Thursday, February 22, 2007

A. Sean Feddish checks in

Our old friend, A. Sean Feddish, checks in with a travelogue of his current excurrsions and experiences. The following is his mass email (sans pictures) with the following email exchange between himself and Fletcher:

The rural town of Yaviza in southern Panama is the end of the road – literally. Although the Inter-American Highway runs virtually unbroken from California to Chile, the road disappears into the jungles south of Yaviza, only to re-emerge across the border in Colombia. The space between is the infamous Darien Gap, a virtual no-go zone of Colombian guerillas, paramilitary and narcotraffickers. According to Robert Young Pelton, the famous adventurer who dubbed the Darien the most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere, "If the bullets don't get you, the snakes will."

The US State department has drawn imaginary line from Puerto Obaldia in the north to Bahia Pina in the south with Yaviza in the center. Travel south of this line is strongly unadvised.
South of this line is where my travels started.

Lonely Planet open doors, which is why I suddenly found myself in the company of tropical biologists and professional adventurers. As I watched my companions sharpening their machetes, lacing their combat boots and filling up their camelbacks, I couldn't help but shake the feeling that I was on the wrong helicopter. Needless to say, my fledgling Swiss army knife, broken Tevas and cracked Nalgene garnered some unamused looks.

After landing in Punta Patino on the Pacific Coast, we travelled upriver to the Embera village of Mogue. Compared to neighboring Costa Rica, which sees tourists by the hundreds of thousands, our well-equipped party was met by equal parts excitement and surprise. We were the first white people to come here in a long time, though that didn't stop the cassava wine from flowing.

Originally from the Choco region in Colombia, the Embera are the original inhabitants of the Darien, and some of the last remaining inhabitants of the neo-tropical rainforests. They are the guardians of countless generations of botanical wisdom that is virtually unknown to the west. With Asiatic features, distinctive dress and muscled bodies painted with jet blue jagua dye, the Embera are truly a sight to behold.

Heart of Darkness metaphors aside, our party set out from Mogue by dug-out canoe, and continued upriver to the frontier town of Boca de Cupe. Our arrival was met by two platoons of Panama Defense Forces, who were clad from head to toe in the latest digital camouflage, brandishing shiny M-16s and driving around in armor-plated hummers – ladies and gentlemen, your US tax dollars at work.

Since the FARC guerillas at war with Colombia's government are rather fond of raiding Panamanian villages for supplies, the Panama Defense Forces patrol the border and maintain order in an otherwise lawless province. Amused and mortified by the proposition that our group was planning to hike into Colombia, the regional commander took down our names and passport numbers, and politely informed us that his only responsibility from this point onward was to collect our bodies should trouble arise.

Fortunately for us, the Embera have been the eyes and ears of the forests long before Colombia's civil war spilled into Panama. Although modern GPS units and US Department of Defense maps depict the Darien as an impenetrable jungle, the Embera navigate the region by exploiting the dozens of trails that were laid down in the colonial era by Spanish gold miners. With precision senses that can only be honed after a lifetime in the rain forest, an Embera can smell a herd of peccaries a mile away, and can pinpoint the location of a FARC regiment without so much as a compass and a map.

To understand the intrinsic value of the rain forest, one need only acquaint themselves with the diversity of wildlife found within this unique ecosystem. A line of army ants can stretch unbroken for miles, devouring anything foolish enough to interrupt their march. A harpy eagle has roughly the same size claws as a grizzly bear, and will feast on dozens of primates in a single month. A jaguar, which has the most powerful feline jaws in the world, is the only cat that kills its prey by biting through the cranium.

Of course, some of the rain forest's inhabitants are better left alone. As I discovered upon entering a mine shaft that had been abandoned since the early 20 th century, a bite from an eyelash viper can deliver enough poison to kill a full grown man in hours. Fortunately, leather hiking boots are difficult to puncture, and although a dry bite from a viper is extremely painful, it's a great way of reminding yourself of the fragility of human life.

Teetering on the brink of death is good for the soul, and it reminds you that your time here on Earth is limited. With that said, it's been awhile since I've touched based with most of you, though I wanted to let everyone know that I am alive, and doing what I love. At this point, I am getting ready to embark on 6-month around the world trip that will bring me to Japan, Hong Kong, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Toronto, St. Lucia and New York. There will be more e-mails to come.

Take care, and I hope all of you are doing what you love.

A. Sean Feddish

Here is one of the attached pictures:

To which Fletcher responded:

Sure, that's all good and impressive, but have you ever walked along H street through Chinatown at 11 at night on a sunday, buzzed and listening to an iPod? I'd say we are even.

No, I'd say that puts you one-up on me. I mean sure - I get to drink with bare-breasted natives all the time, but you found a means of being surrounding by beautiful college co-eds for the next 5-8 years. Damn you Spartacus!

Actually, this year's crop is not particularly attractive. In fact, when you get right down to it, some of them are rather unpleasant looking. And they are all morons, right down the line. I don't think I was that dumb in my day, was I? Am I becoming cynical and unsympathetic, or is the quality of student really that different from when we were Freshman? Anyway, I digress.
Don't get shot,


I can forgive ugly, but stupid and ugly - isn't that why god invented Darwinism?

You were definintely dumb in your day in the sense that you thought drinking half a handle of bourbon in one sitting was a good idea.

Don't get shot (parts of DC are worse than Colombia),

A. Sean Feddish


At 11:44 AM, February 23, 2007, Blogger Matthew D. said...

You just had to go and post that awful picture of my ex-girlfriend, didn't you?

At 9:01 PM, February 23, 2007, Anonymous Steady B said...

Random thought:
Daizke should be a freaking Met!!
I hate Theo


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