The Darien Gap

by Aaron on January 8, 2011

Thursday, we crossed over the Darien Gap on our flight to Cartagena, Colombia.   The Darien Gap forms the border between Panama and Colombia and is one of the wildest places in the Western Hemisphere.  It’s a part of the world I’ve been fascinated with ever since hearing about it.

It’s an impenetrable mix of mountains, rivers, and swamps spanning 99 miles that make it virtually impossible to cross over land.

As we flew over, the end of the Pan-American Highway(the first end that is, the second is at the tip of South America) was about 15 miles off our right and directly underneath was dense jungle in all directions.

It’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around the fact that the road literally stops where the Darien Gap begins(hence the “Gap”).

There is no road connecting Central America with South America.  The road simply stops and lawless and impenetrable jungle begins.

Several years ago when I was trying to get some people together to do the Pan American Highway I learned about the Darien Gap.

It’s been on my radar ever since.   There have been many attempts to cross the Gap on foot and via 4X4’s. Only a few have succeeded.

One of the expeditions listed in wikipedia said they averaged a whopping 220 yds per day as they traversed across the Gap!

Aside from the rough terrain the Gap has been home to drug runners and guerillas for a while now making it even more dangerous to cross.  Numerous people have been kidnapped in this region, and a few have reportedly been killed.

When I was researching the Gap I stumbled across an author who had written a book about his experience while he was there.

I sent him an email telling him that I was considering(key word considering) an attempt at crossing if my Pan-American road trip panned out.   He wrote back with pretty simple instructions, “Don’t go.”

Yesterday as we flew over it was fun to finally see the place that has captured my imagination for a while now.  Maybe one day when the guerilla activity dies down I’ll go back:).

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