A gray, cold morning greeted us. We decided to escape the city and go on a day trip to Zipaquira, 50km north of Bogota, a small historic town famous for its salt mines, and especially the Salt Cathedral carved out of, well, salt, interestingly. The hotel helped us hire a taxi for the day, and we were off. It felt good to be on the move, and it wasn’t long before the unimaginative brown and gray textures of the city were giving way to verdant hills and forests.
We arrived at the Cathedral, and joined the tour group after donning our miners hats. It was an interesting place, and impressively carved. We were led past carvings representing each stage of Jesus’ final throes and resurrection, went deep into some caverns, and had the opportunity to swing an axe at a rock, sending the chippings flying into everyone’s faces in what would be a field day for health and safety officials in England. At one stage the guide made us all turn off the lamps in our helmets, and we had to hold onto the person in front and slither along the walls of the tunnel into the terrifying darkness. Some people suffering from claustrophobia couldn’t join us, and they turned back. It was frightening, even amongst a big group, to be completely blind down there, and to rely on your other senses, but it was a worthwhile experience.
We came to the main worship area, where a huge cross hung in front of the salt alter, glowing a soft, healing green colour which then turned to blue, orange and deep red. As a working cathedral, the place still hosts mass every Sunday. It’s a fascinating place, the salt cathedral.
We left feeling like we’d achieved something, and asked the driver to take us to the legendary Andres Carne de Res steakhouse, which was on the way back to Bogota but still 23km north of the city. We were early for dinner, and darkness was just falling, but the place was beginning to fill up already. It was like walking into a random curiosity shop, full of hanging bicycles, horse saddles, tables with names like ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ trinkets from around the world, and a fun-loving staff who danced around the huge place. People were already dancing, and the place turns into a late-night party spot famous throughout Colombia. At last I could see the fun-loving spirit of the Bogotanos, which certainly comes out as night falls. The steak was great, and we washed it down with a bottle of wine. We then got the restaurant to call us a cab – it’s dangerous to hail one. We were driven back to the hotel, and went to bed to take a powernap, waking up later than expected due to the bottle of wine. We couldn’t be bothered going out. We’d made a good day of it anyway.