The view, with two local undertakers

A gorgeous town in the Andes whispers a few of her secrets

Are you impressed yet?

Don't be. They're vultures, but not quite condors, but I got your attention. Both are cuddled up (no, most of us don't think of  condors as being cuddly, but there you are) on the two hundred-year-old roof tiles which pave all the roofs in town. They are hanging out, as am I, watching the sun ease down over the distant hills. I'm in Salamina for one more night, and tomorrow I head back to Manizales for two days.

The last time I saw real condors this close, I was above them. I had been on an extended horse trip through very remote parts of Colca Canyon, Peru,  by horse, led by an ex-military man familiar with all the drug and smuggling routes. We had stopped long enough for me to hike to about twelve thousand feet. There, an ancient military outpost had provided a valley-wide view of any approaching enemies.

On top of the lookout, the indigenous peoples had placed the heads of a number of likely highly reluctant volunteers to watch out over the valley. The injuries to the backs of their skulls indicated that at least demise was swift. There they had sat for five centuries, said my guide. Below us, condors soared, their huge wings whispering in the warm rising air. Perhaps they were waiting for body parts.

Here, the vultures are simply eyeballing my movements. These extraordinary birds are among Nature's best clean-up crews. What the local fat strays don't eat, they get. And when the local fat strays finally pass on, certainly not from starvation, the vultures get those, too.

Julia Hubbel
Julia Hubbel
Julia Hubbel

Erin, my guide from CoffeeAxisTravel, walked two others and me around today for a quick tour. We passed the typical brilliantly-painted doors and houses which speak to the South American love of colors, heard stories about ghosts and hauntings. Then Erin pointed down a long concrete stairway which, at first glance, looked as though the steps led off into the ether.

Watch that last step...Julia Hubbel

They didn't, but years ago that spot was the place where certain politicians and other bullies (and maybe angry wives) would toss the bodies of their dead after decapitating them, in order to display the heads of their enemies from chains on the balcony of their lovely home, which looked out over the plaza.

Dominated, of course, by the church. Well, natch.

The lovely church, keeping her secrets Julia Hubbel

Erin told us that the Republicans would kill the Democrats when they had power, then if the Democrats were in power, they would kill the Republicans.

Just like now.

Only less smelly.

Okay, perhaps not. Politics have always stunk to high heaven, especially when in such close proximity to the church.

Just like now.  

At any rate, the same chains from which once swung the heads of the unfortunates who lost the election now hold flower baskets.

I know what the vultures prefer.

For my part, I'll take these views, shot at dusk from the rooftop of our hotel:

Julia Hubbel
Salamina winds up the hills

Here in the Andes, many houses are haunted. The stories rise on the wind and are whisked through the quiet streets. The long tendrils of Spanish moss sway in the breezes, just like the heads of political enemies long ago.

It's still not a good idea to make enemies in Colombia. As beautiful as it is here, there are still plenty of vultures.

Just like now.

Salamina side street Julia Hubbel

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