The Darien Gap: An IntroductionAugust 30th, 2013 | Posted by in About | Border Crossings | Colombia | Darien Gap | Panama | The Places We've Been
We’ve been talking about the Darien Gap with increasing frequency over the last month or two. It has existed vaguely in our awareness for a couple of years, but we intentionally delayed any real focus on it so as to avoid unnecessary stress. That luxury has slowly slipped away now as we’ve driven closer and closer to the end of the road until, for the last couple of weeks, we are spending our energies on little else. What exactly is this dreaded Darien Gap? Here’s the scoop…
The Darien Gap is:
- the stretch of land that connects Central and South America,
- the entire width of the land mass reaching from coast to coast,
- part of both Panama and Colombia (see map below),
- without roads and impassable by vehicle,
- the only missing link in the Pan-American Highway that reaches from Alaska to Argentina,
- approximately 99 miles long with the straightline gap from road-end to road-end approximately 62 miles long,
- covered in mountains and rainforest on the Panamanian side and marsh and swampland on the Colombian side,
- home of the largest national park in Central America, Panama’s Darien National Park,
- reportedly populated by 1,700 inhabitants,
- controlled by drug-lords and guerrillas, and
- extremely dangerous for both the trecherous natural setting and the perilously unrestrained human presence.
To clarify, we are not adrenaline junkies and have never, at any point, ever, considered trying to be one of the adventurous (read: maniacal) few who decide to traverse the gap on foot or by small boat, a journey that takes many months in the rare case that the traveler lives through it. It would seem that we give off that vibe though as many, many people that we’ve met throughout Central America have been sure to do their part in ensuring that if we did ever even begin to think of such an outrageous possibility, we would swiftly be reminded of their horror stories and return to the sanity of our current approach.
So what does that mean for us then? It means driving our car into a giant container, shipping that container by boat to Colombia, flying ourselves to Colombia, sending our dogs by airline cargo to Colombia, and then trying to get all of the pieces back together on the other side. It means three thousand dollars, visits to multiple government offices, steps in various cities throughout two countries, forms and more forms and additional forms and copies of forms, hiring an agent, trips to the veterinarian, stressed pets, two to three days at a Colombian port, living out of a shared carry-on, lots of practice of our Spanish language skills, and exhaustingly odd working hours. Most importantly, it means the biggest logistical challenge of our journey.
But we’re ready, and we’re tackling it as a team. Stay tuned to see if we make it there.
Added 8/31/2013 – The Darien Gap: Preparing
Added 9/3/2013 – The Darien Gap: Vehicle Shipping, Panama Side
Added 9/9/2013 – The Darien Gap: Dogs
Added 9/10/2013 – Border Crossing: Panama / Colombia
Added 9/11/2013 – The Darien Gap: Vehicle Shipping, Colombia Side
Added 9/12/2013 – The Darien Gap: Expenses
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sounds like you have done your homework, although I’m sure that does not lessen the stress involved in this undertaking. Safe travels for you, your dogs and your vehicle…can’t wait for your first post from South America.
You nailed it on the head, Sandi. The dogs have actually been the most challenging portion because there is very little information available online to guide us. Thanks for the well wishes!
Safe Travels to both of you son. Your mama, dane and frankie are sending out good thoughts to the universe. Talk to you on the other side. Love you !
Thanks, Mom! Going to be a hectic few days, but we’ll be in touch. Love you lots.
Holy Cow. Your blogs are so inspiring, intriguing, and educational! I am learning so much and absolutely am tickled when I see a new adventure to read about in my inbox. HOWEVER-this one does not give me peace! Please be safe! I will be praying for a smooth transition to Colombia! Susan
Thanks, Susan! What a compliment! For our own crossing, we are scheduled to take a one hour, commercial flight on Monday. Getting the car back and the dogs approved on the Colombian side will be challenging, but not unsafe, which indeed is top priority. Sending more your way soon!
Great article. By far more accurate portrayal of your efforts and obstacles compared to your “magical bicycle made for two” version that reminds me of Mary Poppins. Be safe, enjoy the adventure!! <3
Haha, yes, perhaps that is true. Thanks, Mom!
Wow guys thats an adventure! Sure you will make it!
Thank you, Feli! We appreciate the support!
I am so proud to have such educated, inquisitive, smart young grandchildren, but please be careful as I’m sure you are. We will be so happy to know you have made it to Columbia and are safe. Love, Grandma Pete
Thank you, Grandma! We too are looking forward to landing on the other side, and we’ll check-in that evening!
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I’m with the “moms” on the “be safe” part but wow, what an adventure….
Wishing you an easy and safe adventure.
Thanks, Laurie! As if our mothers weren’t wonderful enough, we’ve also got a great “moms” team cheering us on and taking care of all the worrying. As always, thanks for the support!
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