I’ve realized over our first couple of days here that travelling, especially somewhere where your first language is not commonly spoken, involves a lot of guessing and finger-crossing. Everything usually turns out fine in the end, but sometimes it’s a bit of a bumpy road to get there. That’s all part of the fun, though!
Zevi and I made our way north of the city today to the little town of Zipaquira, where we were on a mission to visit the highly-recommended underground salt cathedral. Zevi was very excited about this as someone with a strong interest in mining, so I couldn’t help but be excited as well. We managed to find a small bus quite easily that would take us there from Bogota’s Portal del Norte station, but we took our seats with no idea how the payment system worked or how much it would cost to get us there. Eventually someone came around and took our money – the ride cost us about $5 for the two of us, which we figured wasn’t too bad for an hour long trip! Next came the question of where we would get off. There didn’t seem to be any formal stop names, so when the driver screeched to a halt on the side of the highway we craned our necks for any sign of the town we were looking for. It turned out to be pretty obvious once we did eventually arrive there, and we followed the road signs on foot to the town’s biggest attraction.
They call Zipaquira’s salt cathedral Colombia’s highest wonder, and after seeing it I wouldn’t dispute that statement. It was absolutely incredible to see all of the intricate work that has gone in to carving out the beautiful underground areas we walked through. I don’t know much about the technicalities of mining, but I was amazed by the artistry of both the natural rock formations and the carvings that were on display. As long as you turn a blind eye to the hordes of tackily lit up souvenir stands that line the final hallway of the mine, it is a wonder to behold!
The end of the salt mine signalled the beginning of the always-difficult search for somewhere to eat lunch. It’s hard to know which restaurants are tourist traps and which actually have something good to offer, especially without our usual luxuries of wifi and UrbanSpoon. We were craving some meat, and there were many restaurants eager for our business that had various meats grilling over large fires, so we chose one of them at random. It’s a good thing that meat was what we were in the mood for, because we got a lot of it! Zevi went with just beef, while I had a mixture of beef and pork. We watched as they sliced the meat off of the large metal sticks they were grilling it on, and saw it put in front of us on a plate with various starches including a baked potato, plantain, and what I think may have been yucca. Zevi’s was unfortunately quite dry, but I lucked out and got some of the juicier stuff. There was no way I was finishing what was in front of me, though, especially since I had inexplicably ordered an ajiaco soup as a starter. My eyes were most certainly bigger than my stomach on this occasion! The soup was quite delicious, though, as was our jugo de lulo, a juice made from one of the fruits we had sampled yesterday.
After lunch we made our way back to the Zipaquira town square, where earlier we had been lucky enough to witness a group of locals doing a choreographed dance to Cotton Eye Joe. It’s going to take a lot to top that as my favourite, or at least most hilarious, moment of the trip, let me tell you. The square was gorgeous, with a European flavour. The bright white buildings with bold blue and red accents were so striking, and orange tiled roofs provided the perfect contrast. We were also struck by how well kept and clean the town was. Zipaquira, you exceeded my expectations!
We guessed our way to the return bus stop and managed to get on without incident. However, we both were in a meat-induced haze and accidentally got off one stop too early, resulting in a bit of confusion as we tried to figure out how to get back to our hostel. Luckily, after deciphering the very confusing Transmilenio map and talking to a few friendly workers, we were on our way. Like I said at the beginning, a little bit of guessing and crossing your fingers, perhaps with a bit of broken Spanish thrown in, will get you to where your going every time.