Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Zipaquira and the salt cathedral

Toy horse in Zipaquira square
Aside from the flight from Cartegena, which doesn't really count, this day trip from Bogota was our first proper journey since leaving the Drago trip. We took the Transmileno, a fancy modern bus with dedicated lanes, from Candelaria to the Portal del Norte and from there we got straight on to a little bus to Zipaquira.  We didn't spend long in the town itself, but it had a nice main square and seemed pleasant in a small and quiet sort of way.

Entrance to the Salt mines, Zipaquira

We were however amused by the toy horse in the town square. Many places seem to have these, and sometimes toy cars too, and it seems that the local kids can pay for a go on them.

The salt mine sits on the hill just outside town.  Somewhat strangely, as well as the mine itself, they have a climbing wall.  Not sure what the connection is supposed to be, if any, but we ignored it and went straight for the mine.
Chapel in Zipaquira salt mine

The mine has been active for many years and the miners themselves did carve out an original church, but it was replaced in the 1990s by the rather more impressive 'cathedral' that we saw today.  It was designed by a man called Roswell Garavito Pearl.  What I hadn't realized before we went, was that he didn't just create the main cathedral section, but also fourteen small chapels on the descent to the main one.

my favourite chapel in the salt mine

These are very small, but each is different.  They are all very simple, but many are very beautiful.  I especially liked the one that was polished so that the light coming through the carved out cross created a reflection on the floor of the chapel.

Salt cathedral, Zipaquira

Though not a religious person myself, I liked the simplicity, and elegance that these little chapels had.  It gave a purity to the idea of worship that most churches lose in their fancy decoration. Whilst I know it is not possible because they are newly created, I liked the idea that the miners would stop at the chapel at the entrance to the shaft they were about to mine and give a little prayer for their safe keeping.

Mirror pool at Zipaquira

The main cathedral, whilst impressive, did not have the same appeal for me. Though it does apparently attract congregations of up to three thousand people, so perhaps it's just me that feels this way.

Another attraction in the mine is the mirror pool.  Though only about a meter deep, the water is so still that the reflections of the domed roof of the mine are literally like that in a mirror.  I had to blow in the water to make the surface ripple slightly before I could be entirely sure it really was just water. 

Nic at the mirror pool
As we came out of the mines it looked like we might be about to be treated to another of Colombia's downpours, so we took their little city tour train back to the to town.  Just as well, as it did rain very hard indeed and we would have got very wet.  As it was, we managed to avoid the worst and made it back reasonably dry.

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