The hell of crossing the plug of the Darién day 1: I put day 2: shrimp day 3: water day 4: Lorencita day 5: jungle day 6: fear

This chronicle was selected as one of the best 39 narrative journalism works that were published in the world in 2018 (three of them in Spanish) and is a finalist of True Story Award that will be delivered in the city of Bern, Switzerland, next 31 of August.

The Darién cap is a plant block that extends on the border between Panama and Colombia.In this place, due to the complexity posed by an impenetrable jungle, the Pan -American Highway is interrupted.It is considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.However, its dense vegetation has become the curtain conducive to the irregular passage of migrants and drug trafficking.

BBC Mundo spent seven days there to tell what this place is like, which was defined by American journalist Jason Motlagh as "the most dangerous jungle piece in the world".

The tour begins in the same place where for others it ends: at the north entrance of the jungle.

"This is a concentration camp.We have been here for several days, they don't let us out and we live in the worst conditions ".

The one who speaks is Mohamed Nasser al Humaikani.Delgado, to speak soft and docile look, around his head orbit dozens of flies.He frightens them with his hands, but it's a useless effort.The insects return, take several turns and finally perch on their sweaty skin.

Mohamed is Yemení.

At the beginning of August 2017, it was surprised by the National Border Service of Panama, the Senafront, while crossing the Darién plug from South to North, a 575 thousand hectare jungle block between Colombia and Panama.

He was on his way to North America and intercepted him after he had wandered for four days through the thick territory of the plug.He says that he surrendered due to exhaustion and that he let himself be carried out without opposing resistance to the military base of Metetí, about 250 kilometers east of Panama City.

To 3.500 kilometers from the United States and almost four times that distance from your native country.

And since then he could not continue his trip.In this kind of migratory funnel, six other compatriots were found in the same state.

Varared Yemenis are just a symptom of a chronic condition.

In the last three years, Panama has received from Colombia a wave of migrants originating from countries as diverse such as Cuba, Haiti, Bangladesh or Somalia, all determined to venture by Darién to arrive, many kilometers later, to the United States.

The deputy commissioner Jorge Gobea, coordinator of migratory issues of Senafront, looks a little young for his status as commander.It is tall and its uniform is clean and neat as if it had just left a military parade.

Behind him, under a huge white tent with earth floor, about 42 migrants wander.

They are the guests of this camp that the Panamanian authorities lifted to give them food, accommodation and first aid - in addition to registering their personal data - and that they baptized, very in the rimbombant style of the Latin American bureaucracy, temporary station of humanitarian humanitarian.

Here everyone knows him as the "ETAH".

According to Gobea, most of the cases they received in 2016, when they marked the record of 27.000, were Cuban citizens who wanted to take advantage of the "dry feet, wet feet" policy, which allowed them to receive legal residence if they managed to reach US territory.

Many experts agree that the turn Barack Obama gave in relations with Cuba, at the end of 2014, had to do with that mass exodus.

"Many Cubans told me that they suspected that with the new diplomatic attitude of Obama the privileges won during the embargo were going to end.And they rushed to use the Darién route before it was late, "says Deacon Víctor Berrio, president of the Panamanian subsidiary of Cáritas, who personally attended migrants in the capital.

Gobea refrains from commenting on the matter, but it does tell us that during the most complex moments of the crisis daily they were between 20 and 30 Cubans on foot.

Now there are no Cubans, since Obama repealed the "dry feet, wet feet", at the end of 2016.

But Africans and Asians.And Expatriados Yemeni, who flee from the fierce conflict that devastates his country since 2015 -with more than 12.000 dead, one million displaced and a hungry and cholera saga- and fall into each patrol of Senafront.

According to the National Directorate of Migration of Colombia, only two Yemeni citizens were issued a temporary safe -conduct in the city of Turbo to leave the country to Panama in 2016.

In 2017 there were eight.

The war against flies

The ETAH of Metetí is located in the funds of the military complex.

It is surrounded by a metal fence and inside the tent there are three rows of bunk beds covered by withered and dirty mattresses where migrants pass the days the days.

