Colombia’s Salty Underground Church

One of the most popular day-trips from the Colombian capital Bogotá is a visit to the town of Zipaquirá, about 50km north of the city.  Zipaquirá itself is nothing special, but just outside town, at the edge of the suburbs, is one of the world’s few salt cathedrals.  There are actually two salt mines here, both near each other, and each one contained a cathedral; but for safety reasons, one mine (and its cathedral) closed, in 1992.  Its replacement opened to the public in 1995, and is one of the more surreal tourist sites in the country – which is saying something, considering Colombia also has a safari park started by a drug king. Continue reading

Pablo’s Park

If there’s one famous Colombian that everyone can name (aside from perhaps Shakira), it’s Pablo Escobar.  He started his criminal career as a teenager on the streets of Medellín, stealing gravestones (which he would later sand down and re-sell).  And after doing everything from stealing cars to selling fake lottery tickets and contraband cigarettes, he got into the cocaine business in the 1970s.  And by the 1980s and early 90s, at the height of his career, his Medellín Cartel was apparently responsible for over 80% of the coke in the world, making US$60 million a day. Continue reading

Sailing Between Panama and Colombia

Unlike every other international border in the American mainland, it’s not possible to cross overland between Panama and Colombia (except illegally, and even then I’m not sure if it’s doable).  There’s a land border, of course (it’s the skinny bit where Central America joins South America); but it’s located right in the middle of a complete wilderness, with no roads and hardly any people – the Darién Gap. Continue reading