Really what kind of person thinks “Oh, I think I will dig across 50 miles of land and let the two oceans touch? Then I am going to make it big enough for huge ships to transport goods and people across it. Then, I am going to do this in a foreign land and hope it doesn’t affect the world?” Oh, and let’s do it 100 years ago. I cannot even fathom how this would work and still does to this day!
Well go watch the movie “ A man, a plan a canal”. These people must have been the true big dreamers in the world. They did it without internet without phones and plagued by mosquito’s, malaria and yellow fever. Over 28,000 people died to make this happen. Didn’t anyone think it might disrupt the land and make South America float away? Didn’t anyone question it for long term problems like fracking today?
The Panama Canal should be on everyone’s travel list. I spent the day on the bridge of the Windstar cruise ship standing at absolute marvel at how this works.
From such elementary steps of a row boat that comes up to a big cruise ship and hooks up a rope. That rope is hooked up to a steel rope that is pulled by a little locomotive on each side that pulls and stops the boat through the canal.
Two pilot ships pull up to our cruise ship and 10 linemen get off. Five men for the front and five men for the back. They catch the ropes and throw the ropes to their counterparts below. That rope is threaded through a little steel tank type vehicle that pulls you in the middle of each of the many locks. You wait for water to go down or go up until the gates open. As soon as they open the gates the waiting birds dive down to get the confused fish that are caught up in the meeting of the two oceans. Our huge cruise ship was in the locks with a small fishing boat and a medium size party yachts. Those small boats were in front of us and I am sure they were glad that the cruise ship was being held back from them by huge steel cables. Our ship weighed almost 10,000 tons and was 440 ft long.
True funny story!
There was this big party yacht that decided to go through the canal. Everyone was in a festive mood and decided to moon the workers as they went through. Waiting for them in the end of the 50 miles was the port authority. They had pictures of everyone’s butt and face and arrested them all. It cost that boat an extra $35,000 fine.
Things I loved about the vacation are it is a short flight from Atlanta, only 4 hours. It is on the same time zone and they use American dollars. We loved the Panama sky line too. The coolest thing is that Panama is a county that goes east to west and the only country where you can watch the sunrise on the Atlantic and watch it set on the Pacific. Being an east coast girl I never really get to see it set on the ocean. So to see both was awesome.
The old town in Panama City is very much like Cuba. Colorful buildings and balconies. Many cool restaurants. Really don’t bother with shopping because all the stores sell the same things. Some stores charge twice as much as the other stores and then say they are having a sale of 20%. All the Panama hats are made in Ecuador. You will not see the locals wearing them. There is a nice statue all the way at the end that is a monument to the 22,000 men that lost their life building it. Uber is very easy and prevalent. Just walk around and look at the buildings.
Get to Panama a couple days early and go to island of The Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute. This a natural rain forest that has been protected for almost 100 years. Arrange all of this ahead of time and do a 3-4 hour hike with a naturalist. We saw many howler monkeys, crocodile, Tucans, Spider monkeys, several types of birds, leaf cutter ant colonies, something that looks like big rats, butterflies, bats, and the beautiful buttress trees which make great hiding spots for animals and little children. Since this area is untouched pretty much by civilization you are seeing nature as it should be. After hiking for 3 hours there is a small encampment to study animals in their natural habitat. A small little dining hall will serve you a lunch and then another couple hours hiking. I was too tired to do the second hike so I stayed in the air conditioning in the dining hall and watched several movies about the area. I fell in love with the sloths as they are such sweet slow moving animals.
We loved this restaurant. It is called. Info@eltrapicherestaurante.com.
Food was very good and they had a floor show that made us feel like a real Panamanian. The traditional dancing and musical instruments and the dirty devil! In many ceremonies he gets baptized but we did not see that. He just danced around us and livened the party.
HOT HOT HOT
A trip everyone should take in their lifetime.No matter how old you are you can get a birds eye view from a cruise ship. First make sure to go have several facials before you go because the heat and humidity are almost unbearable. Make up will slide off your face and your hair will frizz and look awful. So go buy a real cute hat and sun glasses and you will be fine. I come from the heat and humidity but, it is nothing like the equator! I was glad I had my ex-officio underwear that breathe and keep you cool. I was also glad to have my REI pants and quick dry shirts. Forget blue jeans and even blue jean shorts.
I also was thrilled to have my portable fans. A big hat not a baseball cap and a small backpack. Definitely bug spray and I am talking Deet – not Skin So Soft! I also used my SPF 45 for face as you have to keep applying. I really liked Wet Ones to clean up . Make sure to drink as much water as possible. I bet I went through 5 bottles of water and I almost had another heat stroke. You need to double or triple your normal water intake.
Another thing we loved was Amber Moon Panama Taxi service. We arranged it all by email before we got there and they always showed up on time. They were waiting on us at the airport and took us two hotels. Even the Friday morning at 5:30 am to pick us up and drive an hour north to the Smithsonian tropical Research Institute marina. They were waiting on us there after a full day and took us back on a very busy Friday evening. Then Saturday morning picked us up and took us to Colon to get on the cruise ship. Really nice drivers and no up front payment like some of the other taxis services wanted. Their email is email@example.com. Phone is + 507-66640171. Renan Portugal was our contact. Punctual, reliability and honesty is their motto.
They were all of the above and fun guys too!