They await for an answer while they hide as they can of an enemy who did not even have to overcome when they were in the jungle: flies.

They hit them with towels, but they are too many.Some try uselessly to grab them with sudden blows of the hands to throw them against the wall and perhaps thus drowning the frustration of the wait.

Government stops in front of the audience that barely understands and requests someone to speak English.Mohamed gets up and approaches.Walk as slow as he speaks.

The intention, the commander tells him, is that he tells how well he has been treated in Panama.

Mohamed is the mediator among the military who guard them and their compatriots, who feel like a single group of literas converted into a collective refuge.

All are men, they wear opaque bluyines, the shirts with which they arrived on the first day and that have washed again and again, and rubber drags covered with vibrant and molded colors such as replicas of racing cars.

One of them, says Mohamed, is quite sick.

"He has fever.And here nobody gives us an adequate health service.Just some pills, "he explains in Murmullos, while revealing an infected protuberance that his partner has in the left ankle.

Before the conflict broke out in Yemen, Mohamed exercised his profession as a general practitioner in Saná, the capital of the country, and it is thanks to this that another language can speak: most of the texts that should be learned in the school of Medicine were inEnglish.

But his compatriots only speak Arabic.They made workers or artisans and did not live in the capital, but in other locations such as Taiz, to Hudaydah or Bayda.

Now they look at Mohamed with the expression of who sees the world end there, after crossing the jungle and when the "American dream" seemed to be closer.

In addition, they are heading towards a country where the government rejects them: at the beginning of their mandate, the US president.UU., Donald Trump, imposed a migratory veto to five Muslim majority countries, among which Yemen was.

How did they get here? I ask Mohamed.

"I flew to Ecuador, which is one of the few countries that Visa does not ask us.There I met several of them, ”he says and points out one of the bunk beds where two companions sleep a nap under the constant buzzing of the muskery.

"Then we take a bus until Turbo (Colombia) and there we enter the jungle to cross it".

And how was the passage through the Darién? I want to know.

He passes the shirt on the face to wipe out the sweat.Moisture under the tent is suffocating, but it is the best option.Outside the sun weight is simply intolerable.

"It was the worst four days of my life," he replies without hesitation.

"We didn't have many resources.I saw people sink into the water, because they wanted to cross the rivers but they didn't know how to swim.Then I met several young people, very young, who cried disconsolate because they couldn't anymore ".

To the dangers contained.

In the middle of this year, the Interpol together with the Colombian National Police published a report indicating that the migrant traffic business through the weekly Darién a weekly invoice about one million dollars.

Many of those who deliver their savings to some coyote are abandoned in the middle of the handle, they wander lost - without water and without some food - until, maybe lucky, they are detected by the Senafront soldiers.

- Why choose this route, so far, violent, if Europe is much closer?

- Because we have more options to receive us as refugees.In Europe they would continue to treat us as migrants, not as refugees.And our country is burning and we can't go back.

- But you knew when you traveled here that in the United States there is a migratory veto for you who are from Yemen...

- But we are not going to the United States, we are going to Canada.

He turns and says it also in Arabic, looking for the confirmation of his jackets.Everyone nods, silent.

The only idea that, if they manage to overcome this pitfall in Panama, they still have to travel throughout Central America and Mexico, enter through the vigilada southern border and cross the US territory from side to side converts their journey into immeasurable.

Mohamed interrupts silence.For him the most important thing is to let them pass and return their passports.The rest will solve on the road.

"We leave one jungle to get to another.I give you an idea of how we are here: we prefer.

The sub -commissioned government, who remains firm in front of us, points out that there is no discrimination, much less for nationality.

"Our only intention is to coordinate the flow of irregular migration by Panama.And to all who arrive here we try to give the best attention.They eat our food and bathe and drink from the same water as our soldiers, "he says.

For its part, the National Migration Service of Panama, when consulted by BBC Mundo on the delayed Yemenis, said that "it will not refer to this issue for security policies".

But Mohamed is sure there's something else.

