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Darien Gap: Sikh in The Jungle

Capurgana, Colombia—by Panama Border— The Darien Gap

Yon-Genre Mind-Dump, sans edit

The sun rises now over the Caribbean. Sounds of waves driven by briskly. Grey above portends rain and higher danger for those inside the Darien Gap pushing on a literal do or die mission into Panama. Six days on average. More than 40 miles of snakes, bugs, deadly climbing, bandits, communists Guerrillas, robbery, rape, and casual murder.

They say every pretty women who goes in comes out raped. If she survives.

The hundreds we saw enter yesterday were hardly ill-prepared for a day trip in Yosemite. Some wore sandals for the rocky climbs and slippery trails.

My friend, war correspondent Chuck Holton, who lives in Panama, has interviewed hundreds of survivors. Coming out barefooted, hamburger feet, dragging half dead. Many small children emerge alone. Their parents die on the trail. Others take them out, too young to even know their parents names or even what country they came from. We saw mothers go in yesterday with small children. They are inside the jungle now.

We were separated from them intentionally yesterday as we all boated for 90 mins through rough seas splashing over the boat. Migrants went in a separate boat.

We waited for the migrants at Capurgana. We spent much time talking with them the day and morning before the boat journey.

As they landed in the “resort” area of Capurgana, they were taken immediately from the village into the jungle. The villagers do not want them around. Even in Colombia, the migrants are unwanted and bad for tourism. But migrants pay for passage and so they pass but are not allowed to stay.

I am with Chuck Holton and Masako Ganaha. We tried to follow the migrants but were blocked. Later we found a way through and we entered the jungle to pick up their trail.

An hour later we found only one Sikh from India. He had been in the jungle living at a sort of jungle hotel — bamboo slats and thatch.

I had been to his part of India, the Punjab, and we sat down and talked for a half hour. He said no migrants came today, but 158 Africans came through two days ago, but today’s bunch took a slightly different way which we picked up later.

The Sikh man personally had travelled to maybe eight countries to get to this jungle where he awaits four Sikh friends. I recorded the conversation and so can name the countries he said he travelled to get here, but I have only my phone out here and no chance to listen again. He started from India to Netherlands, got ripped off by. Brazilian con artist, and from there his ‘adventures’ began. The worst is yet to come.

Sikh Man said his parents are farmers and he is civil engineer. Now living in Colombia jungle by the Panama border. He talked about much violence in India —farmers very angry— and Indian police (or Army?) had attacked him twice.

He said he doesn’t know anyone in America. Not even other Sikhs. Has no idea what he will do, or even where he will go. He said he will try Los Angeles. I said I was just in Los Angeles. You are safer in India.

Sikhs always have treated me well in all countries. I found myself hoping he makes it, despite realizing we are being set up for a war.

Earlier in the day, at sunrise before the boat ride, I also met Sherpas from Nepal. I had been to their area in Nepal several times. I got contact information. I hope they survive. I am tempted to go to the Panama side and wait for them.

The American side of me wants to help them all. The experience in many countries tells me to build that wall and help them in place.

Colombia is funneling huge numbers through the deadly Darien straight to Panama who shuffles them north. To Texas. New Mexico. Arizona. California.

Much more to say but we must go. Thank you for all of your support. I greatly need it. And thank you forgiving my writing this on my phone and no edit.

Michael Yon

Michael Yon is America's most experienced combat correspondent. He has traveled or worked in 82 countries, including various wars and conflicts.

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