Day 89: Panama City
Panama City Travel Blog› entry 118 of 120 › view all entries
So we'd seen the old city, we'd seen the very old city, we'd seen the modern city. What else could we do on our final day in Panama? Oh, wait, didn't they have a canal of some kind here?
The Panama Canal, one of the world's greatest feats of engineering. An 80 kilometre long series of canals, lakes and locks, which connect the Caribbean sea with the Pacific ocean. When it was opened at the beginning of the 20th century, it shortened the sailing journey from the Atlantic to Pacific ocean by 13,000 kilometres, saving several months of travel time, as ships no longer had to sail all the way around Cape Horn, the southern tip of the South American continent.
It should come to no ones surprise that the Panama Canal is besides the country's main source of income, it is also the most visited tourist site.
Constructing a canal connecting the two oceans was first attempted by the French in the 1880s, opting for the then Colombian province of Panamá in favour of Nicaragua on which the Americans had their eye. Their ill-planned attempt stranded 13 years later, after more than 22,000 workers had died during the construction.
The Americans did another attempt in the early 20th century, succeeding and officially opening the canal in 1914 after 10 years of construction.
The numbers are just mind boggling. Today more than 12,000 ships pass the canal every year. These ships pass the through the three locks which measure each 320 by 33 metres, and which rise the ships to an altitude of 26 metres above sea level.
More than 144 international trade routes pass through the Panama Canal. In fact, the canal has been so important for worldwide naval trade, that the size of the locks, and the height of the Bridge of the Americas at the Panama City end of the canal dictate the maximum dimensions of ocean liners to this day.
We went to the locks the closest to Panama City, the Miraflores locks, where there is a lookout where you can sit and watch the huge ocean liners passing through the locks. Each ship is towed through the locks by a number of huge locomotives, which prevent the ships from bumping into the 15 metre thick concrete lock walls.
It was an impressive sight, and we stayed at the locks for a few hours to watch several ships pass the locks.
In the afternoon we hired some bicycles to venture out to the Calzada, a causeway connecting a series of small islands just south of Panama City. From here you have great views of the canal entrance, the Bridge of the Americas and the Panama City skyline. There are also several nice beaches and bars. A perfect place to wind down at the end of a day.
At night we had a very sumptuous end-of-trip dinner in one of the better restaurants in town (or at least, I think it was, because I can't remember the name anymore).
We had been planning to go out clubbing again, but eventually we ended up in a very luxury bar at the top floor of the one of the city's high rise hotels five star, where we spent the night drinking overpriced whisky and smoking Cuban cigars, with a view to die for. Arnaud and I looked at eachother, and simultaneously said the same words we always say to eachother when we have a bout of decadence: "Oh, what a shitty life we have!"
It was the perfect ending to what has been a truly majestic trip.