Like Molvania and Phaic Tan before it, the Jetlag Travel Guide team bring you the forgotten jewel of Central America – San Sombrero. COLIN DELANEY speaks to co-author Rob Sitch about the country’s rich traditions, including the steamy “bababumba”, the recently legalised “forbidden dance”, the currency (the crapeso), and the political system – it’s democratic but dictatorial at the same time with a bicameral system – an upper house and a dungeon.

Congrats on your new book, San Sombrero. It’s piss-funny. Can you tell us a bit about the country? San Sombrero is the next hot backpacker destination. I don’t know if you’ve realised this but just about everything in travel is “hot”.

I have, even the cold places, like your little-known country of Nordborg… Yeah, even cold places are hot. There used to be five star resorts and I think we saw the first six star resort. And then we thought “what would seven stars be?” So we thought of the “Zimbawazi Big Game Lodge” where after dinner specially trained wild animals come and re-enact scenes from The Lion King. Anyway, San Sombrero is very musically-orientated. Even the prisoners are beaten to a rhythm. The Bababumba, which was the forbidden dance, has just been legalised. It’s the only dance where bodily fluids are regularly exchanged. If you’ve seen the Bababumba it’s a pretty erotic experience. It’s a land of festivals and carnivals but the best time to be there is probably late January because that’s Independence Day, and that’s followed up a week later by Dependence Day, which is where they celebrate their dependence on foreign aid and the cancellation of debt from the World Bank. That’s probably the best time to go.

Where are the best places to go in San Sombrero? That depends on which area you’re in. If you’re going to spend some time in Cucaracha City, which is the capital, any time of year is a very vibrant time. But it went through a very seedy time. It went through a yellow-fever outbreak in the 50s, and it depopulated. But then it got repopulated by an outbreak of disco fever during the 70s. And now it’s one of the most happening places in Central America. You’ve really just got to time your visit in accordance with insect patches: there’s stinging bees, swarming fire ants. You’re not so much out-manoeuvring weather as out-manoeuvring flying, biting insects. But if you do that you’re up for enjoyment.

Is life easier in San Sombrero? Relaxed is the word that everybody uses. It’s a totallinocracy which means the president can only be assassinated by a two-thirds majority of the government. So in that sense it’s democratic but dictatorial at the same time with a bicameral system – an upper house and a dungeon. It has a political system but I don’t think the average San Sombreran takes it seriously. Having said that, they do take their military seriously. You can go to the national palace and see the changing of the guard which is done with a lot of fanfare, but if you’re there long enough you’ll see the changing of the Government, which is done once a week so it depends on how much time you’ve got. It has a mixture of people. In rough terms it’s 55 per cent Spanish origin, 23 per cent Melato, 14 per cent black and the rest are CIA operatives. It’s also the birthplace of tinted-sunglasses and sequins, so they’re very proud. The boom in ballroom dancing has meant a mini boom in San Sombrero because they are the largest sequin manufacturer in the world.

And what about nicotine? They produce cigars. In Cuba they say that cigars are rolled on the thighs of virgins. Well, in San Sombrero they’re rolled between the buttocks of virgins. I just don’t know if it’s quite as appealing for Westerners as the Cuban ones. What else can I tell you? Cucaracha City was voted world’s most squatable city – that’s a positive. At the Zoo you’re invited to feed the animals, mainly because that’s the only food they’ll get. There is a bit of violence, it’s mostly confined to the Parliament building, but if you are going to be there after dark avoid the red light district of San Felacio.

What’s the most popular way of getting around in San Sombrero? Well, it’s normally done by car jacking. That’s a treat in itself. No one takes it personally. You need the local money and that’s the crapeso – there’s a hundred cachingos to the crapeso. But post-it notes are also legal tender. So throw in a packet of post-it notes and you’ll be able to get around. Bank notes come in all sorts of colours and sizes… and smells as well – the smell of the tropical plant that’s on the cover.

What is the highest smell? The coconut note, the sugarcane one is another. They are the big industries, coconuts and sugar cane. Occasionally they have a glut in one. They just recently had a glut in sugar, so they dumped it in the sea which makes the sharks safe due to tooth decay – it’s the safest place to go diving in the world. San Sombrero also has the only Madame Tussaud’s Brazilian wax museum, so get along to that too.

Obviously it wasn’t just the three of you working on this, you also have feature contributors… Our favourite to check in on is Philippe Miseree and his motto is “Wherever you’ve been, I’ve been, but 20 years before you.” He doesn’t want holidays. He only wants travel experiences which usually involves sleep deprivation and spending less than a dollar a day – in fact I think he went through Laos once and made a profit. He doesn’t even need a backpack, whatever is in his pockets he survives on. He’s a real hardcore traveller. He was in San Sombrero in the 70s so some of his material may be out of date. He refused to go back once they got a two star hotel. If you’ve gone to Western Europe, you’ve gone too far. If you’re not behind the old Iron Curtain you’re not living, according to these guys. The last we heard from Philippe Miseree he had been taken hostage in Chechnya and he was thrilled. It wasn’t costing him anything either.

Do you actually travel to the regions you’re referring to? We do. If you’re an Australian you tend to travel a lot, just going to the shops involves a 10-hour flight these days. We’ve all been through Europe and South-east Asia. Probably the one continent I haven’t spent much time is Africa. For this we all went through Central America. We did a few road trips. Santo went through northern Brazil. Tommy and I found our way from Mexico to Cuba, we really loved Cuba. The funny thing is if you lived in Central America you probably wouldn’t make the observations we make. We often say people make their best observations of Australia in their first week here. Then you stop noticing. When The Simpsons go to another country the writers never do any research, they just go off stereotypes.That’s the fun of it. And you’re not trying to make it a specific country. You’ve got to stay at 30,000ft on this stuff or you get too specific. The music can’t be Cuban, it has to be Pan-American. You have to do combinations. There is no country like Molvania but there are bits of Molvania all over Eastern Europe. And that’s why it would be hard to do one on Australia because you can make observations about Australia but you can’t make a country like Australia because it’s just too specific.

Have you ever heard of anyone not getting the joke? Well, I was walking around Harrods looking for a book on Mongolia and saw Molvania in the proper travel book rack. Mostly people get the joke. It’s been translated into Swedish, Finnish, and I did an interview in French the other day. It just went through the roof in Germany, but I hope the translation makes sense.

Where will the Jetlag Team focus on next? We look at parts of the world and add countries and no one notices. One of those is Scandinavia. We’re just talking about it now. There is a little country that receives very little attention up around the Norway, Sweden, Finland area called Sweltland which is one of the countries just sprung up from the break down of the Soviet Union. They are the number one suppliers of place-getters in the Miss World competition at the moment. Their capital is Birkenstockholm which has orthopaedic footpaths, so we’re just toying with that, but we might have a little rest now, now that we’ve written a trilogy. ¦

We have five copies of San Sombrero to give away. To win one, just email and name one of the two previously unknown countries the Jetlag team have exposed