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Important Frag report from Panama

As I came in, my shoes were so muddy that I had to take them off. Could not get mud off and it was thick THICK — and so I was barefooted in the jungle for a while. I was very happy to have worn my river shoes today when the canoe kept getting stuck, but when the four trucks got stuck, lol. Well, I wanted boots and had to go barefooted.

I came in and immediately did an interview with John Batchelor for CBS. Apparently a lot of people are listening to us. John told me last week that people love our show. I have no idea cause I never hear it. I’m out rollin’ in the hood. If you like it, say so! And thank you! (John just messaged me the new name is CBS Eye on the World with John Batchelor.)

I just sent this message to someone else:

Back from four days in jungle with Embera Indians. Came across about 300 migrants today just as they “left” Darien Gap.

Actually, where migrants leave” the Gap is at a village called Bajo Chaquita. (Extra credit if you find it on Google Earth.)

I was in Bajo Chiquita today with the indian reservation mayor. You can’t get out there without permission…but in my case I sidestepped it and got the Indians to take me. (That’s why this took so long).

Was muddy trip out to a remote village, and finally we had to go Apocalypse Now style on a long canoe deeper into jungle. I have incredible video. Including what I think may have been dying pregnant lady. She seemed African. I tried to wake her up. Was sickening. Senafront saw her. There was nothing I could do. What a sickening feeling.

There was a lot of stuff… Many stories of dying children, rape, murder, and just dying out there. There are many river and stream crossings and water claims it’s share through drowning and waterborne illness. I asked some people today how their babies are. Some have diarrhea. This is all sickening. Infants. Babies will day in one day from this, and many are doing this. So many stories. Some I have on video or audio.

Some people just can’t swim and they must cross those streams. I’ve been out there bathing in the streams and can confirm you will get swept down. Especially a lot of migrants are from African cities, or places with crocodiles in the rivers. Many just cannot swim. No crocodiles in these rivers though. Embera are river people. I’ve been to about 10 Embera villages, and passed by a lot more. They are in the rivers constantly and they keep the crocodiles out.

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I like Embera. They are teaching me many things. (Such as how to get trucks stuck.)

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Been asking many anthropological questions. They strongly prefer to intermarry at least in this region, according to the ones I ask. This creates or contributes to anthroinsula. Their culture seems strong but they are without written language other than they all speak Spanish, too.

Today at Bajo Chiquita, I met the most interesting “migrant” ever. The black man with frizzy hair in the photo. Said he’s from Ecuador and doing this only for adventure. Wants to walk to a hundred countries. When he gets to America, wants to walk around and then walk somewhere else. We got along instantly. Embera mayor who was translating for me said he never met someone like this. I had picked him out to talk with because he did not seem like the others. Something different — such as his electric hair.

We talked for a long time and got along very well. Said his brother is a professional basketball player in America. Said his brother’s name is Marcus Sanchez. I have all this on video. I asked what team his brother plays on and he said he did not know. Not that I would likely know the name of the team.

Said his name is Roddys Sanchez and he’s 28, and said he has a YouTube channel.

Roddy said his goal is to walk to a hundred countries because his dad did 35, and said Panama was only his 10th but he highly recommends not doing Darien Gap. Said that migrants left a trail of food and supplies in Colombia. When they got tired they just abandoned food and tons of gear. Roddy said robbers with rifles took all his gear including passport. He had a backpack that he said he found later, and found other abandoned gear. Migrants sleep on the ground.

Often to robbers just take everything including passport. Others, who pay coyotes enough to begin with, often can keep their phones and other gear. I have yet to work out details on this. I know some make it through with phones and passports and some do not, and they are on the same route.

My Embera translator said Roddys the Adventurer’s eyes were very excited to talk with me because most people would think it’s crazy to do this, but I (Michael Yon), thought it was fantastic. I was not judgmental about doing that. I hunted cannibals which likely was far more dangerous than Darien, but I did not mention anything about cannibal hunting. Sensory overload.

