Friday, January 31, 2014

How To Travel From Panama To Colombia By Boat

By Eliza Mendoza

One of life's greatest adventures is to travel across the Americas along the Pan American Highway. You can do this on foot, by taking public transport, by cycling or by driving down by motorbike or car. However, you may have to make the crossing from Panama to Colombia by boat.

A network of highways makes up what is known as the Pan American Highway. It stretches all the way from Alaska into Patagonia. Between Yaviza in Panama and Turbo, a little less than 100 miles further in Colombia, the highway stops due to factors such as the inhospitable terrain. Because this is in the Darien province, it's known as the Darien Gap.

Travelers are advised not to attempt the crossing of the Darien Gap over land. It is extremely dangerous. The road hasn't been completed here because the terrain is so inhospitable, with thick jungle and real risk of deadly tropical diseases, not to mention attacks by local wildlife. Because the area is so remote and few people set foot here, it has become a refuge for armed guerrillas from Colombia and for criminals, especially those working in the drug trade. Robberies, kidnappings and killings are very common here and travelers are often targets.

There are alternative ways to cross the Darien Gap. The easiest and most convenient is to fly. If you're very adventurous, which you probably are if you're undertaking this journey in the first place, flying may feel like a cop-out though.

A great alternative is to take the boat instead. If you're on a very tight budget, you may even be able to find opportunities where you can work on board in exchange for your voyage. More common is to book a passage on a yacht that specializes in taking travelers across. There are several companies that offer this service and the fare is usually more or less the same as what a plane ticket would have cost you.

The great advantage of sailing across is that most of the travel packages include the San Blas Archipelago in the itinerary. This remote group of islands in Panama offer you the perfect chance for a beach getaway without the crowds. Go snorkeling or diving, swim or work on your tan on the pristine stretches of sand. If you're fascinated by indigenous cultures, you'll love San Blas too because the people who live here are mostly Kuna, a unique and fascinating culture.

If you've been using public transport for your journey, the crossing will be very straightforward. It becomes more complicated if you've been driving down or if you've been traveling by bike. However, you don't have to leave your car or bike behind in Panama. You can simply have it shipped over separately by contacting one of the companies that offer this service. A motorcycle or bicycle is small enough to load onto a cargo plane too.

In the dry months the crossing can be a little rough because it's also windy season. Luckily the region doesn't experience hurricanes. During rainy season you usually have sunshine in the mornings and heavy showers in the late afternoon. To find operators that will take you from Panama to Colombia by boat, do an online search or inquire at backpacker hostels in the region.

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