Published: May 26th 2012December 20th 2011
It’s not that places lose their magic once they become touristy. It’s that you need to look harder to find it. I found that this was the case with the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. An underground cathedral dug into miles and miles of salt reserves. It boasts 14 separate rooms for the 14 stages of the cross and a massive cathedral; an impressive feat of architecture.
We stopped for a bit to let the tourists and cameras get ahead of us. That’s when I saw it. I pictured people praying at the Salt Cathedral. Underground; dead silence. I imagined normal people sitting there and praying; looking to God as a means to keep from sinking into their own minds. That was enough to make the trip worth it for me. Chicken skin.
If you go there I do suggest getting an English tour guide if that’s your forte. My Spanish is conversational and the Spanish guide was speaking technically. I know very little of the history or significance of the mine because we spent 30 minutes with the Spanish speaking guide before we realized there was an English speaking one! Kelly and I had a great laugh.
The salt mines are ancient, dating back to 500 B.C. In 1932, miners carved out a small cathedral to pray for safety and protection while working in the mine. Powerful. The part of the mine we saw was built in the 1950’s by an Australian and is no relic of ancient times. Along the sides of the tunnel are scratches left from the machines that riddled their way through the abyss. If religion and mines aren’t your thing, the mine also has a restaurant, shops, and a 3D movie theatre.
On the way out we noticed an old lady sitting in a wheelchair by herself. We asked her if she needed help out and she said yes. The sulfur infused air was making her feel lightheaded. The floor of the mine was uneven and not so wheelchair ready. A couple of times she almost fell forward. Scary. She didn’t speak much during the 20 minute hike. A few looks of gratitude and a few smiles. When we got to the top she looked us in the eyes, shook our hands, and said thank you. You’re welcome. I swear I thought at that point she was going to stand up and start doing the cha cha! Nice little old lady; made a nice end to our time at the Salt Cathedral.
If the Salt Cathedral isn’t enough to open your eyes, the drive out there will be. Miles and miles of countryside, trees growing up steep hills, mountains in the distance, green everywhere. Nature-gasm.