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  #1  
Old 3 Jun 2012
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Panama to Columbia (overland?)

(I'm planning a pan-am-ish trip in the coming future and was lead along the lines of the following)

My cursory search on here reveals it's not been brought up before.

Surely not!?!

So after a rapid glance on google maps, I'm assured that there is some land mass between Panama and Columbia.

So my question (not to the naysayers): aside from people with guns, lack of road, tropical illnesses, poisonous fauna and dangerous creatures, what's stopping me from giving it a go?

It must have been done, once or twice! Anyone know who has? Any tips or suggestions (I should ignore) if that person is reading?
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Old 3 Jun 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil View Post
(I'm planning a pan-am-ish trip in the coming future and was lead along the lines of the following)

My cursory search on here reveals it's not been brought up before.

Surely not!?!

So after a rapid glance on google maps, I'm assured that there is some land mass between Panama and Columbia.

So my question (not to the naysayers): aside from people with guns, lack of road, tropical illnesses, poisonous fauna and dangerous creatures, what's stopping me from giving it a go?

It must have been done, once or twice! Anyone know who has? Any tips or suggestions (I should ignore) if that person is reading?
There has been a couple to my knowledge, and at least one book written on the subject.
A while ago I remember reading a similar thread (it may have been on the HUBB, Advrider or lonely planet thorn tree, cannot remember) by a person similar to yourself, surmising that surely the Darien could be traversed given it had been done before.

The response was huge and detailed in explanation as to why such an attempt by most mortals on this planet would likely result in death.

While not wanting to be a naysayer (so your question, if not to naysayers was to those believing it is possible? you might get limited responses if that is the case) everything I have read from experienced overlanders, locals, military etc was that the physical barriers presented by the darien gap in addition to the hazards faced by bandits, pirates, rebel groups, indigenous groups and the military themselves would likely result in the death of any person who attempted to cross it.
There is a reason virtually nobody attempts this and boats and planes make a killing transporting people around it.

It is indeed possible. But why?

There is a lot of info on the darien gap and the dangers if you do a decent search. Including the disappearance of more than a few foolish gringos who entered never to be seen again. So while not wanting to be a naysayer its obvious at this point you appear not have done the required research to even surmise that this would be a good idea.
Funnily enough in that thread I mentioned above the OP seemed even more encouraged to do it the more he learnt of the dangers. Perhaps the challenge attracts only a certain type of person(with a death wish?)

If thats you, just do your research. Just my 2 cents.

good luck!
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Old 3 Jun 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil View Post
(not to the naysayers): aside from people with guns, lack of road, tropical illnesses, poisonous fauna and dangerous creatures, what's stopping me from giving it a go?
Since you don't want naysayers, I'll just say that yes, you should give it a try. Nothing's stopping you. As you say, a few others have made it, and there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't join their ranks....aside from those you listed (with a few insignificant additions, like the fact that it's forbidden by the governments involved, takes a significant amount of time and effort, and costs rather a lot of money).

You don't say whether you're on foot or traveling with a vehicle. That might matter.

Post here about your experiences once you're done.

Mark
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  #4  
Old 3 Jun 2012
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Hey guys, cheers for your feedback, given that I didn't even know it is called the Darien gap, goes to show how little I knew on the subject. Always appreciate a little education.

I do wonder at times with certain things... I mean with overlanding in particular, tell everyday Joe you're going to ride an entire continent on a dirt bike and they'll say "you'll never make it"... tell them you'll cross the world on a dirt bike they'll raise their hands to the sky laughing and tell you "stop being stupid!"

I find in similar circumstances even among overlanders, you tell them you're going to give XYZ stretch of desert/forest/trail a go, and some will say "That's mad don't do it!" [followed by a list of their reasons why they're not going to run the risk] meanwhile they stay in their very comfortable comfort zone and stay on the tar.

It's interesting. I'm by no means even ready to leave for the Americas yet, but I would be interested in knowing about the Darien. If you say it's forbidden by the governments involved, then I'll take that on the chin and follow the band wagon. However, if it were legal and achievable, I'd look into it.
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  #5  
Old 3 Jun 2012
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Neil
I´ve just left Colombia, and now in Panama (by plane!). I was hoping that the ferry would be up and running by now - but no such luck.

