June 21, 2006 GMT
Road to Bucaramanga

I am on my way north to Santa Marta, port of call for sixteenth century pirates of the Caribbean. Catedral de Sal comes after 40 minutes on the Pan Americana. I am barely out of Bogotá.

In 1954 the miners at Zipaquira invited a priest to bless a little alcove altar they had built in their salt mine. The holy man was pleased to come. After the service, at a couple of hundred metres below ground, he suggested his fellow Columbians could copy an idea existing in a Polish salt mine. In that mine the workers had built an underground cathedral after the salt was removed. The Columbian miners agreed and set about building the Catedral de Sal.

They dedicated their new subtierra structure to Nuestra Señora del Rosario, patron saint of miners. After nearly 40 years the old cathedral was in such a state of deterioration a new cathedral was built. Opened in December 1995 the new salt church has 14 Stations of the Cross. We pass most of them on our guided tour to the Nave. The workmanship clearly demonstrates to me the continuing faith Columbianos have in the Catholic religion.

The image below overlooks the Nave in the main Catedral de Sal. Located some 180 meters below ground, the cathedral has salt columns three meters in diameter supporting an arched ceiling 80 meters overhead. The cross, ingraved 80 cms into the wall, is backlit. From the back of the room, some 150 meters away, the cross seems to float eerily in space.

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I decide to see more of the eastern spine of mountains known as the Cordillera Oriental (eastern cordillera). With peaks in the 5000m range, I know the road to Bucaramanga, my midpoint, will be twisty but highly scenic.

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True to prediction, the two lane pista follows every contour and ridge line. The vistas are superb. Combined with the twists and turns, this is a motorcyclist's wet dream come true. It takes me all day to make the 285 kilometer leg.

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Columbia's highways are generally in very good condition. Just good enough that Katie and I can hum along at 30 to 60 km an hour and trust the pavement on the corners.

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We could go faster but mucho camion tràfico and the occasional wide-load donkey/horse/campesino (farmer) sharing my lane keep life interesting.

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Flat tires are probably THE most common breakdown and road hazard. Trucks routinely run on bald tires. I know because I follow so many waiting for a chance to pass that I've started doing an informal study. And we know things don't go well when a vehicle loses control because of poor tires....

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What caused this rollover I don't know and didn't ask but the dust had hardly settled when I came around (another) blind tight corner to find this scene. Actually, it's a wonder I don't see this kind of excitement more often.

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Posted by Murray Castle at June 21, 2006 06:22 PM GMT
 


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