The Darien Gap has been closed

panamericanhwySince the beginning of time, it has been well-nigh impossible for pedestrians, motorists, cyclists and hitchhikers to make an uninterrupted journey from North to South America or vice versa.

The problem was the Darien Gap, the border region between Colombia and Panama dominated by swamps, rainforest and mountain ridges so impenetrable that no road connects the two countries.

Of course there have been a few expeditions that were successful, but it’s nothing that the average traveler could, or indeed should, imitate. The first vehicular crossing in 1959-60 took 136 days, at an average pace of 4.8 km per day. The first all-land auto crossing (not using boats for parts of the trip) was in 1985-87. Yes, you read that right: it took more than two years – 741 days to be exact – to cross 201 km. (Don’t people have better things to do?)

There have been a few people who walked the Darien Gap on foot. Others went by bicycle. In 1961, there was even a successful expedition with Chevrolet Corvairs, regular 2-wheel drive streets cars, although they did have support vehicles.

Only two of the three Corvairs made it.

chevy-corvair-colombian-darien-richardemblin

All the more impressive that this hostile jungle has become a route for migrants from South America, Asia and Africa to get to the United States, eventually.


But now, all of these horror stories are stories of the past. As of 1 April 2017, a train connection has been established:

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About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Colombia, Panama, Travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Darien Gap has been closed

  1. Jacqueline Danson says:

    Dear Andreas

    Totally fascinating.

    I recently saw a TV series here called “Walking the Americas” and the guys in it traversed the Darien gap by foot mainly and I thought of you! – so I’d heard of it.

    Have you ever been in it? We need you to get that train and write up your adventures!!! Can you get there before you depart S America for Portugal? What a finale that eiyld be!! Oh please! The place was clearly made for you!

    The Corvair video was an absolute hoot with the footage, commentary and music!

    One error:

    “Of course the have been a few expeditions that were successful, ”

    “… there have been…”

    All best wishes

    Jackie

    >

    • I won’t have time to go there before returning to Europe, unfortunately. But honestly, I am not too keen on jungles with all the snakes.
      If I had the time for such an adventure, I’d rather walk around Lake Titicaca.

      I also liked the Corvair documentary. It seemed more like a long commercial, but I wonder how many people buy a 2-wheel drive because it could (with much support) cross a jungle.

  2. Jacqueline Danson says:

    PS oh ha ha “… as of April 1st”, very funny Andreas. You had me there – briefly!

    Jackie

    >

  3. Jacqueline Danson says:

    … Or perhaps your note is just a century out of date?!!:

    Historically, there was an abandoned railway built by the British for the gold miners of the early 1900s across part of the Darien Gap. Rusty locomotive shells and old mining equipment can be still found lying around in the jungle:

    Read more at http://www.darkroastedblend.com/2008/09/darien-gap-most-dangerous-absence-of.html?m=1#OXjJ66H03p3cz86m.99

    >

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