Articles about the Darién Gap usually deploy the same set of clichés. That in the Darién, a sparsely populated wedge of land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, on the border between Panama and Colombia, you’ll find seven of the ten most poisonous snakes on the planet, life-threatening heat, giant trees, mosquitoes as big as spiders and spiders as big as apes. That the Darién is a lawless place where traffickers move their cargo with impunity: drugs, weapons, rare woods, minerals, people. In short, the usual narrative runs, the Darién is a treacherous and accursed jungle.

But my experiences there have shown me another side to the Darién.