Bottom line, I was very happy to meet someone who was obviously intelligent but still decided to do it. Because. Because it’s there.

I told Francisco (the mayor who is my translator) I was having best time talking with Adventure Man from Ecuador, Roddy Sanchez. Because adventure people know our type. I can talk with someone like this for 18 hours without a break. I got his contact information and said I might track him down in Mexico, or if he makes it into America, I will come find him and tell his crazy story. Roddy was happy with that.

Roddy said he had a good guitar but he fell down a Darien riverbank and the guitar fell in the river. (I think that’s what he said. My Spanish not so great, and not all was translated, though I have this on video). Apparently Darien Breaks Guitars. There’s a song in that.

Roddy stressed numerous times that nobody should go into Darien and it was worse than he imagined. I asked if his family knows he is in Darien and he said no, lol. After all, I know the adventure type. I was an epic cannibal hunter once upon a time, and so I suspected he would not tell his family he was walking through Darien. Francisco the Mayor told me in all his life he never met someone who did this.

And by the way, I believe many people go missing around the world and their families are looking in wrong countries because The Adventurers did not tell their families or friends they were going places like India. And so their families think they disappeared some place like France, but they were in India, etc.

By the way, I keep hearing people say some white French people come through Darien. Sounds a bit strange. Not taking that or anything else at face value.

I asked many people if they have ever heard of someone crossing from Panama to Colombia. All said no. Until today. Francisco said one Cuban tried to go find his missing brother but Senafront would not let him go. (Bets are on, he found a way around. I would have.)

I am not encouraging anyone to break into America, but I do meet some of these folks who I would not mind if they slip in. I want to be very clear: I am not helping anyone get in but I do meet some who I think would be great Americans. Others…seem like trouble. Big trouble. After all, American criminals often head for the border, and criminals around the world do same. Normal stuff. Need process.

Roddy the Adventurer from Ecuador said he saw two people killed in Gap. Sounded like he did not see the actual murders occur, just the bodies.

Many migrants tell those stories. It’s a war out there.

I asked Roddy several times where he is from in Ecuador. I said why does someone from Ecuador want to go to America? Americans MOVE to Ecuador. All my friends who have been to Ecuador love it. Roddy said he is from some small area where many black people live in Ecuador. He said the name several times but I did not understand. I got it on video. I got to track Roddy. Got his contact information. I would have talked longer but rains were coming and Francisco was itching to get on the boat and back to the trucks — and the rains did cause us to get stuck for several hours of glorious mud fun.

Three Argentines on my video got very emotional warning people to never take this trip. I should probably publish that video.

Most migrants seem to have their phones stolen but not all.

When migrants exit the trail at Bajo Chaqita, the first little village store they come to has Money Gram and Western Union at 20 percent commission.

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Francisco the mayor told me the village makes more than a million dollars per year on the migrants and the village only has less than 300 Embera.

A UN guy was there today in Bajo Chaquita and told me 231 migrants had come in today so far, but then soon thereafter another group came limping in.

I now have at least a thousand migrant photos, and tons of video.

I am learning a ton. Far more than I have seen in anyone’s report.

The migrant canoe ride from Bajo Chiquita to detention center costs 400USD. The canoes seat 10 migrants, so that’s 40USD per person. After they got robbed in Darien. Someone must be sending money, or something. The Western Union franchisee said people wire money from all over, but not as many from America due to strict paperwork.

During pandemic, migrants were stuck in Bajo Chiquita for 8 months and this caused fights. Wish you were here to help push the four trucks through the mud. I was the only westerner for miles and miles. All rest are Embera, Senafront, or Panamanians. (The UN were Panamanians. I will meet some Red Cross in the morning. A Panamanian officer (LTC) told me 7,000 migrants in past three months. This does not jive with what I am seeing. Must be considerably more. Tracking it down.

It’s almost midnight and we going to another camp early.

Thank you for all financial help. All is greatly appreciated. And needed.

Good night from Darien.

Please consider following and supporting my dispatches over at Patreon as well:

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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