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Crossing over Darien Gap

sunny 30 °C

The most common route to get to Panama is to take a sailing boat over to the north coast, fairly close to Ciudad de Panamá. However, when it came to weigh up the pros and cons of taking the boat we decided to take the half land route instead.
There were two main reasons for not sailing: first, I trend to get sea sick very easily; secondly, it was rather more expensive. There was also a very appealing thing to the fact of taking the second option: we were going to cross over the Darién Gap. Only on the coast side, which is quite protected and militarily guarded, but still part of the Darién, the so called no man’s land. It is still the place of the FARC and crossing it on the inland side is still considered an intentioned suicide…
Sara, our kiwi friend, was repeatedly doubted about either taking the sailing boat or coming with us but money finally tipped the scale and decided to join us in such an adventure. We first had to get to Turbo, from where we would overnight and take an early fast boat over to Capurganá. Even the journey up to Turbo was a long mission. We first took a bus to Montería, which resulted on changing over once along the way in a shitty small chicken bus, hot as hell and slower that a pro biker. We got to Montería really late but we were lucky to take the last jeep to Turbo. The seats on the far back were cheaper so… those we took. We felt like refugees hidden in the back seats covered by a black canvas. We even got stopped by police, on a random control. The looked at us a bit surprised: bloody gringos: cheap escape in our country. But it all went good and got to Turbo at midnight. The next day we were up very early to take the first “ferry”. This resulted to be a small fast boat without roof cover in the front part; we already knew that they normally try to leave the front seats for the gringos. I never had to wonder why they would do that, since we experience what it was like first hand.
We had packed all our big backpacks in garbage bags to protect them from the water; but soon we would realize that there was not much of a point of doing that. Our entire luggage got pretty wet after the 3.5 hours journey. We got wet too but that was not the main problem: the sea was choppy and rough and the front seats (meaning two benches on the side parts of the boat) were no place to seat. We even put the life vests on the benched in order to cushion our bottoms which were jumping up and down crazily from the waves. It was such a painful ride, but still quite fun…we could not stop laughing at the locals who were pleasantly seating down under the cover, almost falling sleep. Those bastards!
We got into Capurganá, or rather, half flooded Capurganá. It had been raining for months in the cost of Colombia. Although the wet season had come to an end a month earlier, La Niña phenomenon was causing all the heavy rains and, as a result, had enlarged the wet season. All the streets were flooded and in order to get to our hostel, we had to cross two streets, which had temporary become rivers…
Capurganá is such a laid back town: everything takes a while; there is no hurry for anything. It was nice to be in such a super relax atmosphere. We were only one hill from Panamá in such an unspoiled region. We in fact went up the hill, signed with Migration office as we wanted to go over to the first beach in Panamá , we heard the beach was much nicer than the one in the Colombian side. The setting was stunning but there is always something that reminds you that you are still in South America. While we were playing a kiwi strange game by the beach a bunch of soldiers came to board an army boat: this wasn’t the strange part, but that two of them were carrying a pig that was inside a bag: they were trying to keep the poor pig still but it was nearly impossible; and, on top of that, our poor veggie Sara suffering for the pig (so I did too) and contemplating the scene that was taking place in such a pretty cove beach.
The next day we decided to take a boat to Sapzurro and stay over a couple of nights or so. We ended up staying in a cute little cottage at a very good price in a family place. The owner was a woman on her thirties married to an 80 year old man, for money reasons (as she explained). At the beginning she seemed very nice but she ended up being a very controlling person, too suffocating to live with. The best part of it: we learn how to make coconut rice! It was delicious!
Sapzurro was a very authentic place: less touristy than Capurganá, the people were friendlier and careless about any gringo passing by. We did a jungle excursion back to Capurganá which was very nice and had a well deserved ice cream at the soccer pitch in town. The next day we were off to Puerto Obaldía to take the flight to Panamá City. The flight was also an experience: a very small and old plane that flew at a very low altitude over San Blás Islands: they looked amazing! After the short time flight, we had to wait 3 hours in the airport: one interview with migration, two police controls, our bags were checked twice, even with police dogs. It took ages all together but finally we were in Panamá City.

Kid on the streets of Capurgana

Kid on the streets of Capurgana

Street in Capurgana

Street in Capurgana

Kids posing for a photo in Capurgana

Kids posing for a photo in Capurgana

Unspoilt beaches in Panama

Unspoilt beaches in Panama

Sapzurro, Panama

Sapzurro, Panama

Up on a hill: Migration office to enter Panama. Luckily we cut Henrik's hair the next day

Up on a hill: Migration office to enter Panama. Luckily we cut Henrik's hair the next day

Paradise palm trees beach

Paradise palm trees beach

Deserted beach at the border crossing, on the panamanian side

Deserted beach at the border crossing, on the panamanian side

Baywatcher Henrik

Baywatcher Henrik

Pig on board in Panama

Pig on board in Panama

Posted by hmontonen 10:05 Archived in Colombia

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