As many of you will know I had to alter my route slightly as a result of running a little too fast… I was meant to arrive in Panama City on the 15th of June and arrived on the 26th of May. My flight was booked for the 19th of June but luckily I have managed to change it to the 10th of June (that is a whole different story that will follow in due course). This still left me with a few days to fill and if you know me sitting around doing nothing isn’t really an option. So I decided to run to Yaviza in the Darien Provence where the Pan-American Highway comes to an end before restarting in Turbo, Colombia. I have spoken to a lot of cyclists and have never heard of anyone making it all the way down to Yaviza. The more common route is to leave Panama City and pass through the San Blass Islands on route to Cartagena, Colombia.
The road to the end of Panama is about 300km in total and takes you through a very different Panama to the one I had experienced so far. The first day takes you through a very industrial area which is understandable being so close to Panama City but then as you proceed further south the landscape changes. The impact of humans diminishes a little every day and the Spanish influence is slowly replaced with that of the Embera People. (Here is the link to Wikipedia) The road is also a good indicator of how the landscape is changing – the further you go the worse the road conditions and as I sit one days run from Yaviza I am told that it’s going to get a lot worse. It is very sad to see just how much of an affect humans have had here. What would have been dense rainforest teeming with wildlife is now vast open scars. Large lorries hurtle up the highway delivering the newly chopped trees to their destination. Small Embera communities can be seen in wide open spaces where I suspect dense forest would once have been. The sad thing is that a lot of the deforestation is down to them as it is all they have to make money from. Luckily the deforestation decreases as you proceed south and the further you go the less damage has been done. Unfortunately it is only a matter of time before things change…
To most people the word Darien seems to stir images of violence, gangs and Colombian drug lords. Everyone who I have told about my little add on has told me to be careful but the reality could not be further from the truth. The people have been so engaging, kind and generous. There have been a few nights different nights that I want to write about but they each deserve their own accounts so they will follow over the next few days.
Other than the nights the days have been amazing too. Cars have pulled over and asked what I am doing, fruit sellers have given me fruit to sustain me and there have been countless offers to fill me water bottles. Lorry drivers toot their horns and on one occasion a taxi driver gave me what might go down as the best ginger biscuit I have ever had – though that might have been because of how hungry and carb deprived I was at the time.
The running has been hard but that might have something to do with the kms I have been putting in each day. Over the last five days I have covered over 250km and the heat and humidity has been unbearable at times. Just yesterday I was sitting in the shade of a tree trying to find the mental and physical ability to make it to my final destination. Luckily I rallied and made it to the end of the day.