As part of your research you might like to take a look at Nick´s website. He rides places others strain to reach - and he had an interesting(!) encounter in Colombia. Not the Darien, but perhaps an example of what can happen when you stray too much from the usual travellers´ routes. His stuff is well worth the read anyway, and he has nice pics!

Blog - Tales from the Saddle - Solo Motorcycle Tour Around the World on a Yamaha YBR 125 and Honda XR125

There is a thread under ride tales covering my travels (plus link below)
Hope that helps
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  #6  
Old 4 Jun 2012
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I'm no expert, but I think there could be reason(s), why the Interamericana has never been built between Panama and Colombia? But like you said, you'll probably need to do more research on the subject, before you decide. It certainly is "off the beaten track", and personally I'd skip it, as I think there are more tempting and less risky adventures to be found.
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  #7  
Old 4 Jun 2012
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Helge Pedersen crossed it (if I'm right, the 1st to do it). Google his name to find more info. So it's doable.

I'll add a short (or long) story: I know as well an Spaniard who made it in the late 70s by foot (which to me looks easier), I don't know how much it has changed. He went with a Quebecois and got a couple of indian guides in Panama. Half way, the guides desisted, they said "no way, this is mad". They kept on machete at hand. Run out of water, desperate left the backpacks, kept going and after long hours walking found their backpacks again. They had made a circle! Imagine the desperation (don't tell me about compass and navigation, I don't know how your brains works in that situation). The had to drink the water from a source (but no great katadyn as now), kept on and were found by indians (loincloths, blowguns, etc) who took them and told them the way. Arrived to the 1st village in Colombia, went to the church and met the priest, another Spaniard, who said "you don't need a bed, guy, you need a hospital, you look too bad!". He got a very bad dysenteria and almost died, spent a month in hospital and finally recovered. I asked him: "Carlos, would you repeat it?" He answered "NO WAY, almost died, such a tension the Quebecois and I never talked again, it was not really accomplishment". I can assure you he's a tough guy and he says he was still lucky not to get a mortal malaria (I heard of a fatal case when I was travelling in Panama).

If I were brave enough to try something like that (and I'm not), I'd choose to go on a monkey bike, so that you can more easily put it no a canoe and the like. No joking.

I searched a bit and there is an old thread about it and low tide and so, although the language is sometimes offensive: http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...rien-gap-13294

Happy travels and please take a well pondered decision,

Esteban
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  #8  
Old 5 Jun 2012
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Originally Posted by estebangc View Post
Helge Pedersen crossed it (if I'm right, the 1st to do it). Google his name to find more info. So it's doable.

I'll add a short (or long) story: I know as well an Spaniard who made it in the late 70s by foot (which to me looks easier), I don't know how much it has changed. He went with a Quebecois and got a couple of indian guides in Panama. Half way, the guides desisted, they said "no way, this is mad". They kept on machete at hand. Run out of water, desperate left the backpacks, kept going and after long hours walking found their backpacks again. They had made a circle! Imagine the desperation (don't tell me about compass and navigation, I don't know how your brains works in that situation). The had to drink the water from a source (but no great katadyn as now), kept on and were found by indians (loincloths, blowguns, etc) who took them and told them the way. Arrived to the 1st village in Colombia, went to the church and met the priest, another Spaniard, who said "you don't need a bed, guy, you need a hospital, you look too bad!". He got a very bad dysenteria and almost died, spent a month in hospital and finally recovered. I asked him: "Carlos, would you repeat it?" He answered "NO WAY, almost died, such a tension the Quebecois and I never talked again, it was not really accomplishment". I can assure you he's a tough guy and he says he was still lucky not to get a mortal malaria (I heard of a fatal case when I was travelling in Panama).

If I were brave enough to try something like that (and I'm not), I'd choose to go on a monkey bike, so that you can more easily put it no a canoe and the like. No joking.

I searched a bit and there is an old thread about it and low tide and so, although the language is sometimes offensive: http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...rien-gap-13294

Happy travels and please take a well pondered decision,

Esteban
Esteban, creo.... (y estoy suponiendo), que sabiendo algo de español tiene que ayudar un poco. Yo personalmente soy de doble nacionalidad y me manejo bastante bien en los dos idiomas. Me gustaría conocer aquel tipo quien lo hizo en pie, de donde es?

In English,

I was saying that I believe knowing the native language/culture would help a lot.


