Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No, really, they sent us to the salt mines

No kidding.  There is a large underground halite mine in a town named Zipaquirá about an hour north of Bogotá, which has been in use since prehistoric times in one way or another, most recently with modern techniques, like the dynamite in the holes behind me. Say what?  Dynamite?!
Anyway, we voluntarily visited the mines before Thanksgiving with a couple of other couples.  You can see Paula's look of excitement over the prospect.
A number of years ago, the miners started carving out grottoes with religious figures and symbols.
After a while, they got organized, and devoted an older part of the mine to a whole series of such areas of worship,

including an entire cathedral constructed in the early 1900's, carved out of the salt rock. This seemed like a great idea, until they noticed that the floor and the ceiling were gradually getting closer, and realized it was because of ground water intrusion. OK, ditch that cathedral.
Meanwhile, immense and I mean football-field, er, rather soccer-field size mining 'galleries' were converted in to sanctuaries.  I don't know if you get a feeling for size here, but beyond the dark group of people, that thing is HUGE.
Finally, in the 1990's, a new cathedral was begun, some 200+ feet below the old one, which at first blush doesn't seem like such a good idea, which is visited and used today.  Again, I don't think the picture does justice to its scale. The cross is about 75 feet tall.
We had a great time scurrying about investigating passages and marveling at the work of the artists and sculptors, some of whom were still working away with air hammers and other delicate instruments.  Here's a picture of one of the more stylish miners.
All of which makes a person hungry, so we stopped at a roadside café serving roasted meat and plaintains.  With plenty of salt.
So on Preparation Days between working, we continue to discover some of the really interesting things in Colombia.
We hope you're having a good New Year so far!
Dave & Paula

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