Antigua, which means “ancient” in Latin, is a UNESCO-protected standard old town. There are many old single-storey buildings, plenty of authentic establishments, a sea of locals dressed in traditional clothing, and endless crowds of tourists from all over the world. The city will bring a lot of pleasure if you have not been to the Cuban Trinity before and a large number of other similar architectural monuments scattered around the world. But for true adventurers, this city is just a small respite on the way to real experiences.
And these same experiences began as soon as we left the city. When starting the car, we forget to turn off the inverter, which turns an ordinary cigarette lighter into a 220-volt outlet. As a result, phones and laptops remained without power. At first we were afraid that all the equipment was covered, including the inverter itself, but from experience we quickly realized that the igniter did not work. Apparently it was a fuse, which we didn’t have in stock. I had to find a local car service…in Guatemala.
We stopped at an artisan auto repair shop, which, with signs in Spanish, promised both an electrician and a mechanic, and almost an open-bar massage. In fact, the unlucky guy had to explain that in order to fix our fault it is not necessary to disassemble the whole car. And it already seemed that having arrived at the service with a small problem, we risk staying there for a long time with a car that does not start.
After half an hour, which took searching for a fuse box, he found a blown one and handed it over to us. But the damage was not repaired. Our Spanish was not enough to understand what he wants from us. As a result, the boy simply waved his hand, got on a motorcycle and went somewhere. Right, five minutes later he came back with the fuses he bought and saved us all the work and the road. This pleasure costs only 500 rubles, or 50 local quetzales.
By the way, local money is named after the quetzal bird, which lives in Guatemala. It is represented on the banknotes. She is also a local symbol. The fact is that this is almost the only bird that can not only breed, but even live in captivity. Guatemalans chose her as a kind of idol to demonstrate their love for freedom to the entire world.
But very soon we had to say goodbye to this free country. The departure from Guatemala did not take long: a nice girl checked the VIN of our car against the documents and let us go to all four addresses, or rather, to El Salvador. The local border did not cause problems either. The main document for Salvadoran customs officials was the permit to drive a car through Guatemala. Apparently, they work on the principle “if the Guatemalans missed it, then everything is in order.” Another nice girl helped me with all the paperwork, although she was surprised to see my passport.
– You are from Russia?
– Yes. Are there many Russians here?
– You are my first Russian and I have been working on the border for a long time.
I confess that we entered this country with apprehension. The fact is that it is famous for crime, and acquaintances advised to drive through it without even opening the windows. Only in 2016, El Salvador ranked first in terms of the number of murders per capita and became the criminal capital of the planet. The local gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha and the 18th Street Gang, are at war with each other and with the police. Many people die every day. Recently, even an American tourist was beheaded. He had nothing to do with the criminal war, he just fell under the hot hand of people who hate America.
True, upon entering the country, we realized that the old image of El Salvador was far ahead of the real information. Recently, the country has risen along with local coffee prices. The roads were repaired and the cities were decorated as best they could. And the streets have become quieter.
I was surprised that the locals did not even pay attention to a foreign car driven by two white “gringos”. But we were driving not only on the main roads, but also on roads that no one, not even in Russia, would have dared to call that way – we were looking for a picturesque church of the guides. They did not find the temple; they drove to the church, which bears the same name, but cannot be called picturesque by any means, but rather a brick hut behind a high fence. But we managed to get acquainted with the rural population of El Salvador. Well, how to meet each other … You feel their indifference – a complete lack of interest in such exotic things, which can be compared to two Africans in a convertible who accidentally ended up in a remote village, say, in the Tver region. Nobody turned around: the children continued to play, the adults continued to work: collecting corn, transporting goods in a cart pulled by bulls, selling pineapples and mangoes. In the capital, also El Salvador, there was a similar picture.
During a walk through the center of the city, a dilapidated and decaying prototype of Babylon, we not only encountered no aggression, we didn’t even catch a single sidelong glance at ourselves. But still they decided to live in a fashionable area: the local Santa Barbara or Barvikha, if you prefer. The houses here are surrounded by four-meter barracks with two rows of barbed wire through which electricity passes. The gates are guarded by uniformed people with shotguns, and the dwellings themselves are more like fortresses, ready for both war and a long siege.
“God save the safe”, we thought and booked a five star hotel. He didn’t get his official rating, but one number cost around US$60 and the security was up to par. By the way, the price is not a transfer of local money to dollars for convenience. US dollars are the local currency. At some point, the locals got tired of constant inflation and endless denominations and adopted the US dollar as the official currency in their country. But the United States is so hated here that they can not only behead a tourist, but also kill their own child if he wears the “wrong” American clothes.
But we were calm. Given the international situation, the Russians should be treated well here. This has been confirmed twice. The first time a good-natured local old lady let us through her house to the Pacific beach: when she asked us if we were Americans, we had to remember what the word “vice versa” would look like in Spanish. And the second time, when the trained ear on the word “brown” caught a conversation between two elderly metropolitans: they discussed the ups and downs of the political struggle between Russia and the United States, giving preference to our country. At this point, you could take a breather.
the worst is yet to come
But it’s too early to relax. In front of us is Honduras, which is now even more dangerous than in El Salvador in 2016, in addition to crossing the border with Nicaragua. It was there that our blogging team competitors got stuck for five hours. They did not want to let them in when they found a drone in the suitcase to shoot from the air. The driver was even going to be seriously imprisoned as an international spy. As a result, in order to pass, the quadcopter had to be left at the border along with a large number of nerve cells. Although we do not have drones, we are ready to go through all the circles of hell to get to Nicaragua.
The Pan-American “Heroes League” race continues.
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