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2015 Panama Jungle Expedition to Darien Gap (March)

Join a TeamJames Hipkiss

EXPEDITION AIM The expedition aims to cross the Darien Gap from Puerto Quimba to Playa Muerto in order to locate lost Petroglyphs and chart a previously unexplored area of rainforest, accompanied by indigenous Embera tribes. Exploring new trails and hidden corners of this legendary jungle, this will be the ultimate in modern exploration and adventure. Read previous team members testimonials The Darien Gap refers to the only break in the 30,000 mile Pam-American highway. It is a 50-mile wide stretch of jungle and swampland that separates North and South America. It has long evoked a sense of adventure like almost nowhere else, and it has become a dream of many intrepid adventurers to cross the gap on foot. It was once described by adventure author Hilary Bradt, as a swampy wasteland crawling with venomous creatures ready at a moments notice to suck unsuspecting explorers into its oozing depths. The security situation has settled down in the majority of the Darien, with some exceptions in parts of the Gap that we will not be visiting. It has only ever successfully been crossed on nine occasions, most famously by British explorer Col. John Blashford-Snell, in 1975. HIGHLIGHTS Explore a legendary region separating the Americas. Learn jungle survival skills from expert guides. Travel alongside the Embera Indians and learn about their fascinating culture. See the mysterious Petroglyphs, remnants of an ancient culture. Explore the jungle rivers by boat. HISTORY The Darien Gap is shrouded in mystery. Infamous as a place thought impenetrable, inhabited only by indigenous Ember Indians and FARC guerrillas. After the great success of our March 2013 expedition we will be returning to the Darien, heading into the heart of this fascinating jungle which connects North and South America, in search of ancient petroglyphs and lost civilisations. In 1995 the American Photographer~Mountaineer~Explorer Robert Hyman, along with native Embera Daniel Castaneda, were the first to document a large stone covered in mysterious carvings deep in the Darien jungle. Previously only known to the local Ember Indians who inhabit the area, the petroglyphs were dated to 3000-5000 BC. Robert returned to the region in 2005 to successfully locate another rumoured petroglyph site. PETROGLYPHS AND PEOPLE Petroglyphs are rock engravings, often associated with prehistoric peoples. The Yarre Mongara or Monkey Stone was the first Petroglyph documented by Robert Hyman and Daniel Castaneda in all of Eastern Panama in 1995. He returned ten years later to discover two more sites, but the area remains unexplored and there is a distinct possibility there are more sites out there waiting to be discovered. The Ember are one of Panamas indigenous Indian groups, living in the Darien along the shores of the Chucunaque, Sambu and Tuira rivers. They live in small villages of 5 to 20 houses and have their own form of autonomous government and rules, separate from the Panamanian government. They live off the land hunting wild fish and game using traditional methods. The Ember are known for their distinctive appearance, wearing brightly coloured skirts and painting their bodies in intricate geometric patterns. The Darien contains a stunning range of wildlife, and is considered one of the best regions in the world for bird watching. You can see a staggering range of bird life here including the harpy eagle and four species of macaw. The region is also home to jaguars, tapirs, anteaters, monkeys and caimans. EXPERT GUIDE Our guide, Rick Morales, has been working as a wilderness guide in the Darien and Panama since 1998. He is one of the most competent interpretation guides and well recognised for his skills in bird watching in Panama. In recent years he has been directly related to the rediscovery of the colonial trial, Camino Real Colonial. In 2011 he became the first person to walk the Panama Trail, a through hike from the Columbian border to Costa Rica. This is part of the Trans-Panama project, aiming to develop and map sections of trail connecting regions and people throughout Panama. Find more information here.