|When I looked out the window beforebreakfast, it was raining. By the time we boarded the bus, it had stopped, but was overcast. Later in the day it was sunny.
Diego wanted us to be among the first at the salt cathedral when it opened at 9:00. So, we left the hotel after breakfast at 7:30. Our bus is nice. It holds 21, and there are only 12 on the tour, and only 10 of us took this optional trip to the Sat Cathedral in Zipaquira. So, we could spread out and be comfortable. However, it could use new shocks. It was a very bumpy ride until after the city limits. On the 1 1/2 hour drive, Diego talked about various topics about life in Columbia.
One thing he talked about is the graffiti on the walls along the roadway. He pointed out a mural of birds. He talked about some youth who were painting a mural, and the police appeared, so the kids ran. One police officer shot one of the youth three times. Then the officers changed the story from painting graffiti to a robbery and planted a weapon. Well, the uproar caused a lot of unrest.
A few months later, Justin Bieber was in town. After one of his concerts, he had heard about the incident and announced lets go paint. So, with his bodyguards he started to paint a wall. Some police appeared, asked who he was, and decided to join him in painting the wall. This caused another outrage.
Another topic Diego discussed is owning an automobile. Depending on your driver's license number, you are restricted driving on certain days (odd/even) during the work week. So many families buy two cars, one even, one odd, so they can get to work everyday. (No restrictions on the weekend.)
Car insurance in Columbia depends on the age of you car. A newer car owner pays about $100 USD, while an older car owner would pay $250 USD. Each car must also have a fire extinguisher. If your car is stopped by the police, they will ask you for your fire extinguisher. If you don't have one, or it has expired, you can be fined $250 USD.
As we got closer to Zipaguira, Diego discussed the salt cathedral. The cathedral is an underground Roman Catholic church (the Vatican does not recognize it as a cathedral) built within the tunnels of a salt mine. They do hold services there. The temple at the bottom has three sections, representing the birth, life, and death of Jesus. The icons ornaments and architectural details are hand carved in the salt rock.
We arrived at the Salt Cathedral at 8:55. We waited on the bus until they opened the gate at 9:00. Then the bus took us up to the main entrance. We were one of the first groups, so we could take our time and take pictures without others around. The descent into the mine was a shallow sloped ramp. Very easy walking. I expected salt statues representing the 14 stations of the cross. Instead each station was a small chapel with just a cross and kneeling stations. Still very impressive. After the stations, we entered the Dome at the end of the main ramp. Very beautiful ceiling.
We then visited the Narthex labyrinth, followed by the main dome. There are three naves symbolizing the birth and death of Christ. A very impressive salt nativity, a copy of the Creation of Adam in the floor, and a modern copy of the Pieta.
We stopped in the gift shop and WC area. Diego wanted to show us a mirror lake there. Jean bought another creche. Then we headed up the ramp past large groups entering the cathedral. Back in the sunlight, when everyone met up and after WC break, we returned to the bus, and headed into the town of Zipaquira.
We disembarked and walked down a street to see normal life in Columbia. This street had a lot of different shops: hardware, clothing, fish tackle, barber shop, undergarments, etc. We then entered a very colonial plaza with the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. We entered the cathedral. It was a stone/brick construction. The side dome ceilings made of bricks were interesting. The statues were also interesting.
We then hopped the bus to have lunch in town at the Fun Zipa restaurant. When you walk into the restaurant, you see salt ovens where they cook potatoes. We had four choices for lunch Ajiaco, a soup made with chicken, three varieties of potatoes, and the Galinsoga herb; a vegetarian option; a meat platter of beef, veal and pork; or grilled chicken. Jean and I both had the Ajiaco soup. It was very filling. The large bowl appeared with a large toothpick in the middle. When you lifted the toothpick, you had some corn on the cob. They also brought as a side, rice and avocado, which you add to the soup as you desire. Dessert was a cheese with a sugar sauce.
We then had a quiet trip back to Bogota. About 3:15 we disembarked at the Paloquermao Farmer's Market. We made a quick WC break for which Diego paid. While waiting, Diego bought a bag of achiras, a cheesy Columbian cracker. After we had a taste, we then entered the market.
In the market you find fruits, vegetables, meat and fish booths, and small restaurants. Interesting to me was that you could pay for your purchases at these small booths by credit card. We stopped at a fish booth where the owner showed us one of his largest fish.
Then we walked around some more and finally settled at a fruit stand. Here Diego would explain the fruit while someone at the booth would cut up the fruit for us to taste. We were going to start with a guanabana, but they were not ripe yet. But we did experience 8 fruits: sweet passionfruit, feijoa (pineapple guava) which was tasty, lichees, mango seed, dragonfruit which tasted the best, capote, and two varieties of tree tomatoes- a light mango mix, and a dark blackberry mix. Then we were finally done with the tasting.
We exited the market and hopped on the bus for the ride back to the hotel. We passed through the red light district which operates 24/7. We could not take pictures, and Diego could not be seen holding the microphone. Prostitution is legal in Columbia from 18 year-olds and up. The police are in the district to keep the peace, and at night, one street is closed as the discos and clubs open. As we passed along the heavy traffic street (motorcyclists en mass eyeing the goods), the ladies were in the doorways and on the street selling their wares. Some were quite large ladies in more than one way.
We then returned to the hotel about 5:30. Everyone on the optional trip had to see Diego to pay for the tour ($95 USD) with a credit card. I was super tired and have had a pain in my side for the last two days (kidney stone?) so I just wanted to relax. Between lunch and the farmers market, I had had enough for today.
Jean watched TV and fell asleep about 8:30. I turned off the TV and wrote this blog, before hitting the sack. Tomorrow is a travel day. We need to have luggage out by 6:30, and we need to be on the bus for the airport by 7:00.