Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 15:23:50 PDT
From: Claude Marthaler<>
Subject: "The Missing Link"

Dear Redfishes!

Panama City, km 73554

Biker's stories always tell you about "missing links": lack of water, of food, of spare parts, but between Panama and Colombia, there was "The Missing Link".

A long voyage on two wheels in Panama City will reveal to you a juxtaposition of colonial buildings; miserable suburbs with loudspeakers at full volume, diffusing Caribbean music, American landscapes of fast foods and highways, a center of town crowded with cars, high buildings, gray under the daily heavy rainfalls, bright like Hong-Kong or Manhattan at night.

Panama was colonized by its money, the US$. "Panama has everything" was the first sentence, a homeless man told me, just after crossing the full curved bridge of the Americas which join Central and South America. Under my wheels was the Panama Canal, which links the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

A huge geographical link south, just a forty-five minute flight there was the "Darien Gap", a mysterious "missing link", the only one on the 25,500 kilometers long Pan-American highway. So close to one of the major crossroads of the world, this tiny piece of rainforest mysteriously escaped the asphalt terrorism of the twentieth century... Clandestine Colombians smugglers, with their hidden airstrips and laboratories for pure cocaine have all good reasons to preserve this pristine jungle, which clearly defines the South from the North.

The road has always been first a military tool. Cocaine from the South or Coca-Cola from the North. Meanwhile, the countries are regrouping themselves in common markets like "Mercosur" or "Nafta". Uncle Sam wants a common market from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. How long will "The Missing Link" survive?

Two years ago, Serge Roehteli, who has run the entire continent (see email log, "The Magic Line"), crossed the Darien Gap in twelve days. Each year, a handful of cyclists do the same, sometimes even during the rainy season, fearing as much the mosquitos as the smugglers. On June 12, the Yak and Ruedas, being realistic and exclusively smugglers of dreams will avoid the Darien Gap by flying to Puerto Obaldia (Panama), eventually reaching northern Colombia by boat. Starting the third leg of the American "trance"...

Tomorrow, "La Prensa", the main daily of Panama, will publish an article and picture of The Yak and Ruedas.

Yakman will celebrate his 38th birthday on July 28, please send him some new tunes!

Good luck and bike to you! Next e-mail accesses: Cartagena?, Medellin, Cali or Quito. Your Yak

The YAK_

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