Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Panama: journey into the abyss

The air-conditioning whirred as the bus bumped and swerved along a dirt and gravel pathway, snaking ever deeper into the rainforest of el Darien. Outside, pitch blackness prevailed owing to the thick vegetation and lack of habitation along the highway and yet each stone, rut or snake egg dotting the road could be perceived with a jitter or a thud. As if to distract from the frequent discomfort (and the searing tropical heat), the driver had not only turned up the air-conditioning to the highest notch but turned up the volume on the a loud, raunchy salsa music videos blaring from the television. Dancing and frolicking and screeen alongside the jittering and thumping... Every so often the bus would stop for a member of the nation's defence forces to board for an "inspection." THrough hushed tones of anxiety, it was overheard that we were "heading towards the border" and "drug smugglers," "illegal logging"... After each such stop (accompanied by a reprieve of light), the bus continued into darkness, jittering, salsa dancing, the air-conditioning whirring and now, every so often a piercing howl (from outside).... A sense of the surreal, near hallucinatory indulgence amidst the risk of danger prevailed.

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