The most dangerous place on earth

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To get to the island of Utila in Honduras from Nigaragua over land from Granada is no easy task. We had to take 2 different, more than full, local busses to Esteli. After a night in this depressing town came a cab and two more busses to the Honduras border. It took some money in the right pockets to let us pass and before dark we managed to reach Tegucigalpa, worlds most dangerous capital. Forget every story you ever heard, in this town more murders occur than in Detroit, Kabul and Kingstown combined. It took a black windowed cab to reach our hotel safely. We had to be in before the evening because they close the gates after dark and only open them in the morning. Quite a reasonable precaution if you take into account that we heard from two other travellers that they got out of the same hotel an hour before dark to see somebody get shot through the head in the middel of the street.

in this town more murders occur than in Detroit, Kabul and Kingstown combined. It took a black windowed cab to reach our hotel safely

In the morning it was on to the coast with another black windowed cab that took us to the bus station. After the obligated checkup by two guards with machine guns we were allowed to enter the busstation and could board the bus to the coast. One more night in a shitty hotel (including no running water and bedbugs in all of the beds with made us sleep in the hallway) and it was off to the dive paradise Utila.

This island is reasonable safe although when I walked with my laptop in my bag to the bar where I was going to play I had to think about the local newspaper reporting a “drop in murders to only 28 in the past year” (on an island with only 20.000 people). One of these murders occurred only a month earlier when two Canadian tourists where both shot in the head because they walked around with an iPhone.

The gig was in the local bar called “the Treetanic” voted one of the top 5 bars in the world by the Lonely planet. A day earlier I was struck by the amazing garden which was build beneath a big tree where the bar was situated in a treehouse. The garden looks like something Guadi himself could have designed. Full of color stones, weird shapes and all kinds of little mystery corners. To get in the bar you have to climb a stairs that circles a big tree where you end up on a platform a few meters off the ground. A truly amazing place to play! I played an easy mixture of disco and funk with some house in the end to win the audience over from the populair dance charts they usually played in the bar but in the end the party was very good. The way back to the hotel through the dark was even more scary but I survived and the recording too:

Lost in the Favela’s

This story was previously printed in Legowelts cult magazine: “Order of the Shadowwolf

“Going on a world trip is easy. You just need a decent job in a western society, a travel partner / wife (also with job) and the determination to live two years on pasta so you can save enough money. The difficult thing is leaving everything and everybody behind. To say goodbye to your job, house, family and above all security.

The security part is the part we miss the most when we land in Rio de Janeiro on the first day. After eighteen hours of flight (did I already mention that the world trip is a budget one?), Brazil can be breathtaking. Literally cause the forty degrees in combination with a lot of shouting South American cabdrivers is something you generally don’t want to encounter after almost twenty-four hours without sleep.

Rio de Janeiro is a gigantic city with more than 6 million people living there. The fact that carnival was about to begin did almost double this number and made the prices of the hotel skyrocket. That is why we decided to go couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a worldwide website dedicated to get travelers who have a spare room for other travels in contact with each other. We found a nice girl with good references in Rio who wanted to take us in for three days and show us around in town. Her house was a bit outside the tourist area and this is where the problem started.

The first five cabdrivers didn’t know the address (or any English and with the quick course Portuguese I did in the plane I couldn’t really do more than count till ten and say “thank you” which didn’t help much at all). The sixth one did know the address but told us it was in the middle of the favelas. The favelas are the slums of Brazil and generally not the safest neighborhoods (to make a comparison: being in a minefield in Congo can be saver because at least if you stand still not much will happen to you, there are saver favelas now but that weren’t the ones we were heading to).

Our dream of finally being in a safe environment to get some drinks, food and maybe some sleep was shattered by the receptionist telling us the phone was not answered.