"The big question is why they don't let us get out of here.Are you doing favor to the United States?Migrants from other nationalities come, are a couple of days and then continue to the border with Costa Rica ".

Mohamed raises his hand and shows a fluorescent band tied to his wrist with number 3.405.They put it on the day that arrived.The handles of the other occupants of the tent, mostly originally from Bangladesh and East Africa, belong to the 4 series.000.

"And we, those of Yemen, we are still here".

El infierno de cruzar el Tapón del Darién DÍA 1: METETÍ DÍA 2: CAMARÓN DÍTo 3: AGUA DÍA 4: LORENCITA DÍA 5: SELVA DÍA 6: MIEDO

Mohamed and his companions, then we will know, will still stay a couple of weeks in Metetí, before they take them to Panama City and return them to their country of origin.

At the exit of the military base we find a bus full of migrants from different African countries, which arrived in Panama after crossing two jungles: the Amazon, by Brazil, and the Darién.

They go out.Inside the bus, the sense of urgency is palpated: when we ride, nobody seems willing to speak.It is a showcase of faces prostrated by the need.They do not resist taking a picture as long as it is fast.

They just want to advance.

Finally one of them raises the hand, Ibrahim.The football shirt that has been betrayed by its country of origin: Sierra Leone.He tells us about the ball, of Falcao, of Messi.From his dream of arriving in the United States.

"My sister told me not to come back.Whatever happened, don't return because the situation in my country is terrible ".

When I tell him that I am going to cross the Darién cap, open my eyes big.

"Do not do it.If I had known that it would be so, I would not have come here.We left without a guide and we got lost, we had to sleep outdoors thinking that I was going to eat a tiger (jaguar), crossing rivers swimming, mosquitoes, walking on the mud for whole hours, "he lists alarmed.

"I endured because I am a man and young, but she hardly succeeds," he says and points to his seat partner.

The woman, who will then say that comes from Ghana, emerges from the bottom of the armchair.He does not smile even though his companion, whom he met in the tribulations of the jungle, tells him among smiles a couple of beautiful phrases.

"Do not do it", repite ella y alza su pie derecho.In the heel, one of the brand of the rigor of the Darien: the shoes he used for six days of jour.

"Do not do it.That's hell.We don't have another one ".

Once the road ends, life becomes a little more primitive.

In Yaviza, a town about 300 kilometers from the Panamanian capital, the pavement layout of the Pan American Route suddenly fades, after a 12 route of 12.500 kilometers from Prudhoe, in Alaska.

And where ends, only water and canoes remain.

- 50 quintals fit, Camarón tells us.

Although it is short and heavy, shrimp moves with ability by the narrow edges of its canoe to locate a huge leather armchair on some ñam and banana packages that must take the neighboring town of El Real.

He doesn't know exactly how many pounds are 50 quintals.You don't need.Here, in the port of Yaviza, things are not weighed.They are counted.

"After 50 packages, the canoes begin to sink," he explains as if we had to know and draw with his hand a ship going to pique.

Where the asphalt ends and the Tuira River looks out, the Darién plug begins, this land extension that occupies 13% of the territory of Panama and that contains the largest collection of bird species in the world.

A jungle that, on the other side of the border and during the last 30 years, has been the field of battles, massacres, torture and kidnappings of civilians by guerrilla fronts and paramilitary commands of Colombia.

But that is above all a hell of moisture and heat where heaven almost no.You don't see where the sun rises or where it hides, it is impossible to distinguish the north of the south without a compass, without GPS.If there is no one to indicate it, you can spend days walking in circles as a dog that pursues its own tail.

When Camarón returns from carrying the leather armchair, we are going to ride in his canoe and we are going to enter this giant.

To feel the soul of the Darién you have to caress water.

While Camarón accelerates its 40 -horse Suzuki engine, the fresh and frost of the tuira flows, the caudalous and green river that slides on a track of polished rocks and between trees in silence is perceived in the fingertips..

