Jan 23 – What to do today? We’re running out of major attractions to see in the city. Some tours and bloggers suggest a trip to the local fish market, so that is our plan for the morning.
After a tour of all the choices, we went outside to the string of fish restaurants, all hawking the same lunch choices. I got camarones in salsa with rice, and Jim opted for the pulpo (octopus) with yucca fries.
Next to the market we saw lots of fishing boats at anchor. It was low tide, and some boats looked like they’d been there a long time.
We walked further down the Cinta Costera, which we learned had just been built in the last ten years to reclaim the waterfront area. We would have walked farther, but it was HOT, and the sun was beating down.
We realized we were not far from the Casco Viejo (Old Town), and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon nosing around. More in the next post.
Jan 21 – Today was our day to travel to Miraflores Locks to see The Canal. Although we traveled through the canal for a day in 2008 (while Jim was teaching for the Semester at Sea), this was our opportunity to see the locks from the land.
Jim plotted a way to get us to Miraflores using the subway, several buses, and an hour of time, but we opted instead for a $4 Uber ride, and were there in 20 minutes.
Miraflores is totally a tourist attraction, with a $17 entrance fee and a 3D IMAX movie in English, narrated by Morgan Freeman. Turns out that the movie was the entire attraction, as there were no ships going through the locks when we were there.
Here is a $17 history of the Canal. The Spaniards thought about a canal across the isthmus, but didn’t have the technology. The French tried and failed to dig a canal in the late 1800s: between the rain undoing their digging and malaria and yellow fever killing the workers at a rate of 500 deaths for every mile dug, they gave up.
In 1903, Teddy Roosevelt orchestrated a one day coup to free Panama from Colombia and take over the Canal Zone. A US engineer had the idea to dam up the Chagras River / Río Chagras, creating a lake in the middle. This simultaneously provided hydroelectric power for the project and decreased the number of miles to be dug. A UK doctor discovered that mosquitoes were the carriers of the diseases, and they started aggressive spraying the canal area to eradicate the pests.
Ten years later and voilá! A canal run by the US from 1914 until 1977, when Jimmy Carter agreed to gradually give it back. Panama took total control in 1999.
When it was determined that the Canal was becoming obsolete due to the size of newer container ships, larger locks were added on both sides of the originals, just like adding new lanes to the Interstate. The upgrade was completed in 2016.
We’ll, that was quite an education. Thank you, Morgan Freeman!
As it didn’t take too long to see the Canal, Jim had a plan for our afternoon. There is a park / bike path called Cinta Costera that runs right along Panama Bay, providing us a scenic, semi-shady walk. To get there, we had to walk by all the posh skyscraper hotels.
Jim had the idea to walk into the tallest hotel and ride the elevator up to the top floor to see the view. We boldly strode in with our shorts and walking sticks, right past the staff in their formal dress.
Unfortunately, once upstairs, we found just a hallway with no windows, so Jim sweet-talked a maid into letting us into the Royal Suite!