Ever heard of the Darién Gap? Me neither. The Darién Gap is a 10,000 square-mile swath of untamed jungle and swampland straddling the border between Panama and Colombia. The region is populated by rare (and dangerous) wildlife, indigenous people who want to be left alone, and paramilitary groups who earn a living from drug trafficking and kidnapping. There are no roads, no trails, no police, and definitely no Starbucks. While several successful crossings have been accomplished over the past few decades, this expanse of jungle has defeated travelers for centuries, in many cases with disastrous results. Clearly a destination for the most experienced and intrepid. Given that I'm neither of those and our goal is to ride our motorcycles from Portland, Oregon to Tierra del Fuego, we had to find a way around it. Our options are:
- Crate our motorcycles in Panama City, air ship them, and take a commercial flight to Cartagena, Colombia. Laborious, boring, and expensive.
- Hire an independently operated small boat to take us by sea. Laborious and dangerous.
- Take a reputable sailing vessel that can easily carry our motorcycles, handle the immigration and customs paperwork, and provide comfortable accomodations and a fun experience. Expensive but fun.
I won't keep you guessing, we're going with option 3. And this brings me to the point of this post -- why we're moving our departure a month ahead and riding to Panama City twice as fast. Our goal is to reach Tierra del Fuego by February 2017, so the plan was to leave Portland around mid-November 2016, leisurely ride our motorcycles to Panama City, and, once there, wait for the next scheduled vessel to take us around the Darién Gap. We recently learned that the last available vessel capable of taking us around the Darién Gap this year will be on November 21st, which means we need to be in Panama City by November 20th at the latest! That's around the time we had originally planned to leave. What did we learn? While it's important to carefully plan our route, this needs to be loosely planned and we need to be ready to embrace change at every turn. We haven't set a definitive departure date, but we know it'll be somewhere around October 20, 2016. We'll let you know once we're ready to hit the road.
Do you know of another way around the Darién Gap?