Syrians in Treking in South America Jungle

www.outsideonline.com/2098801/skull-stake-darien-gapThis is long- I didnt post all of it. Click the link to finish. There is a video in the link.
A Terrifying Journey Through the World's Most Dangerous Jungle - Into the USA

The Darién Gap is a lawless wilderness on the border of Colombia and Panama, teeming with everything from deadly snakes to antigovernment guerrillas. The region also sees a flow of migrants from Cuba, Africa, and Asia, whose desperation sends them on perilous journeys to the U.S. Jason Motlagh plunged in, risking robbery, kidnapping, and death to document one of the world’s most harrowing treks.
huelo chilingos," the boatman shouts over the drone of an outboard motor. I smell migrants.

I turn around and see nothing but a wall of dark, unruly jungle, then I slump back into the bow of the canoe. Five days we’ve been out here, waiting for a group of foreigners to appear on this godforsaken smuggler’s route in the Darién Gap, and all we have to show for it is sunburn and trench foot. Our search is starting to feel futile.

For centuries the lure of the unknown has attracted explorers, scientists, criminals, and other dubious characters to the Gap, a 10,000-square-mile rectangle of swamp, mountains, and rainforest that spans both sides of the border between Colombia and Panama. Plenty of things here can kill you, from venomous snakes to murderous outlaws who want your money and equipment. We’ve come to find the most improbable travelers imaginable: migrants who, by choice, are passing through the Darién region from all over the world, in a round-about bid to reach the United States and secure refugee status.

As traditional pathways to the U.S. become more difficult, Cubans, Somalis, Syrians, Bangladeshis, Nepalis, and many more have been heading to South American countries and traveling north, moving overland up the Central American isthmus. The worst part of this journey is through the Gap. The entire expanse, a roadless maze that travelers usually negotiate on foot and in boats, is dominated by narco traffickers and Cuba-backed guerrillas who’ve been waging war on the government of Colombia since 1964. Hundreds of migrants enter each year; many never emerge, killed or abandoned by coyotes (migrant smugglers) on ghost trails.

Our attempted trip is possible only because we’re traveling with the permission ofhttp://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-11400950 (FARC), the Marxist rebels who control access to the most direct line through the Gap—an unmarked, 50-mile, south-to-north route that’s also used to move weapons and cocaine. Following months of negotiations, FARC commanders based in Havana have agreed to let us attempt the trek and visit a guerrilla camp, so long as we keep the main focus on migration, not politics. After five decades of fighting, at a cost of more than 220,000 lives on both sides, FARC and the Colombian government are in the final stages of a peace deal that would end Latin America’s longest-running insurgency. No more complications are needed.

Having spent the better part of a week idle in Bijao—a ramshackle hamlet on Colombia’s Cacarica River, which a group of migrants is said to be approaching—we’re restless. So today we traveled three hours by boat to visit FARC rebels on an adjoining waterway. An entire morning was spent hacking through spider-infested mangrove swamps to reach their camp, only to be told that our scheduled interview is off because they don’t have their uniforms with them.


Listen: Interview With the AuthorOn the Outside podcast, editor-in-chief Chris Keyes talks to Jason Motlagh about his trek through the Darién Gap. (Also available on www.stitcher.com/podcast/outside-podcast.)Listen to the interview→We are on our way back to the village, cursing our bad luck, when the boatman repeats himself.

“Huelo chilingos.”

“Bullshit,” I sigh.

“No, man, he’s right—I think I saw an elbow,” says www.villalonsantamaria.com/, a Chilean photojournalist who’s traveling with me. Carlos, 50, has a knack for busting my balls at the worst moments, but he’s already standing up, camera in hand. Roger Arnold, a 48-year-old videographer I met in Afghanistan, who’s along to film our trip for a TV newsmagazine in Australia, is poised right beside him.

We round a bend and there they are: two Bangladeshis, bent over, sloshing forward in waterlogged rubber boots. They give us a nervous grin, thumbs up. Twenty yards ahead of them, a big, shirtless Colombian coyote is towing a canoe that contains another half-dozen migrants. Several Nepalis slog alongside.

I catch up to explain that we’re journalists, but none of the men speak much English. Nor do they believe what I’m telling them.

When I ask Arafat, a 20-year-old construction worker from the Noakhali district in southern Bangladesh, if his goal is to reach the United States, he shakes his head. “No, no. Tourist,” he says, patting his chest. “Problem?”

There’s no problem, I assure him as I approach the canoe, which is nearly scraping the bottom of the low-running river. Arafat’s friend Jafar leans back and laughs behind a pair of knockoff gold Ray-Bans. “Yeah, man!” he says. “Panama!” More thumbs up.

This tourist charade soon falls apart. A pudgy Bangladeshi man named Momir, his face ghoulishly pale from fever, rejects the coyote’s order to get out of the boat when it runs aground. Arafat shows us a large gash on the bottom of his foot and refuses to walk any farther. The men are weak from days of traveling in muggy, 90-degree temperatures, subsisting on crackers and gulping river water. And they are scared. For all they know, we’re Colombian authorities about to arrest them, or bush thugs ready to strip them of their remaining cash, stitched inside the lining of their pants.



Jafar starts to cry, triggering an outburst of desperate pleas from the men. They flash scars on their wrists and stomachs; one is missing part of a finger. “Bangladesh politics,” a man named Nazrul says ruefully as he drags a hand across his neck.

During a three-month stint reporting in Bangladesh in 2013, I became familiar with its cutthroat political gangs and dismal working conditions. Activists, journalists, and opposition members are often hacked to death in public. Rising water levels are drowning farmlands. Rural laborers flock to hyper-crowded cities for work and find themselves locked in the bowels of unlicensed garment factories, toiling for 20 cents an hour.

It’s easy to understand why any sane person would leave such grim prospects behind. Harder to grasp is how these men ended up on the southern edge of the Darién Gap, half a world away from home, without the faintest idea of the grueling trials ahead. Their willpower is amazing, but the Gap’s shadowy depths have swallowed travelers far more prepared. As we continue upriver together, it seems just as well that they are ignorant of the dangers.







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By: KwaiYaiEnglish (2282.70)

Tags: Guyana, jungle, islam, south america,

Location: United States