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Unravel Panama's mysterious jungle civilisations

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Pioneering Adventure Expedition

Jungle Nature Travel Experience

Darien, Panama
13 Days
€ 3,168 combadi price

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Holiday Type
Fixed date/Solo friendly
Running Period
15-28 March 2014

The Combadi Insight:

A challenging adventure into Panama's wild jungle built for explorers of the unknown. An expedition for real life Indiana Jones combining the 5,000 year old history of the Embera Indian tribes & a rainforest exploration that will push your limits to the edge. Prepare to sweat & get very wet!

Holiday Code: BZ1

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A pioneering jungle expedition deep into the once-thought of as impenetrable Darien gap in search of lost civilisations, 5,000 year old petroglyphs and the last of the Embera Indians.

The Darien Gap is shrouded in mystery. Infamous as a place thought impenetrable, inhabited only by indigenous Emberá Indians and FARC guerrillas. We will head into the heart of this fascinating jungle which connects North and South America, in search of ancient petroglyphs and lost civilisations.

Exploring new trails and hidden corners of this legendary jungle, this will be the ultimate in modern exploration and adventure.

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 Emberá 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.

Mission 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.

The Darien Gap refers to the only break in the 30,000 mile Pam-American highway. It is a 50mile 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 moment’s 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 9 occasions, most famously by British explorer Col. John Blashford-Snell, in 1975.

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 Emberá are one of Panama’s 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 Emberá 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.

Our guide has been working as a wilderness guide in the Darien and Panama since 1998. Currently 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 thru 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. For more information visit http://www.transpanama.org/en

Contingency We have worked tirelessly to put together this plan and had a successful expedition in 2013. This is a particularly challenging expedition to organise in a remote and fascinating area and we are confident we have a solid plan. There is one factor that we can’t control. SENAFRONT are the border police who control the area.

Our guide has great relations with them after working here for 14 years. However, there is a chance they could shut down entry into this region at a moments notice. If this occurs, we have a great “Plan B” in northern Panama, which will be equally adventurous!

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

Day 1 Land Panama City

Day 2 Acclimatisation and preparation

Day 3 Drive and boat to Tucuti

Day 4 Start Trek

Day 5 Continue Trek

Day 6 Continue Trek, arrive Wina

Day 7 Trek to Petroglyphs

Day 8 Trek back to Wina

Day 9 Boat and trek to Bayamon

Day 10 Trek to Santa Rosa Camp

Day 11 Trek to Pacific

Day 12 Day on beach

Day 13 Boat to Playa Quimba Drive to Panama City

Day 14 Fly home

  • Full services of our experienced expedition Leader with local guides and drivers.
  • All meals
  • All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
  • All specialist and safety equipment
  • All accommodation (Including tents)
  • All permits

NOT Included

  • Local airport taxes
  • Tips to local guides – Tips are expected by the local guides in Panama and we will discuss how to organise this on our first night in country. It is worth bring small denominations of US$ to enable this.
  • Beverages & any costs of a personal nature.
  • International Flights
  • Personal equipment. (Upon booking you will receive a comprehensive kit list).

Accommodation

This will initially be in a basic hotel in Panama City. When moving through the jungle we will be sleeping in hammocks and in Puerto Meurto we will be in our hammocks in basic huts on the beach.

Food

We will eat at local eating establishments when in urban areas. For the majority of the expedition we will be on a mix of dehydrated trekking rations along with food sourced locally from villagers.

Transport

Transport on the trip will involve bumpy rides in 4WD vehicles, trekking and travel in indigenous canoes. We will also be taking coastal boats.

Team Members

Team members should be over 21, fit and healthy as this trip involves several continuous days of trekking up to 15km in remote, mountainous areas through humid tropical jungle carrying up to 15kg. Please speak to us about fitness standards if you are unsure.

About the Expedition

Our expeditions are exploratory in nature, they are not organised tours. We strive to go to places and work in areas that others do not and break new ground. As a result our expeditions require a robust and spirited attitude - we will likely be camping for the duration of the expedition, we will often be walking long distances and relying on local food sources - which can vary in quality! This all adds to the character of the expedition and allows you to really get under the skin of the places we travel through and more importantly, have an awesome adventure!

We put the structure in place to enable the team to have an amazing adventure and achieve the aim of the expedition. Our background in the Military ensures that we have a robust planning process prior to the start of the expedition. We have contingency plans and incident and emergency plans in place for likely (and unlikely) scenarios.

However, luckily this is not an organised tour. It will not go smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of issues which may hinder the potential success of the expedition. There will be any number of frictions to our success as a team, these make the expedition more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. These are likely to include, but may not be exclusive to:

Local bureaucracy – our relationships with local people in the lands we travel through are crucial to our success. Often there is no established protocol for outside visitors and so occasionally we will get caught up in local political power struggles or disagreements. Luckily, we have years of experience in delicate negotiation, and enjoy the conversational chess struggle, especially if through an interpreter!

Transport infrastructure – the areas we travel to are especially remote and transport infrastructure is often ageing, inadequate and sometimes non-existent. Roads flooding, bridges collapsing, trees falling across roads and vehicles breaking down and getting stuck are all part of the experience. We thrive on the challenge this provides – overcoming it is more rewarding!

Weather and natural events – The monsoon coming early, landslides across key paths, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow all make for a more interesting time on the expedition!

Local partners - We can only do what we do with the help of people in the communities we travel through. These people work extremely hard and are incredibly generous in their hospitality to us, visitors in their land. Please remember that they are from a completely different culture to you and look at life from a different perspective. They will not have the same concept of time, environmental responsibility or “customer service”. They will be late, may be unreliable (in our eyes) and will do things completely differently to us. We respect their outlook on life and and ask you to do so as well.

The great thing about this holiday, is that is attracts people with the same mindset as you, and that always means you get along with everyone on the expedition and gives you an experience of a lifetime! Kit Monson

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