Bogota to Bucaramanga

June 26th, 2006 by David
El Tiempo - Colombia's national newspaper
Bruce guided me out of Bogota

   After a week in Bogota, I departed the city, leaving behind what almost seems routine at this point – a group of new friends, a newspaper appearance, and a city that I hope to return to someday. I was escorted out of town by Bruce, an American who helped me out while in Bogota.

   Heading northwest towards Venezuela (map), I first stopped in the colonial town of Zipaquira, where the locals have converted a salt mine into an underground cathedral. Continuing on, I was told by everyone that this stretch of road was safe, and I proceeded to camp in the countryside next to families.

Main square Zipaquira
Salt mine turned into undergound cathedral, Zipaquira

   My first night I camped next to Marco’s family’s house. Marcos cuts clay out of the roadside next to his house, then forms the clay into bricks, and then cooks the bricks with coal to harden them. The majority of Colombia’s buildings are made out of bricks, and apparently this is where they come from. I helped cut some clay (video center), but I think I was more a source of entertainment than assistance.

Marcos cutting mud to make bricks
I help make some bricks
Marcos' family (I camped behind this house)

   Camping next to families in the countryside, I am inevitably asked about money and about what life is like in the U.S. I try to explain that there is a difference between standard of living and quality of life, and that while you make more money in the U.S., things are also more expensive (just say what rent in Palo Alto is). But, while most families I see seem to have good family and community lives, the health care is poor and they have nowhere near the options that I or my friends have – minimum wage her is $200 a month. (More thoughts on this in my first comment on this post.)

   Heading north, I camped next to the houses of a few more families, and followed long scenic valleys and canyons up and down until reaching the city of Bucaramanga, another of Colombia’s major cities.

campsite and cow
I camped next to the house of Eduardo, Victor, and Arsenio
Chicamochoca River Canyon
Chicamochoca River Canyon and Cactus

2 Responses to “Bogota to Bucaramanga”

  1. David says:

    A few more thoughts on the poverty:
    There are many people in the world who are so poor they do not get enough food. I am sure I have passed people like this and seen many, but I think that when I ask around in a town for a place to camp, people who are better off (comparitavely) are more likely to let me camp next to their house.

    Also, I only stay with the rural poor on this trip – and although they have few things, they have great natural spaces and often, I think, good communities. I do not stay with urban poor, as I can’t camp next to their houses, but from what I see from the slums on the outskirts of cities, I would guess they have a much much lower quality of life.

    It is hard for me to know how to feel when spending time in poorer areas. On the one hand, it is tragic and I feel guilty about my relative wealth. On the other, many of these people (who have enough to eat…) seem to live content without all the things that we have in richer areas.

  2. heather says:

    What an amazing photo of the salt mine turned into undergound cathedral! Did it feel peaceful or did it seem to carry the burdens of those who have toiled there in the past (and perhaps present)?

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