Water abounds here.It is one of the rainiest regions on the planet and since we left Yaviza, it has proof of this: a mild and electric drizzle caresses our face for a good part of the journey.

But the generosity of rainfall and tributaries do not give mobility guarantee.To move 30 kilometers, six hours are needed.With the road, it would be enough to accelerate and in less than two hours we would be in Colombia.

Thus, at this step of barges and feet arranged, we will take another six days.

And that conflict between nature and progress has beenTurbo, where the continental road resumes its course.

The idea of the Pan American Route was gestured in 1929 during a rulers, but it was not until 1937 when 13 nations, driven by the United States, agreed to build it, based on the beginning that in theory would facilitate things: each country would be in charge ofYour section.

For 25 years things were more or less good.

The main inconvenience emerged in the early 60s, when Panama and Colombia engaged in discussing how to overcome the jungle: some proposed a straight line that crossed it, others pointed out that the best thing was a small detour through the north and draw a closer route to the Caribbean.

The discussions were diluted in bureaucratic procedures and budget fights and the journey was never built.

Six hours about the Tuira leave us in the mouth of CUPE.

We receive a couple of roosters at the entrance of the port and, while we go through the small streets of this town of 800 inhabitants, these birds multiply in the gardens, in the courtyard of the school, in the Senafront battalion.

The dimension of its domain is not noticeable at night, when they join in chorus, a cacaceo followed by the other, not as a synchronized polyphonic group but as if they were listing, frightened by the imminence of death, in front of ashooting squad.

René Alvarado Ballesteros's house is guarded by three roosters that peck the land.

Alvarado goes to the corridor of the front dressed in the pants and a skeleton shirt and is presented as a farmer, although most neighbors point it as one of the legitimated representatives of the community.

He is one of those who wants the road to last, because despite the number of ravines and channels that the Darien has, none gives guarantees when transporting.

"Here the rivers, which are the only option to move, they definitely dry during the summer season (December-April).Now in winter the trip to Yaviza can be done in six hours.In summer it takes two days, "he says.

In its plot it produces Ñam, a tuber similar to cassava, in addition to banana and rice.During those difficult months the banana is mature before it comes to sell it."And the yam, for the most part, rots".

"A good road could be an option to change life.A road so that people can move their products.Open the Darién would be good, of course, "he insists.

The last commitment of a government to complete this section of the route arrived in February 2010, when the then president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, launched a message using the security as an argument.

"I understand that it is a very delicate issue, but I think there is connect to Colombia and Panama.Bandidos should be done that this route is not done, because they like naughty roads, "he said during a business summit in February of that year.

According to Interpol, the migrant traffic business in this area -which in 2016 reached the figure of 27.000 people without authorized step, according to Senafront - came to bill US $ 3 million per month.

And until July, the Panamanian authorities had seized about five tons of cocaine, which are mostly transported in backpacks through the jungle.

In Cepe's mouth, things happen more slowly.

People take refuge in their homes, concrete runners who serve as aisles empty quotas and only some young people remain, all self -absorbed around the screen of a cell phone that in turn illuminates their faces with a rainbow light.

They are concentrated at the foot of the town's school fence.I ask why they are there.

"It's on the Internet.The only one that works is the school, "one replies before being hypnotized again by the shining of the screen.

With the first singing of the rooster, another section of the tour begins.Again the canoe, another six hours, the water that splashes from the riverbed, the sky that spits thick rain.

From Cepa's mouth to Paya, the indigenous community where - we will know later - the toughest part of the route begins, the trees become higher, of a green green that looks black.

Although it has rained without pause for days, the channel of the Tuira was lost so much that we must get off several times from the shrimp canoe to push it on the bed of stones.

It is not understood: it rains, but there is no water in the river.

Back, quiet, goes Isaac Pizarro, park guide.He is small, compact, with a permanent smile that underlines his small eyes.It is one of the people who know the most, but above all he is a man who knows about birds.

So much that, unlike the amateur sighters who have to relate the song to the appearance of each species to recognize them in their taxonomy cards, Pizarro distinguishes them in the distance, just because of the way they fly.

