Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Big Rock Salty Mountain

A hour from Bogota, there's a big mountain made of salt. I'm not going to wonder how it got there, or how salt is mined. What's important to know is that there is an underground cathedral carved out of the guts of this here salt mountain. And that's all we knew before we boarded the bus to Zipaquirá.

"This I gotta see," was the gist of why we went.

And it was fabulous. Mysterious, dark, cool, and utterly strange. Who carves cathedrals out of salt?

Salt miners, that's who. Though the original cathedral from the fifties was deemed unsafe. So the new cathedral (more for tourists and pilgrims, not so much for miners) was made with modern methods. Which is not a bad thing. I didn't want a salty cross caving in on me, or taking out C, whose hostile environment training did not extend to face-offs with Mr. Peanut's angelic cousins.

It was Easter week, so Colombian tourists were lined up outside the tunnel entrance. But when I asked about an English guide, we were escorted to the front to wait for Raphael, a lanky fellow who rolled up muttering "English guide? Who was looking for an English guide?"

Raphael led us through the dark tunnels, past the entranceway where video monitors forced Passion of the Christ on us every 20 feet, twisting along past 14 stations of the cross--mostly dark blocks, Roman numerals, and the occasional angel, donkey, or Mary sculpture. At the bottom was a cavern filled with pews, a giant cross, and a crack in the wall that led to a small temple. Beyond that was another cavern, this one a screening room where Gladiator was playing.

C had a fantastic camera, a fast lens, skill, and his small video camera (the big one stayed home). He got some amazing shots which I hope he posts for us eventually on his own blog. All I had was my point-and-shoot, so most of my photos looked like this.

Okay, not all of them. A few of my photos came out all right.

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