01.05.2012 32 °C
I know that the heading seems a little dramatic, and in all honesty, it is. However we have heard so many stories about Guatemala City, San Salvador and Tegucigalpa (locally known as the death triangle) that we decided to take extreme caution when travelling through the first two cities. Guatemala City is, according to some 'experts', the most dangerous city in the world. Now I appreciate that most cities have their good, bad and indifferent areas but Guatemala City really was something different. For me it felt very isolated and the constant lack of street lighting, non existent pedestrians, and run down buildings very much gave it the feel of a ghost town.
Arriving in the city early evening, after a very long series of bus journeys, we avidly watched the zone signs fly past us as our Toyota minivan whizzed through the city. As a rule of thumb the lower zone numbers tend to be more dangerous (no go for tourists) and the higher zone numbers the safer, more suburban areas of the city. We were thoroughly relived when we found out that our hostel was in zone 12 and in a gated community. The more suburban areas do tend to be gated and also have armed security patroling the derelict streets. It was quite surreal to see men parading around the pavements holding automatic pump action shot guns just in case a 'situation' occurred. God only knows what actually happens if security have to actually use their weapons?
San Salvador proved to be exactly the same, more razor wire lined buildings and gardens coupled with friendly gun wielding security guards patroling the streets. Whilst the city was not typically latin American, the roads were a lot wider and cleaner, the undercurrent of gang violence and the threat of robbery still lingered large.
I guess the picture that I am trying to paint is not only a negative, but a realistic one. The reality of how some of these less developed cities actually function in this part of the world is different to other cities I have visited. Touch wood, we have not experienced any problems in this neck of the world yet, and long may that continue. However the social and political climate, as ever, dictates the way these cities work and for Charlie and I to see a glimpse of this first hand has ultimately been very educating.
I do not think we will make it to Tegucigalpa, and to be quite honest I am not bothered about seeing the city. I know Charlie has an old score to settle with the top dog of the 'zone 7 boys' but I had to remind her that her knife fighting skills are not quite what they use to be...
...so we have decided to head South and take on a Nicaraguan drug cartel instead. I think this is the sensible thing to do in the circumstances.
Ross and Charlie