Monserrate is a mountain in Bogotá that rises to 10,371 feet. A 17th century church stands at the top, but you go for the view, which is spectacular enough to make one believe in God. This is good because the cable car’s path is so steep that one might utter a few OMGs (and a few f-bombs perhaps), wondering how many seconds it would take to tumble to the bottom should the flimsy-looking cable snap. Don’t even ask about the old funicular that used to crawl up the mountain–it’s out of order now, thank…um…well…God.
Bogotá is a city of roughly 8,000,000 people. In the heart of the Andes Mountains, the sweeping valley it occupies seems to run on forever. The city is a sprawling mass of green, blue, and pink (from the red-tiled rooftops) sprinkled here and there with grey high-rises. Driving north out of Bogotá, the landscape quickly goes rural–farm houses and fields dotted with cows and solar panels. A rainbow arced across the sky with such bold color that it sparked a few more OMGs.
Going underground is not really my thing, but since Colombia’s famed Salt Cathedral happens to be a couple hundred meters down a working salt mine, I wrapped my jacket tightly, pulled up the hood, and ducked out of the sunshine.
“Let’s do the tour in Spanish!” I suggested to Ethan as we paid the entrance fee.
A blank look. And then, “I’d actually like to understand what they’re saying.”
Ok. Well. There are times when every couple must split up and this was one of them. Since I often listen to Spanish religious radio in the car (the padres tend to speak slowly and clearly–great practice!) I understood a lot of the explanation for why the Salt Cathedral was constructed (it was an expansion of a small subterranean chapel where the miners prayed for God’s help in not getting buried alive. Later, someone’s vision of tourist dollars sparked a $285,000,000 expansion) but not exactly how (by hand? Shovel? Excavator?). The 14 stations of the cross that dot the underground pathways were worth risking claustrophobia for, but the highlight was getting my picture taken with the Pope. It’s not everyday you meet him so much closer to Satan’s territory.
Our final day was spent at the Museo del Oro in downtown Bogotá, the largest Pre-Colombian collection of gold in the world. Those ancients definitely believed in God…or gods more likely…and in getting all dressed up for the party. Or for their own funerals, at least, as many artifacts were found in tombs. Their shining adornments didn’t make it to the afterlife, but they sure prove just how ingenious and creative humankind can be. I had to put my sunglasses on once or twice to protect against the golden glare, room after room of breastplates, nose rings, masks, and intricate little talismans made to protect their makers. When we walked out of the museum, a big, stern security guard stood in front of an adjacent building holding a chrome shotgun. I didn’t know exactly what he was protecting but it seems like his gun should have been gold plated.