The Darien Gap has a long history of defeating travelers. Both the Spanish and the Scottish established trading posts here in the 15th and 16th centuries, only to suffer from a series of horrifying maladies for their efforts. The area has remained wild ever since. It wasn't until 1960 that someone managed to traverse the gap using a car -- a journey that took five months and averaged 200 meters a day, which is a speed more commonly known as "Let's give the fuck up and go back to the hotel."
This is one of the easier bits.
The only people to inhabit the Gap nowadays are indigenous tribes and drug traffickers, the latter group probably being responsible for the number of scientists and researchers who've gone missing there over the years. There are also the migrants from all over the world who pass through on their way to the United States.
Carlos Villalon/Outside Magazine
The trip is incredibly dangerous, and also evidently preferable to what they were living in, which should tell us something.
Every once in a while, someone raises the idea of completing the Pan-American Highway. It's 2017; surely we must have mastered all the jungle-dominating technology that would require. The problem is that there are a few good cases for keeping the gap closed. For one, with no road cutting through it, the Darien Gap is relatively pristine, ecologically, so crushing it with bulldozers and asphalt would be like demolishing a wildlife preserve. Also, the lack of road impedes drug trafficking and the spread of certain diseases. And finally, given the Gap's history with people who have tried to conquer it, there's no guarantee any construction efforts wouldn't immediately awaken some vengeful plague or forest demon. So maybe keep taking the boat. Boats are good.
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