Touring America from end to end, from Tierra del Fuego, in the extreme south of Argentina, to Alaska, in the north of Canada, is one of the feats that millions of people have dreamed of. Who never said that he was going to “leave” everything to get into a truck and travel that endless journey of almost 18,000 kilometers in a straight line?
Of course, everyone knows that they have a great ally to achieve such an adventure: the Pan-American route, a monstrous network of routes, junctions and connections of some 50,000 kilometers that seems to make things extremely easy. However, what not everyone knows is that doing that is technically impossible since there are a stretch of almost 130 kilometers in which nature says “no”.
Its about “Darien plug”, on the border between Colombia and Panama, right where between South America and Central America this bottleneck. There a small piece of jungle becomes impassable and there is no other way than to deviate and get on a boat or a plane to cross it, unless one is really crazy.
The entrance to the Darien region, on the Panamanian side.
The Darien region is a mixture of contrasts, from the vast swamp Atrato from the Colombian side to the peaks of more than a kilometer on the Panamanian side. In any case, driving a car or 4×4 over there is to entrust yourself to God. Furthermore, the region is also dominated by a protected rainforest, home to several indigenous cultures, and it provides a useful barrier to hinder drug trafficking and the spread of disease.
The “funnel” in which Central America and South America meet. There is the Darien region. The image shows the possible alternatives to the crossing.
Some adventurous souls have tried the land walk. For example, a 1960 expedition crossed the plug in Jeeps and Land Rovers (it took them five months averaging 200 meters per hour), and George Meegan’s 1988 book, “The Longest Walk,” describes its passage of seven years from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska, including his transit through Darien on foot.
Between 1971 and 1972, Colonel John Blashford-Snell, English and for many “The last great Explorer”, managed to unite Cape Horn and Alaska.
Thanks to the research that followed the 1959 expedition, it was possible to help establish the Darién National Park as Unesco World Heritage Site, so it is difficult to imagine that one day the governments of both countries will want to project the continuity of the Pan-American Highway since the territory is legally protected.
It is said that only four or five times it was crossed, although in fact there is only one verifiable record of an expedition that has passed through it: between 1971 and 1972, Colonel John Blashford-Snell, English and for many “The Last Great Explorer”, he led a team of 60 in Range Rovers on what was the first full road trip from Alaska to Cape Horn, and yes, through Darien too. In fact, the section of the route described it as “the most difficult challenge of his career”.
Today, the gap is even more dangerous than it was in the past. The reason? The growth of drug trafficking and guerrillas in the region. So just in case the best thing is to take a few dollars more and take a plane or a boat.