Anyhow, I don't propose riding the monorail in low tide don't worry; the hovercraft will do just fine.

I did read on wikipedia that...
Quote:
Originally Posted by wikipedia
In 2011 Pat Farmer a Ultra-marathon athlete ran from the North Pole to the South Pole crossed the Darien Gap with the aid of 17 armed soldiers in 4 days in September.
Which is encouraging, that was only last year! I skimmed my eyes over the 17 armed soldiers bit, it didn't seem too encouraging on my pursuit of doing it in 2 days.
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  #9  
Old 5 Jun 2012
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Originally Posted by Neil View Post
Esteban, creo.... (y estoy suponiendo), que sabiendo algo de español tiene que ayudar un poco. Yo personalmente soy de doble nacionalidad y me manejo bastante bien en los dos idiomas. Me gustaría conocer aquel tipo quien lo hizo en pie, de donde es?

In English,

I was saying that I believe knowing the native language/culture would help a lot.


Anyhow, I don't propose riding the monorail in low tide don't worry; the hovercraft will do just fine.

I did read on wikipedia that...

Which is encouraging, that was only last year! I skimmed my eyes over the 17 armed soldiers bit, it didn't seem too encouraging on my pursuit of doing it in 2 days.
Indeed, you do speak/write absolutely perfect Spanish. But you'll still probably be a gringo, even me I was sometimes a gringo and I look very Spanish!

I don't want to discourage you (you meant it in your post), since probably everyone did so with Helge at the time. I just wanted to provide info for a solidly based decision.

It's a long story, to cut short: the guy is Spanish, after lived long yearsin the jungle in Peru and later worked in the UN and recently retired. He's humble and doesn't tell about it, his wife started the topic. Then I dug on it and he told me the details.

I'm no expert, so I cannot tell you, I've never done anything close to that. I mainly go to the supermarket after work, don't cross jungles machete at hand, so I cannot provide any advice.

If you are Mike Horn, who crossed by foot the whole Amazon jungles following the Equator, no worries, for sure (btw, I strongly recommend his book Latitude ZERO, not sure if it is translated). Or this guy (odyssey home page, what an awesome trip). But risks are something to consider twice before you embark on that; I dare that the bike would be more a burden.

PS: Didn't mean the low tide regarding you, it was just "interesting" to read.
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Old 5 Jun 2012
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It's a swamp...

Hehe, there is a mountain of information on the Darien on the net, so I'd say you haven't began researching yet!!

I met a guy who documented a trip with 4 germans who made rafts and used their bikes to propel them down the rivers to Colombia...they overheated due to the engine working the same but having no wind to cool it. Later some others made another raft and floated the amazon, successfully by setting up a water pump to cool the engine.

So good luck and post info on what you decide!


Here is a yahoo answer why there is no road:

The Darien Gap as someone mentioned is the existing gap in the Pan-American Highway. At the time the road was being built it was unfeasible to build as the jungle and the terrain were to harsh to build and the gap was deemed to expensive.

Later the presence of guerrilla groups around the Panama - Colombia border has made this difficult for Panama to accept, as they believe it will allow Colombian Guerrillas to do more frequent incursions in Panamanian territory, and that may encourage them to start operating in Panama, who has stayed guerrilla free for most of their republican life.

Another situation being debated is that Panama is one of the Latin American countries that is free of aftose (food and mouth disease). Opening the gap may allow for the easier transfer of cattle and therefore the presence of the disease in Panama.

Trade has never been affected and the opening of the gap won't develop more trade. Most goods are shipped from country to country, and recently Panama had a serious grievance filed at the WTO about Colombia not accepting Panamanian imports from the Colon Free Zone. So again the gap is not an issue for present trade.

Panama is not flexible on opening the gap, while Colombia has been trying for quite sometime now. I seriously don't believe it will take place until the guerrilla situation is under control. Other than that things will stay the same.
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Old 6 Jun 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estebangc View Post
even me I was sometimes a gringo and I look very Spanish!
Just curious, how does someone "look Spanish"?

Spanish is a language, do you look like a language?
Spanish can also be a nationality, but how does someone "look" like they are from Spain?
Maybe you mean that you look "Hispanic" but that is a little bit difficult, too, and not to mention it involves a great degree of stereotyping.
It's like someone saying they look "Swiss".
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Old 6 Jun 2012
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Originally Posted by MikeMike View Post
Just curious, how does someone "look Spanish"?