We convinced the cabdriver to take us there anyway to have a look. When driving to the address the houses looked worse and worse. The cab had to slowly maneuver through half blocked streets with garbage and cracks in the concrete. Even the Brazilian cabdriver locked his doors and we felt the tension. Twenty six hours ago we were in the Netherlands, having a cup of coffee on the airfield after saying goodbye to family and friends, now we were driving through exactly those areas they always say you have to avoid with no knowledge of the country, language or our general surroundings.

We were in Asia before but never in South America and never (apart from some streets in our own city) in a neighborhood where even the cabdrivers don’t want to be. Our relieve was immense when we stopped at the address and the building turned out to be a gated and heavily guarded community of six flats right between three favelas. The cabdriver jumped out and got one of the guards who, after showing him the address, looked around before opening the fence to let the cab drive in. After us they immediately closed the gate to only open it again to let the cab leave.

It was one in the afternoon, right on time, when we told the reception to phone our hostess. Our dream of finally being in a safe environment to get some drinks, food and maybe some sleep was shattered by the receptionist telling us the phone was not answered. There was nothing else to do but wait on a couch in the reception and hope our hostess would turn up any time soon. We couldn’t go outside into the favela and there was nowhere else to go: because of carnival all the hotels had been spoken for months ago.

TO BE CONTINUED…”

The rest of the story might be printed in another issue of “Order of the Shadowwolf” later on but during our time in the favela’s we heard some pretty good “Baile Funk” (the Brazilian variation on ghetto rap mixed with electronic beats) and I decided to make my own Baile Funk mix. Upon presenting it to my Brazilian friends they thought it was actually authentic until I told them the truth. Decide for yourself.

Baile Electro by Baz Reznik on Mixcloud

Lima nights

After traveling through South America for about four months during the world trip I did with my wife in 2013, we got pretty tired of going from one place to another. Luckily we had a friend in Lima who offered us a place to stay. At the time we were in Peru, he was unfortunately in Cuba but we could stay in his apartment.

When you traveled from one hotel to the next hostel, from a boat to sleeping in a bus and back to a hotel for four months, having a place for yourself is the best feeling in the world. With a kingsize bed, an interactive television and an iPod docking-station in his house we made the place in no time our own. The only trips we made that week where trips to the nearby supermarket to shop for supplies. Being able to cook in a real kitchen is a rare luxury during a long trip and we enjoyed every bit of it.

During one of my walks through the neighborhood (the apartment was situated in the tourist centre of the city , which was conveniently safe and close to all the bars), I discovered a nice little pub. Gratify and skateboards on the walls gave it a nice alternative look. After enquiring  inside it turned out that the owner was a lady from Lima but most of the programming was done by a guy from the UK both who where quite interested in my music.

That Saturday I went to the pub to do some dj’ing. The sound-system consisted, as in many South American bars, of one speaker with build in amplifier. Most dj’s in South America bring their own controller and sound-cards, something I already experienced earlier so which didn’t oppose any problems.

“I never understood that modern dance music that is played everywhere these days until now, you made me understand the musicality behind the house beats”.

Starting with some minimalish techno (a style of music quite popular at the time in Peru), I gradually worked my way into my more usual sound. I had four hours to play, something that was quite common in these regions and that I really love because of the possibilities to really build an evening. The place was packed with a young, slightly alternative and hip crowd who really liked the music (according to them the best minimal they ever experienced). Although it was more of a drinking place than a club various people started to do some dancing.

The best part of the evening came around three hours in the set when the guy from the bar came to ask if an old street musician could play for ten minutes on his drum to collect some money. He turned out to be a quite famous character who played his drums in various bars around the town for the past forty years already (I got a message from Peru after my initial post that he is known as “Uncle Sour”). After his (very good) drum performance I started to play again with the guy still present in the bar. He stayed until the end of my set and then came to me. What followed was one of the nicest compliments I ever got. He told me: “I never understood that modern dance music that is played everywhere these days until now, you made me understand the musicality behind the house beats”.

Listen to the recording of that evening and judge for yourself.

Live @ Jam Box, Lima, Peru by Baz Reznik on Mixcloud