Sunday, August 06, 2017

My Darien Gap maps

I got sucked into a Darien Gap wormhole again last night. Panama technically doesn't have an army anymore. It has SENAFRONT, a police force that guards its borders. Well, SENAFRONT has a twitter account and it's just a bunch of PR photos of soldiers playing with children and feeding the locals. Then, I saw this:

What's the significance of this tweet? The Pan-American Highway ends in Yaviza. Boca de Cupe is five miles SOUTH of Yaviza. There is a way for cars to get there!

Just before I set out for Yaviza in 2013, I went to the national geography institute in Panama City to find maps of the Darien. I found two. They, along with ten other maps, make up the entire country of Panama. Because crossing the Darien is forbidden, I stowed the maps in my backpack's hidden compartment so that SENAFRONT soldiers at various checkpoints wouldn't find them. I was that careful/paranoid.

Here is the first map.

This is a close-up of the bottom of the first map. You can see the road ends at Yaviza. Boca de Cupe is at the bottom right. When I was in Yaviza, the only way to get there was by Yamaha-powered dugout canoe.

So 11 is the first map. 12 is the second map.

Here is the second map. There is virtually no civilization. Reviewing these maps has made me realize I need to get detailed maps of the Colombian side of the Darien Gap. I wonder if those are available in Bogota or Medellin.

And here is a great video of Yaviza. I spent two days and one night there. I'll do a running commentary of the video below. It was so hot and humid there, I was miserable. I nearly passed out in my "hotel's" shared toilet. Both general stores in town were owned by recent Chinese immigrants, and one of the shopkeepers tried to sell me a rare bird.

0:41 The only activity along the waterfront all day consisted of guys unloading those green bananas.

2:55 This is the area where the buses hung out. The van I took was a Hiace.

3:31 The "entrance" to the town has two or three bars. And it's just a bunch of people being loud and drinking cheap beer. There were a lot of people. I did my best to stay away from the crowd. It looked like trouble. It was a rough place. And I stood out like a sore thumb.

3:56 I am 80% positive I stayed in the yellow building. It was operated by La Profesora.

4:13 It's a small town, population-wise and size-wise, but there's always a ton of people walking around. I could never figure out where they were going.

4:31 Bird!

10:05 The town's population is half Indian, half descendants of escaped slaves.

12:44 Behind the basketball court was the SENAFRONT base. I had to check in there when I arrived.

13:24 As I walked through town, I saw a family watching Joan and Melissa Rivers's reality show on satellite.

13:44 A BMW!

14:02 Noriega was rumored to have lived in Yaviza as a child.

14:40 Maybe everyone is just people watching. There's nothing else to do, there are certainly many characters, and it's too hot to stay indoors.

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