As you know, there are always two ways to reach any destination – easy and the cheap one. Guess which one we have chosen? 😊 Yep, you’re right, the cheapest one by bus with many stops, as the only tourists. Well, like usual.
Being already in Neiva we were thinking about reaching the Ecuadorian border in some time, but before we had to stop by for a few days to see Las Lajas - the effect of people’s extraordinarily hard work.
But why they built such a huge temple in such difficult terrain? That’s a good question! When we talk about worship places, there had to be some sort of miracle centuries ago. Everything began back in 1754...
The woman, Maria Mueces, and her daughter Rosa, were passing by the Guaitara river
when they found themselves hiding from a storm.
At that moment that Rosa shouted “Mum, the Virgin is calling me!” and pointed to the appearing virgin.
The woman kept quiet about the miracle until something even more incredible happened.
When Rosa died, Mueces returned to the place where they had seen Virgin Mary pray for her daughter’s soul.
The virgin then miraculously revived Rosa, and mother and daughter could no longer keep the miracle a secret.
Legend is still alive, and we can confirm that hundreds of people are coming every day to worship the Virgin Mary.
But, let’s back to the history of the church for a second again.
Local people decided to build a temple a few years after the first miracle occurred. 50 years later, grater shrine was built in the place of the first, wooden one. In the same year, the bridge which allows entering the basilica was open to the public as well.
There's another not explained mystery, which you can find behind the altar. There’s an image of the Virgin Mary, but no one knows who made it. You can look for an explanation in another legend which is saying, that: when Maria Mueces arrived with a priest to show him, where her daughter had been revived, they found a carved image of Mary and Jesus in the rock.
All those stories and image itself bring thousands of pilgrims every year to pray to the Virgin Mary.
When we arrived at Las Lajas, we were welcomed by the enormous market, where you can buy anything with the logo of the basilica or Virgin Mary, or Jesus, or anything related to this place.
This shocked us, but at least we knew which road we had to follow to find the basilica. After 10 min walk between booths, finally, we saw it.
Stunning scenery around just enlarged sacred aura. When we moved closer, hundreds of “brainless” pilgrims surrounded us. Why brainless? Because they were taking stupid pictures of sacred objects without even moment to stop and think why they are here. Even for us, it was very difficult to focus on anything. Of course, the longest line was to take a shot of mystery art piece behind the altar.
The most hilarious happened when a little girl asked us to take a photo together. It might be hard to believe for you, but again we were only extranjeros over there. 😊
At the side of the church, a small gift shop is located, where you can get official (yep, yhy, better than one from booths before the entrance) souvenirs and you can pay for a mess in someone’s intention. Of course, you can book other holy sacraments and paid upfront, because there’s an official price list. Yes, there’s no mistake. It’s not the first time we spot a price list in Catholic Church hanging for public view.
Anyway, we moved downstairs to have a sandwich and finally get some fresh air. The Guitara river which flows underneath is horribly contaminated! We wrote already about Peru and how people are destroying the environment over there, and Colombia tries to follow them. Yellow foam covered the water, so sad.
In case, someone will get hungry there are plenty of restaurants and fast foods where you can recover your energy, everything with a beautiful view in price.
In our opinion area like this should be a sacred place, where you can calm down and focus. Shouldn’t be a mass tourist attraction to engage people who are hungry for views and great selfies.
Of course, thanks to Las Lajas, many families can survive due to people who are happy to spend their money for snacks and souvenirs.
If anyone would plan to visit Colombia and Ecuador this place is worth to visit!
Thanks for staying with us,