"What happens is that it is not raining in the head, that's why the water is not enough," explains the local.

His diagnosis reveals an anomaly that, for environmentalists and indigenous communities in the region, anticipates what could happen if they are going through a highway to an area so rich in biodiversity.

It is, for them, how to open the door to the door to itself threatening global warming.

That is why the commitment of many to protect the Darien.

The first step took place in 1972, when Panama created the special forest area of Alto Darien and thus guaranteed control in which the largest nature reserve in Central America became.

Then, when that effort was futile to avoid the invasion of illegal forest companies, UNESCO declared it in 1981 Environmental Heritage of Humanity, and included under the protection of the area that is within the Colombian territory.

In the Darién there are more than 900 species of birds, 2.163 Flora, 160 species of mammals, 50 amphibians, forests, beaches, plateaus and virgin jungle.

"Any attempt to cross a road would be a direct threat.That is why we have denied ourselves to the Panamerican's plans, "he explained to me before entering the jungle Julia Miranda Londoño, director of Natural National Parks of Colombia.

The locals that accompany us have no figures, but share a similar vision of this primitive jungle.

They refute us two deceptive conclusions that, with inexperienced eyes, we have taken when starting the trip: one, that the Darién is inexhaustible, and two, that after decades of resisting the effort to build the road this place in the world is unchanged.

Your jungle is essentially fragile, they repeat us insistently.

"It's like a child inside a hungry lions cage," Pizarro tells me.

But this environmental discourse has not had enough echo and the trees are still exploited on both sides of the border.Only to give an example, according to the Panama Government, 96% of the illegal wood sold in the country comes from Darién.

That is why when we walked through Paya, an indigenous town Kuna of houses aligned with straw roofs and wooden walls, well cut gram and without a single trace of garbage for their cement platforms, the argument that is heard to keep the jungle unchanged notIt is so much about environmental conservation, but about survival.

"I do not agree to open the Darién cap.Let's lose all our food ".

Among all those who speak to us, Lorencita Bastidas attracts attention.Rather, Lorencita Bastidas colors attract attention.

Walk up with her blue flouse in cool pechera, the textile work of several overlapping layers and motifs of plants and animals in which the indigenous people of the area are occupied.He goes with his gold hanging from the nose and the chaquirras - a fabric made of colored pebbles - wrapping his legs to his knees, just where one of his granddaughters clings.

"I want when people see me, realize that I am a Kuna woman," he proudly claims.

He says he does not speak well Spanish, closes his fists well and puts them in front of the chest, plus a sample of firmness than threat.

"If we let all the people enter, all my animals will disappear, they will go far," he says and shakes his head.

Lorencita, like everyone in Paya, feels the rigor of the distance and the difficulty of transportation.

She tells us the story of the school's elementary teacher, who has a 2 -year -old boy and who does not talk to her husband in Panama City for more than a month, because in Paya the electricity is limited,There is no telephone and the only Internet access depends on the generosity of the commander of the Senafront base.

"To communicate you have to write paper messages that sends Cupe's mouth in the canoes.And wait for someone to go up there to receive the answer also on a piece of paper ".

Even so, Lorencita prefers isolation."Water comes clean and, with the shadow of trees, it's always cold.If they open the way, the water is going to be dirty and everything will be contaminated ".

After lunch, the Pizarro guide recommends resting.The next day you have to get up early to take advantage of the hours of light.The tour will be very long.

With Algis Barrios, one of the Darién's rangers who is here in Paya, we review the rigors that will hold the trip.

I confess that the main fear I brought was that during the journey a snake bitten me.I have my reasons: the community doctor has seen several of his patients die on the floor of a canoe when they were transferred to Yaviza because he did not give them the time to reach the First Aid Room.

- Then you have to pray so that it does not rain, it tells me.

- Because?

- Because the snakes are obfuscated with the rain.

We barely enter the scrub, after passing two streams and a couple of platforms, we understand why it is so easy to get lost in this field: there is no way to guess the road.There are few indications, few points that serve as a reference.

