Today is Monday. Many museums are not open on Monday so I decided to go to a nearby town to visit their famous Salt Cathedral. Unfortunately, since moving hostels, I wasn’t able to find any new friends to join me on my adventure. Was a little nervous at first given that it’d be my first day alone and it’d mean that I’d be forced to speak Spanish to get around, but since I’m now writing about it, safe to say I survived 🙂 One of the things about being alone is that you can appreciate what you see more, but at the same time, I had no one to share my thoughts with so now I get to pour them out into my blog:
Thought 1: Don’t assume that just because you see everyone else leaning against the railing of the TransMilenio platform, that it is safe. Once I worked out which bus to catch (B13 express to the Northern bus terminal, very happy I had caught the TransMilenio the other day and knew what to look for) I stood to the side of the platform and leant against the railing. All of a sudden I felt something bang into my shoulder. It was like some massive person was pushing me out of the way in a hurry. When I turned around to glare at them I realized it was just the glass platform door opening.
Thought 2: If you’re getting on a bus hoping for some time to gather your thoughts in the silence, you’re going to be disappointed. My express bus to the northern terminal had rappers on it. These 2 large guys hop on the bus holding microphones and one with a large speaker attached to his chest. And out of nowhere start rapping. Actually, they weren’t bad, just unexpected.
Thought 3: Bus drivers aren’t perfect. I think this is the first time I’ve been on transport where there were also doors on the platform that needed to align with the vehicles’ doors, but didn’t. Sometimes the driver wouldn’t stop in time and missed the doors a little. This resulted in people only have half the amount of space in which to enter and exit. Coupled with the fact that no one actually waits for people to disembark first, it makes for an interesting push/shove situation to watch (so long as you’re already on the bus).
Thought 4: The conductor on the intercity buses has the craziest job. The bus drives with the door open and this young guy hangs out the door yelling at people as we pass them. He yells the town name – ZIPA, ZIPA, ZIPA (and possibly some other stuff) over and over again. It sounds like a cross between the seller at an auction “going once, who wants to buy this wonderful property?” and the guy saying “step right up” at a carnival. It makes me wonder if they work on commission? Like, the people that he is yelling at, they aren’t suddenly going to decide that they need to go to Zipa if they already had a purpose to wait by the side of the road. Oh, the other thing is that there’s no set bus stops, you can literally stand ANYWHERE along the bus route and still get picked up. So why does he seem to put so much effort into calling people onto the bus? If they miss this one, they can just get on the next one. Also, he can remember who just got on/off/changed seats because he doesn’t take your money until a while after you got on and the bus is already on its way. Its pretty impressive.
On my way back from Zipaquirá I had only just gotten to the main street from which I had arrived on, when one of these conductors started yelling at me. “Bo-Geh! Bo-Geh! (and other stuff I didn’t understand)!” so after a split second of my blank stare, I blurted out “Bogota, Norte” and he pointed me to the intersection corner. No bus stop there, no people looking like they were waiting for a bus, no bus. I wasn’t even sure he had heard me correctly. I was looking in my bag for some water when suddenly he started yelling at me again and pointed behind me. A bunch of people were already pushing their way onto the bus that had suddenly appeared in front of me. I got on. I had no idea if I was even on the right bus. None. But hey, I made it back to the hostel 🙂
Thought 5: In the absence of friends to share dinner with tonight I bought some fruit to try tonight. On the way home I stopped by the supermarket and bought 4 fruits that I’d never seen/heard of before and will be trying them tonight for dessert after my tamale from 3 days ago that I will finally cook. Yes, I’m eating instead of socializing…possibly a downward spiral.
And just because I think I should mention the actual activity for the day: the salt cathedral was amazing. Its HUGE! And very calm and serene. I couldn’t find it initially but managed to use my limited Spanish to find my way there J Its down to 180m below the ground and has 13 or so different chambers telling the story of the cross: Jesus falls the second time; Jesus dies on the cross etc. The chamber for ‘Jesus gets crucified’ had some sort of strobe light thing going on with the carved out salt cross. Made me imagine the crucifixion in a rave club scenario.
Anyways, enough about today.