Michael's Dispatches

Darien Gap: Tale of Airplane Dogfight Crash in Jungle, Stealing wild meat from a Jaguar, Boating While Drunk, and Losing the Boat...More

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While China devours the fish around Panama, and virgin jungle within, leaving the seas naked as the land:


Driving down PanAm highway to Yaviza, we stopped at a roadside restaurant by Lajas Blancas.


Darien Province is birds, birds, birds. Those who love birds love trees.

Pendulum nests swung from a nearby tree.

I asked Lincon if Embera eat those birds. Lincon said no, we do not eat that type. But that is the bird that made Iguana smile.

I eat iguana, said I. Lincon laughed and said I like you, you eat like Embera.

I asked Lincon, "How did this bird make Iguana smile?"

Lincon said the birds and people of the jungle were unhappy because Iguana never smiles. Iguana never seems happy.

Iguana is Eeyore of the jungle, and Pooh is not making anyone smile.

How to make Iguana happy?

All birds, beasts and creatures of the jungle met, discussing how to make Iguana smile. They decided on a competition.

The jaguar tried, the crocodile, the many birds, the peccary. Iguana never smiled.

Even the monkeys could not pull a smile across Iguana face.

The bird with the pendulum nest said I will make Iguana smile.

In Spanish, the bird is called Oropendola, said Lincon. In Embera language, Cumbarra.

The Cumbarra is a funny bird. Funniest creature in the jungle. Famous for its voice, conversation, and song.

The Cumbarra came low, landed, called, sang, danced for Iguana. Iguana refused to smile.

And so Cumbarra flew to the top of the highest jungle tree.

Almost to the sky.

Frighteningly high.

And Cumbarra called down to Iguana.

Iguana stared up.

Cumbarra, perched on a branch, leaned forward as if falling.

Iguana gasped!

Cumbarra might fall and die.

But Cumbarra held to branch, like monkey, upside down, opened its wings and sang a beautiful song.

Iguana smiled.

And then Lincon showed me how to use the medicinal vine. Splice the vine into filets and push into water bottle for a day, and then sip from bottle next day until bottle is empty.

We left the restaurant near Cumbarra that made Iguana smile, driving another thirty minutes to Yaviza.


End of the Pan Am highway. Edge The Darien Gap. The blue dot was our location. The red key is another place I happened to pin a few weeks ago while boating up river with Embera on piragua canoe.

Crossing the footbridge at Yaviza, we need advertisement for a fortuneteller or spell-caster. Maybe it does not dawn on anyone that the Indian depicted my be Cherokee from the area of Appalachia.


And we came to the footbridge over the Chucunaque River. The same River Lieutenant Isaac Strain had followed after Indians warned him he was heading wrong direction — and would spend 49 days realizing the Indians were right. Maybe it’s that thing about refusing to stop and ask directions. I have no idea.

But I do know there are many Embera, Kuna, and Waunan Indians here, and black slave descendants, descendants of Spaniards, and probably an American bankrobber or two has passed through here on run to South America. This is not a tourist spot.


Yaviza is a dangling end of PanAm highway that picks up about 60 miles later in Turbo, Colombia. To be clear, Yaviza is not a spot where migrants emerge from Colombia. Those spots are in Comarca Embera-Wounaan. Reservation for Embera and Wounaan Indians.

And these are but a small number of the places I have been in the past ten weeks learning about the migrant trail, and other matters concerning U.S. security.


Colombia is on verge of civil war. Possibly three million homeless Venezuelans are in Colombia subsequent their experiment with communism. If Colombia goes to civil war, United States could be staring at massive influx of Colombians and Venezuelans through Darien, or bypassing by boat and airplane.

And so, Lincon and I spent a few hours walking around Yaviza talking with people.


And we came to the old Spanish fort guarding confluence of Chico and Chucunaque Rivers.


A Spaniard must have done something terrible to get stationed here:


Something terrible enough not to cause execution, but almost.


And there by the fort, a man approached us and we spoke for about half an hour. I spotted a flood marker higher than the fort and asked if the river really floods so high. The man said the river will go above the fort walls.

We talked more and I asked if he saw any migrants here. Never. Other than Colombian migrants who live in the Yaviza. Maybe 600 Colombian migrants of the 4,400 population. I am unclear on the numbers. I talked some of them on a previous trip to Yaviza.
We talked more, and I asked questions that I ask around the world, such as what do you think of police and Army. The man said Senafront is good. The people have good relations with Senafront. Nearly everyone has told me same.

I asked if he ever sees jaguars. Not often, but yes.

And then I asked the question that occasionally brings surprise answers.

What is the most interesting thing about this place, or that you have found around here? Always ask such questions when you have time. Ask people what is most interesting. Why they find.

The man said his father, 92, found ancient pottery. I asked if there is a museum around here. No. Can I see it? Yes.

I asked what else is out there. The man said his father came to Yaviza in 1959 and worked on boats, and that is father had seen an airplane crash in the jungle in an area his father used to hunt.

I asked many questions about the airplane. The jungles, lakes and seas are filled with disappeared airplanes. Florida lakes are famously full of airplanes.

I asked if we could visit his father. The man said his father is across the river. I said let’s go. And he called on his phone and a relative brought over a piragua of the sort the explorers were on — but with a motor. This one, to be specific:


And so we boated across the Chucunaque River, scrambled up the muddy bank, and sat down with 92 year-old Mr. Martinez.


A relative showed some pottery. I know nothing about such things. It could be twenty minutes old or 2,000 years, but I took many images in case some expert alerts.


We talked about the airplane a good while. He said it had been shot down while trying to attack the canal. And he saw the airplane and a dead white man who had been flying it, but this was a different part of Panama. After many questions, all of which I made video, I was persuaded that the juice was not worth the squeeze. He probably saw something but the facts were so confused that nothing made sense.

So I asked why he had so many roosters. Why didn’t he eat more of these roosters? His Rooster to Hen ratio looked like about one to one. He said he should eat more roosters. I asked Mr. Martinez why do people like eat hens more than roosters? He laughed and said he didn’t know, but he wondered the same thing.

I asked Mr. Martinez if he ever swam across the river. Because, you know, that’s how a Florida Man thinks. Sees a river and wonders if he can swim that thing, or if the gators or crocs or giant snakes or piranhas or other monsters are in there.

Mr. Martinez laughed. Said, in fact, yes, he did swim the river. Once.

Said he got drunk one night and got in his piragua canoe. He fell out and lost the boat. He got swept downstream and came out in the jungle and had to sleep in the jungle. Never saw the boat again. Said it took him three months to chop down another tree and make another boat. Said he stopped drinking.

Mr. Martinez went on to say that a drunken friend tried to cross the river at night. They found him drowned under his capsized boat. He stopped drinking, too.

Mr. Martinez said he used to have 300 cows. Put his daughter through law school. I asked if jaguars ever came to his place. He said yes, and pointed nearby, saying a jaguar killed a deer over there. And I went out and stole the deer from the jaguar and ate it.


Well, that’s enough for now. I gotta go. Some things are cooking. I really need a black budget. Thank you for all financial support. I greatly need it. Patreon is great, and there are many other ways here: https://www.michaelyon-online.com/donations-new.htm


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