Therefore, we pay blind to any indication of the men who have come with Pizarro to attend us in which, they tell us several times, it is the most brave portion of the route.

The landscape overwhelms: the centenary trees seem skyscrapers and we are under a peel of leaves and stems that barely let the sun's rays pass, although they do not serve much to stop the intensity of the heat.

The jungle boils on the face.Here, what they have told us makes sense, that one does not cross the Darién but that he gives Bruces against him.

It stamps against their dozens of upholstered thickets that scratch arms and hands.Against the heartless bodies of the trees that fall and are lying on the ground, so nature late in swallowing them and that force us to change course every two steps.

Against the branches that shake on each other and become a dry and painful whipper for those who come behind.

Against the vestiges of migrants, also: adidas hugs hanging from trees, mud -filled drinking drinks, serum bags for hydration, a violet bra, sports shoes, a baby jacket.

Pizarro asks us not to touch anything, that we leave everything like it is.

"Those who passed them left there to serve as tracks, so as not to lose their way to those who come later," he explains.

"And where are they?" I ask.

"They will not be seen.They do not know if we are the Senafront, if we are backpackers that carry drugs...They listen to us and hide, they are not going to risk, "he replies.

Near there points to the place where one of the migrants who did not resist the severity of the march was buried.There is no plate or cross, just a slight rectangular cleft on Earth.

Pizarro says he was an African and that his body was buried because several migrants intercepted indigenous people who passed by to ask for not only water and guidance but also to help them dig to give their partner a worthy ending.

A dead more than a figure that is unknown: it is not known how many migrants have been halfway during these last years of mass tours.There is no official figure, but fragmented stories.

One of them is that of the nun Margina Cuadra Gaitán, a Nicaraguan who lives 20 years ago in the mouth of cupe.

"I remember that there were three men who had drowned from a river.They were brought by Senafront and asked me that if I could do a prayer when they were burying them in the cemetery, "says Sister Cuadra.

"We did not know if they were Catholics or not, but since I was the only religious in the area they asked me to be there and say something, with the idea that it was not simply a procedure.".

Death here must be dense.

A millimeter of water has not fallen, which is good news to save the threat of vipers, but we drowned in sweat.

A single drop has not fallen, but we have clothes as if we had just left a pool.

Pizarro promises us our first technical stop to rest and recompose ourselves: "We are getting to the car".

The car?

- Yes, more or less an hour and a half is the car.

- A car in the middle of the jungle...

- Yes, exactly.

Although there is no road, some daring have tried to venture around here mounted by car.

One of them was Dick Doane, a seller of Chicago cars who in 1961 financed the expedition of three corvair red - a vehicle that General Motors had launched two years before - from Illinois, in the northern United States, to Buenos Aires, fordemonstrate that the brand new model was able to cross the plug.

They brought trucks, touched trees to create a trail where cars circulated as they could and hired indigenous people from the region to serve as guides.

"A moment arrived, the amount of gasoline of one of the vehicles.They sent the people in charge of that part of the tour to Paya to look for fuel, while the other two cars continued the adventure, "Pizarro tells me.

"What happened is that, when they returned, the most expensive parts of the car were no longer.They had stolen them.Then he had to leave it there ".

"It is a car in the middle of the jungle!", My car partner shouts, maybe happy because something interrupts the monotony of the landscape.Take your cell phone and take several selfies.

I just recline my back on this red corpse, his painting lacerated by oxide.I think if all this is nothing but a metaphor for the constant failed attempts to conquer the Darién.All, turned into scrap metal.

Less than 100 meters is the border, that botany books stand out as the place where Central American biodiversity meets the exuberance of South American vegetation.

Difficult to say it, the rooky eyes only notice the change of contineof bamboo.

As José E had told me.Mosquera, an expert Colombian political analyst on the subject of the road during a conversation in Medellín, also begins what was the final point for the Pan -American to never finish building.

"In the early 1970s, an outbreak of Afitase fever arises in Colombia that affects cattle.And that lights the alarms of the United States, which had been the main country driving country, "he explained to me.

