite able to support itself without such requirements.
We continued down further into the mine and were able to wander through the main part of the cathedral, where the size and scale of the architecture was truly impressive.
We eventually headed back up to the surface, and headed off to find some lunch – Jorge took us to a small restaurant nearby.
While we were waiting for our food, something on the TV up on the wall of the restaurant caught Jorge’s eye.
Apparently, there had been a car bombing back in Bogota, not all that far from our hotel. Some political radicals had targeted one of the ex-ministers who was very outspoken against the rebels. We found out later that the attacker had ridden a motorbike along side the car and placed the bomb directly on the roof, then sped off. The target survived with relatively minor injuries, but his driver and bodyguard were killed. Reports said that around 40 people had been injured in the blast – it was in a fairly busy area. We were surprised to see how little coverage the attack got back in Australia – some of the international news outlets gave it coverage, but there was no mention at all on the ABC website.
After lunch, we headed into the main square of Zipaquira and found a small coffee shop where we enjoyed some afternoon tea, before heading back to Bogota.
Just out of Bogota, we were stopped at a police checkpoint – these are everywhere in Bogota, but they seem to only randomly choose people to stop, unless they are specifically looking for someone or something. Jorge had quite a chat to the officer – he seemed quite interested in our kids, Jorge explained about the adoption process and where we were from and what we had been doing. There had been a bit of negative media attention towards adoption in Colombia recently (a local current affairs program using typical hysteria to attract attention and viewers!), so the police officer was quite interested in the process. Jorge did his best to educate him on how the process really works and why the media reports were largely inaccurate and misleading.
We arrived home late afternoon, and Leanne then walked around to a nearby hospital to visit one of the guests from the hotel whose young child was quite ill. She mentioned to me later that there was a large media contingent outside the hospital, which I suggested might have meant that the injured target of the car bombing earlier in the day was also at the hospital.
All up, it was an “interesting” day.