A touristic train leaves Bogota en route to the Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá. The town of course is Zipaquirá, outside of Bogota. The brochure promises a classic train with pictures of a steam engine.
Having a father that worked for the railroad, and I myself did too for a few years, I remember taking a ride on a steam engine. At the time, my dad who was incredibly well liked was able to get us a ride with the engineer. That was a great thrill. When I saw pictures of the steam engine, I had a wave of nostalgia. Ron and I both love train rides, so this seemed like a fun day trip.
Knowing I had seen an option to book it through TripOMatic.com, I returned to the site to book it through the site. Since I was using the site regularly and had not upgraded to the premium, it seemed like a quid pro quo. Besides, it was $5 cheaper per person than what the tourism office in Bogota had quoted. Once it was booked, I read some reviews that were not particularly stellar. With a bit of trepidation, I sent the company an e-mail. Pick up at our ‘hotel’ was included, but we are not at a hotel. I wrote them that we are renting an apartment directly across the street from Explorer Hostel and we would wait outside for our ride. Based on what I had read, I was not certain if I would hear back or if the driver would show up. Around the corner was a print shop, so I had the voucher printed. Be prepared! The Boy Scout motto that has been my personal motto for decades.
The morning of the trip, a driver pulled up at 8:30 am on the dot. She did not speak English, but we were able to communicate. She drove us to the train station, took our voucher to the ticket office and handed over our tickets. Explaining she would return for us when the train returned, we said our goodbyes.
When the train arrived, it was a major disappointment to see it was a diesel engine, not a steam engine. Regardless, the seats were comfortable; our assignment was in the K car, seats 47 and 48. The ride was pleasant and lasted for about 2 hours before a train member made an announcement in Spanish. We did not understand a thing he said. Asking around, we learned we had time to spare before boarding a bus that would take us to the actual cathedral site.
After boarding the bus and driving for another 30-40 minutes, we pulled into the parking lot of salty attractions. Now I have to say that if you have ever been to the salt mines outside of Krakow, Poland, you should definitely skip this one. However, if you are feverishly religious, you will most likely find some worth to this cave. Honestly, I can say it left us cold.
What the train people omitted was the fact that our admission to the attraction was not included in our ticket. We had to pay an extra 23,000 pesos senior fare for the bus ride and entrance ticket. Had we been younger, it would have been 31,000 pesos. The trip itself had already cost us more than our airfare from Cuenca to Quito, Ecuador.
Once at the site, we thought we understood we had 1 ½ hours to muck around before we were expected back at the bus. This was somewhat confirmed by the schedule provided without our train tickets.
After standing in a tremendously long line to put our ticket into at turnstile, we traipsed down a long cave with colored lighting. Ron appropriately related that it was similar to the United Airlines terminal in Chicago Airport. This was about the extent of the thrills. If walking through a long dimly lit cave is exciting, then you will love this. About every five feet, there was a cross back lit with blue lights recessed far from where one could stand. Along the path leading to the cathedral, placed along the left wall Stations of the Cross sat in alcoves. Not carved out of salt, they were nothing special.
After a long walk, we finally reached the actual church. Basically, it is a church set in a salt mine, not a church carved from a salt mine, as one would believe from the marketing.
Misunderstanding both the printed and verbal directions that stated we had one hour and fifteen minutes at the salt mine, we waited for our bus to return. It showed up an hour later than we thought. Traveling to the next town Cajica, took about a half hour. This is where we were on our own for lunch and shopping. It is a cute, quaint little village with a main square; the Catholic Church dominates the view. We found a busy restaurant on the square and had a great lunch.
At the end of two hours, we walked the four blocks to the train station and boarded our train for the ride home. It was a short, but pleasant ride. Our driver was waiting for us to deliver us home again.
Though the train ride was enjoyable, I would not recommend the expense. By the end of the day, this dog had the right idea. We let the sleeping dog lie.