According to Mosquera, Washington thought that the best way to stop the expansion of the virus was to take advantage of a natural wall and offered Colombia to create an ecological conservation space where the continental route could be drawn.

This anti -Afitosa protection block is the Los Katíos National Park, which we started to travel after leaving the border monolith behind.The Colombian Darien.

"In this way the United States neutralized any direct connection option between Colombia and the USA.UU.That is why for years the park was known as the USDA Katíos, which are the acronym of the United States Ministry of Agriculture, the entity that financed the project, "he added.

With the resurgence of the war in Colombia between guerrilla, paramilitary and army groups, Panama found new arguments to postpone the road: it would not only be a conservation zone and a block against the intrusion of bovine viruses, but also an unofficial customsthat the neighboring conflict invaded the country.


We have been traveling eight hours, the temperature has risen over 30 degrees, my soaked dress weighs double.

Pizarro draws the plan of what is coming: we must cross the Tula river gorge, but not following its banks but by a straight line to make the shortest road.Although not easier, because eight hills will have to go up and down on the way.

"We are delayed," he warns to justify the decision.And he points out a threat that has been stepping on our heels: "The light goes before the jungle".

But the heat and extension of the walk play us against and the body, despite the constant water supply, begins to give in.Our steps become slower and pauses to rest, more frequent.

Pizarro gets nervous and repeats the slogan: we have to arrive before last night.

To worse, something that was not in the plans happens: the road is fully flooded, turned into a mud surface that swallows the feet to the ankles.In some sections, to the knees.

On the swamp you can see mule and donkey footprints.

"The wood (illegal) exploitation uses mules to remove the trunks from the jungle and that has deteriorated the quality of the soil in some areas of the park," is the explanation of Nianza Angle Paredes, director of the Katíos Reserve.

"We are carrying out several control operations to reduce this type of practices," he says."In fact, Unesco withdrew us in 2015 from the list of heritage areas in danger due to our good deforestation control in the area," insists the official.

The truth is that this place is not designed for anyone to travel, much less on foot.

What follows is a clay route that adheres in the hands and feet and it seems that it has its own life, which every time it absorbs one of my steps wants to keep my boots and half of my legs.

Each advance sinks us more in the mud and all the effort focuses on getting the foot from the bottom, just to start the process again in the next step.The march becomes a painful drag of smeared legs of swamp and tiredness, which extends for four more hours.

Pizarro's worst fear comes true.

The night reaches us and I understand its eagerness, the jungle in the dark is a dark place.Like a mask that doesn't let you breathe.

"I can't anymore," says my partner, breaks my knees and drops until I was lying down, exhausted.I snort, it is agitated.Pizarro and the men who have served us as guides light their flashlights and surround us to prevent some animal from approaching.

I can't either.It has been 12 hours to battle the rough nature, which hurts your skin every two meters, wrapped by a suffocating atmosphere that crushes the body covered with garments that never get to dry.

Pizarro communicates on the radio and brings us the latest words of encouragement: "We are 25 minutes from the Cacarica River, where a boat awaits us that will take us to the Juin Phubuur community.Let's go".

When my.

I see the picture perfectly."There is, we arrive," I say euphoric.

"No, there is nothing there," the guide that is next to me takes care of each step."You're starting to hallucinate.We have to get quickly ".

It takes water on my neck and forces me to drink large sips that allow me to concentrate on the way.The 25 minutes become an hour winding through the mud, until we finally reach the boat.

I collapsed in the middle of the boat and the first impulse is to close my eyes, but one of the guides suggests keeping us in candle until we reach Juin Phubuur to prevent the boat from turning away we cannot react in time to get out of the water.

"Look at the sky, look how it looks clear," he suggests and I realize that he wants to distract me.

The stars explode on the violet background of Darién's sky and surround the waning moon, bright without the pollution filter.

