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99 Miles From Panama

As Saul Flores continues his 4,558-mile trek across Latin America, the Caldwell Fellow is entering Colombian swampland where anti-government guerrillas are active.

Saul Flores' feet on either side of a line marking the equator.
Saul Flores crosses the equator on his trek from Ecuador to the United States.

“Hoping to cross the Darien gap into Panama tomorrow afternoon. 99 miles of undeveloped swamplands and FARC guerrilla establishments.”

So begins Saul Flores’ latest blog entry from South America, where the NC State student began a trek May 17 to raise money for a Mexican elementary school. The Caldwell Fellow is hitchhiking and walking through 10 Latin American countries this summer as he makes his way from Ecuador to his family’s home in Charlotte.

Along the 4,558-mile route, he’s taking photos of the people and cultures of the region and offering them for sale on his photo blog.

The trip has already had a profound effect on Flores. In a post dated June 15, he wrote, “As I closed my eyes I began to feel the green water of the Arajuno river seeping between each one of my fingers, I could feel the warmth of the great Pachamama. Her voice whistled in my ears and the sounds of her melodies relaxed my soul. For a second, life had no worries. My desire was to live and listen to the purity of nature.”

During a month-long stay in Ecuador, Flores and a team of Caldwell Fellows built a habitat to help preserve the area’s yellow spotted turtles.

The 20-year-old junior is majoring in design and marketing.