Tag Archives: Colombia

Las Lajas Cathedral – a long Day 169/171

It was Day 169 of the tour and it was one of the toughest days logistically. We left Popayán at 05:00 needing to get to the Colombian/Ecuadorian border before its closing time of 18:00. Unfortunately we had only been able to make running repairs to the broken suspension of the truck, so we were limited in speed, unless we made the cab rock so much to make myself and the driver sick. We had made the decision not to stay in the designated stop of border-town Ipiales for security reasons, as last year’s driver had been robbed at gunpoint. This is Colombia, after all.

Also on the itinerary was the requirement to get to Las Lajas Cathedral (in the photo above). Talk about a sight for sore eyes. I kept the group to a very military-style quick visit in order to get to the border in time. But it’s the kind of place that I could wander for hours. The drive down the valley towards the Cathedral was majestic. I shudder to think of the price of a wedding here.

It’s a pity our visit was a bit rushed, but we managed to get through the border in time. This was despite the usual delays and a small ‘processing fee’ to get the right ‘insurance’ to enter Ecuador. We arrived in Otavalo around 23:00, a long travel day even by our standards. But seeing Las Lajas Cathedral in the flesh was worth all the hassle.

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Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral

On our way into Bogotá, we stopped in the former salt mines of Zipaquirá, the Disneyland of underground former salt mines. It seems a cathedral was built underground purely to attract tourists. Despite this sense of the whole place being artificial (though it is used for religious ceremonies) I was slightly awestruck at the scale of the underground cathedral.

Photos do not give enough credit to this impressive structure 200 metres underground. The cathedral and surrounding tunnels are memorable by themselves, but what really made the visit was the guide. He was a headcase. To this day, I cannot remember much of what he told us in his broken English, but I do remember his crazy arm-waving and manic movement. He even invited us to lick the walls of the former salt mine, and gave us a demonstration himself. This being Colombia, I’m sure salt wasn’t the only white stuff he’d had that day.

Mainly due to his hyperactivity, we thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the underground. Even if we didn’t learn a huge amount about it. Despite not being very religious myself, if I ever find myself in Colombia for Sunday Mass, I know which church to attend.