Early in the morning on a swollen Rio Sambu in Panama, we drifted across a black water lagoon-like intersection, with a tree marking the beginning of an unnamed tributary. Our boatsman Juancito laughed with Michael our host, Jenna and I stared in wonder, and the Embera bowman navigated us through snags and shallow water, brushing aside overhanging trees with his oar at the mouth of the tributary. The small river felt like the river Styx,
DON’T GO THERE YOU WILL DIE.
THEY WILL KILL YOU. WHY DO
YOU WANT TO GO THERE?
— Panamanian taxi driver about the Darien
This wasn’t the first person who told us this, but my wife Jenna and I were set on heading to the Darien. In mid 2008 we decided to take a step into the uncertain. Sometimes described as entering the heart of darkness, the Rio Sambu is a little known and explored region of the Darien jungles of southwestern Panama,