Spanish is a language, do you look like a language?
Spanish can also be a nationality, but how does someone "look" like they are from Spain?
Maybe you mean that you look "Hispanic" but that is a little bit difficult, too, and not to mention it involves a great degree of stereotyping.
It's like someone saying they look "Swiss".
MikeMike,

I meant it as a contrast to someone looking very gringo, such as blonde, blue eyes, white/rossy skin and the like. The fact that I speak native Spanish and don't look like that didn't mean that they wouldn't say to each other "el gringo no quiere pagar más por el taxi" (=the gringo doesn't want to pay more for the taxi). I'm not a gringo and I understand all you say each other!!!

But trying to answer your... question, I can recognize some Spaniards fom miles away, as they can do with me. There have to be some patters, physically or attitude, I don't know. As well as some Brits can be recognized very easily, due to milky skin, freckles, etc. Other people look Dutch. I guess that in the US, being more of a mixture is less obvious, so you would base more on clothes (New Balance Trainers?).

Yesterday I asked one guy I see in a language school if he was Iranian, since he looked veryh Iranian (I feel great sympathy for Persians). "Yes, how do you know it? My parents are both Iranians, but I never lived in Iran". "Well, you look very Iranian anyway". Maybe you consider it stereotyping. I don't intend that, but still find it more probable that "looking like a language", though.
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Old 6 Jun 2012
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Interesting discussion as to how folks often reflect their birth country or recent ancestral country by their appearance as in body type, dress, hair styles , mannerisms,use of language etc etc etc.. The ability to be able to make such informed guesses is built on tuning in on a lot of subtle cues and does not in any way imply racism or stereotyping. I would have no problem if somebody clued in and called me a Dutchman .
.
As to the topic of the Darien gap being crossable, well yeah, if one put enough money and effort into arranging an expedition I suppose it would be possible "on land" . But since there is no actual continual (good?) road it will still involve hauling a vehicle on boats or rafts , winches , dozers ..... . At what point does it really cease being a ride. Actually hndreds of people "cross the Darien Gap " everyday - just look at all the planes.
Mr Pedersen may have succeeded in hauling a bike through te jungles but ...is it really a bike ride if you drag an anvil across the world?
The entire conceit of doing a bike or car trip RTW depends on everybody agreeing that , okay, we'll have to make an exception for all the wet bits.
The point is to just have a great ride and see stuff and enjoy it. .
I think initially the USA agreed to funding for the whole route af the road but held off at first because of concern about transmission of hoof and mouth disease in transported cattle . Since then environmentalism, fear of criminal action, drug transport and native rights have put a damper on any enthusiasm for it, or so goes the narrative that I have followed
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Old 7 Jun 2012
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Hola ,
since you don't want naysayers, i say also go for it, and make sure you
blog about it.
But be ready to encounter some real difficult situations.


Something else:
Quote: Just curious, how does someone "look Spanish"?

Spanish is a language, do you look like a language?
Spanish can also be a nationality, but how does someone "look" like they are from Spain?
Maybe you mean that you look "Hispanic" but that is a little bit difficult, too, and not to mention it involves a great degree of stereotyping.
It's like someone saying they look "Swiss".


When i was working in a big hotel in London,me and a colleague always where guessing from with country the people that came to check in where from( before the even talked to us).
It is amazing how good you can get in this game after a while.
9 out of 10 i got right.
So i think that estebangc is right ,you can look like you are from a
particular country.(even if this is called stereotyping).

Saludos and good luck!
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  #15  
Old 11 Jun 2012
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Hey guys, I've not been around to reply lately to get back to this discussion, so sorry about that.

Interesting discussion and I'm amused at how many people who haven't tried it are so keen to discourage others. I am not saying that I'm going to succeed, or even try it myself, but was keen to know what the consensus was.

Back to the digressing sub-discussion:
Maybe it's a Spanish thing, being able to note people's origins. I was brought up in Spain in a tourist town serving lots of foreigners, I would say I have a good eye for nationalities. I am often utilizing this ability as a conversation starter, even in sub-Saharan Africa it was remarkable how different looking each nationality were, Ethiopians are a striking contrast to their neighbours in Kenya.
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