Tuesday’s With Laura: Southbound – The Journey Continues

By: Laura Gomez Laura is part of the Trailblazer family from our Branford store and has just come back from one of the most exciting journey's I've known anyone to go on. Check out the first installment in what will be a weekly series here at The Hub. - Tony I have traveled from Cali, Colombia to Pasto, eight hours away from Cali and just two from the border with Ecuador. I spent the night on the foothill of the Galeras volcano in Pasto. I continued on to Ipiales, a town on the Colombian side of the border with Ecuador. Right near this town, there is this magical place that captivates all, whether is due to faith, the overpowering beauty or its history. Hanging over a cliff, between the canyon of the Guaitara River, amidst the intensely green vegetation and the visible grayish rock there is a basilica, known as Las Lajas It is a sanctuary dedicated to Nuestra Senora de las Lajas, an image of the virgin of the catholic faith, and the miracles she performs. Supposedly this place and the image of the virgin in it are miraculous, so much as people walk 18 hours straight from Pasto during holly week in pilgrimage, because it is said to answer prayers and deliver miracles. I arrived there at 5:30 in the afternoon instants after I got off the bus from Pasto, dropped off my pack at the hostel and got back on the cab that I had taken from the bus terminal. I was only going to be in Ipiales for that night and it was my mission to see Las Lajas during daytime (keep in mind that in Colombia the sun sets just before seven o’clock year-around.) Luckily for me, at this time there was maybe one tourist and just a few faithful. It took a good 20 minutes, almost running, down a hill and then stepping down stairs and a path to get to the basilica from the main road, because it is at the bottom of the canyon.

Once I got there, this place was my playground for a solid hour!

I explored a bit, took some pictures, went down a little trail along the river and trekked back up quickly so I wouldn’t find myself alone in the darkness. Half way up the steep path I was nearly exhausted so I stopped and sat on a bench. I closed my eyes and I took deep breaths of the amazingly fresh air that is only felt when up in the mountains. My heart was pumping like crazy and I could hear my heartbeat, slowing down along with my breath, then, I found myself immersed in nature and the beauty of this place. I was still with my eyes closed and I could hear the waterfall in near distance, the river down at the bottom of the canyon, birds, and every cell of my body smiling. I opened my eyes and I was taken away by the view of the imposing mountain and the daring structure. I couldn’t help but smile.

I felt truly amazing. I don’t know if it was the energy concentrated there due to peoples’ faith, or the beauty of the nature that was so refreshing, or the excitement of my solo adventure beginning, or all of the above combined. However, its was amazing, in fact, mystical. I am not religious at all, actually, in theory quite against it. But it was for sure a spiritual experience. I connected with the nature around me and inside me. I was thankful for the beauty of this planet, our home, for the opportunity of being alive and breathing and thinking and experiencing and loving. I was very thankful and very happy. My day couldn’t have gotten any better. This place is pure beauty :) I hope you enjoyed visiting it through me.

Check out a slideshow of the journey to "Las Lajas"

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