While the canoe progresses I think that what I just did, accompanied by five expert locals, with abundant water and sufficient foods, with specialized clothing and a support communication system, the migrants travel on foot on foot: 47.000 people in the last ten years (of them, 27.000 in 2016), some without guide, food or adequate shoes, with the sole objective of fleeing from misery and seeking a better future that remains many dangers and many kilometers beyond.

On the other side of the Darién cap, in Colombia, in the indigenous community of Juin Phubuur that receives us dirty and exhausted, the first thing they tell me is fear.

A little over a year ago and after five decades of internal conflict, the government of Juan Manuel Santos signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which through its 57th Front controlled much of this territory.

And other groups, such as the Gaitanista self -defense groups of Colombia -also known as the Urabeños -, they wanted to take advantage of the emptiness left by the FARC after disarmament.

"We have already had to throw the paramilitaries of our territory this year.Because violence is not allowed here, "says Ovido Chocho Mepaquito, the community's chief.

They did it with the weapons they had, solid sticks that load men and women when they have to defend themselves against exterior threats.

"So far they respect our decision.But they are armed and we do not know if one day they come and decidepast.

But it is when he went down the channel of cacaricas, in the corregimiento of Bijao - an entire people of Afro -Colombians who already lived the rigors of violence - where fear is breathed without even naming it.

There is, in front of his house, Luis Aristarco.He is preparing to replace the church shepherd who this Sunday could not do the prayer in the temple.He is standing and already groomed, dressed in a white shirt, ironed pants with the weight of the bed and handkerchief, a piece of orange towel.

20 years ago, several men from the Elmer Cárdenas paramilitary block decapitated their marine brother with a machete and then dismembered him in front of the entire community.

"I didn't touch me because I wasn't in Bijao that day, but a week later I had to go back to pick up my brother's body that were floating in the river," he remembers while he endures the tears.

He has also heard rumors that say that paramilitaries want to resume control.I ask about peace: if something has changed here with the newly signed agreements.

"Peace just God," cuts me dry.

"But it is very difficult when we have no school (the roof was shattered when an anti -narcotics helicopter landed in the town and never repaired it) or health center.And we can barely transport ourselves in our boats ".

"Fear is still there.It is impossible not to think that that can happen to us again, "he adds.

And fears are not fictional spectra: the humanitarian organisms that work in the area had attended 18.000 people, between January and July 2017, affected by conflict emergencies.

The Colombian army commander, General Alberto José Mejía, points out the difficulties imposed by this region of Chocó.

"Operating in Chocó is very complex.There is a fight for the control (business) of coca between the ELN and criminal gangs, "Mejía told BBC Mundo.


The last section of the trip is to Turbo.It is a boat road that should not last more than five hours, but again we have to get off the canoe where we are going and literally walk on the river.

In the other direction comes a canoe loaded with goods: mattresses, soda, bananas, gasoline.From the tip of the boat, a thin and bearded man walks with the water to the knees, pushes so that the piece of wood manages to advance a few meters.

"This is all days.Of first leg and coming, you have to get off and push, "he tells me.His name is Felipe."But it is the only way we have to transport ourselves," he snorts and continues to bid through that pandas waters and funds loaded with woody sediments.

But does not mention the road.No one does it unless he is asked.Only when the Cacaricas River meets the Atrato giant appears again the idea of the Pan American: We arrive at Puente América.

In a store that floats on wooden plates on the river, Jota serves us, which offers us something for breakfast.

"They put Puente América because there was supposed to there - the horizon says in the north direction - they were going to build the Panamerican bridge.But that never happened ".

The locals have already forgotten, he says, and most of this side of the Darién plug does not talk about the route.

"It is that there are more urgent things here to think about.For example, why all that money that was spent in the peace process does not spend to help us drain the river? "

Priorities.The boat becomes powerful when the depth of the attrato is combined with the extension of the Caribbean Sea that is in front of Turbo and again strokes the water.

Then I close my eyes, I open my hands and think about the waning moon surrounded by stars.

Behind, covered by the mist of a drizzle, the thickness of the Darién is diluted on the horizon.

A giant loaded with nightmares, as if it were an invention of the imagination.