The whole Pan American Highway stretches from Alaska to southern Argentina. Most people who are driving it, have their own variation. And this is how it should be, there are too many different routes possible, which is also part of what makes it so amazing. So do we have our own way, basically from British Columbia to Chile, and from there.. who knows.. But regardless of your route, everybody faces one mutual problem, roughly halfway down. The Darien Gap, where Central America meets South America. This is the only “obstacle” I wasn’t looking forward to. Because there is no Plan A, and no Plan B either.. so we shipped with Plan F- across the Darien Gap.
The Darien Gap
The Darien Gap is a stretch of land which is basically inhabitable, pure jungle. This connects, and separates, Panama from Colombia. The road ends on one side, and continues on the other side, a little over 100km apart. It’s a dense jungle, no driving is possible. Only walking would be possible, preferably supported by a way to cross waters. But besides the logistical issues, it’s notoriously dangerous too. Guerrillas are using it as their hideout, and all kinds of smuggle to generate income. Not a place where an overlander wants to be found. There used to be a ferry, which carried the vehicles with their owners across. Everybody’s Plan A, but this doesn’t exist anymore. For reasons never fully clarified to the public, this service didn’t last long. I think it’s fair to say that “bureaucracy” would explain this pretty accurate.
With a non-existing Plan A, you start looking for Plan B. Long story short, the vehicles need to be shipped as cargo/freight and the owners can’t go on the same vessel. And this is where the nightmare starts. There’re several different ways, and depending on the size of the vehicle you have more, or less, options. Shipping in a container is common, but only up to a certain size, and you’ll need a partner to ship with you and fill the entire container. This way you also split the price for the container. (Unless you like paying for empty space, since prices are per unit, rather than per vehicle.)
The other option is something called RoRo, which stands for “Roll on Roll off” where the vehicle won’t go in a carrier but uses its own wheels. Here you pay per volume, there are no size restrictions and you don’t need to team up with somebody else willing to ship at the same time. Sounds better, but the massive drawback is that port personnel drives the vehicle on/off the ship and it will stand unsecured and unlocked on the harbour for several days. A large number of overlanders has reported things missing/stolen, and an even larger number has discussed ways to secure their rig and prevent this.
So, with a non-existing Plan A, many people are down to Plan D or E already. Since all of the above includes things you don’t want. As I’m writing this, I should have picked up Grisu from the port today. But I’m killing time instead, other than one draft document, I’ve accomplished nothing. Well, besides retrieving the information that Grisu hasn’t arrived in Colombia yet.. I guess that’s just part of the game because we shipped with Plan F-.