Saturday..........Panama Canal and Gamboa

Panama City Travel Blog

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Miraflores Locks Visitors' building

Katya picks me up at 9 for a day trip to the Canal and Gamboa.  The Miraflores Locks are about 20 minutes from Canal House.  A large, modern visitors’ centre was built there recently, which includes a museum on four floors and a short presentation film of approximately 15 minutes.  Entry is USD4, which includes the museum and film, very good value.

 

When we arrived it was raining and many people moved back from watching the ships go through the locks, which gave me an opportunity to get a good view, rain and all.  It rains here for about 9 months of the year and during the short dry “high” season, roughly coinciding with the Oz summer, the humidity drops by 50% but Panama is overcrowded, including many people from cruise ships which go through the Canal.

 

It takes around 8 to 10 hours for the ships to make the trip through the Canal from one coast to another.

Ships in locks, Pacific to Atlantic
  At the moment there are two locks side by side at Miraflores, which can take up to four ships at a time, but another larger lock is planned for implementation before 2012, particularly for the larger container ships which are too big for the present locks.

 

There is a good souvenir shop.  Sadly many of the local souvenirs are not items that most people would actually use, whereas the souvenir shop has useable items. 

 

The largest ex-US base, once used for offices and accommodation, out of the 19 bases previously in Panama, is located across the road.  It is now used as a centre of learning. 

 

The idea of the Canal was first mooted and started by the French in the C19th, who had numerous problems, not only with the weather (my goodness it rains a lot here), but also Yellow Fever and malaria.

Miraflores Locks, looking left to the Pacific
  At that time it was not known that Yellow Fever was spread by mosquitos.  (not sure whether they knew the cause of malaria?)  Also, they were determined to build the canal without the use of locks, which of course never happened.  The US became involved in the building of the canal, initiating the Canal Zone, and setting up numerous bases, finally giving the Canal back to the Panamanians on 31 December 1999.

 

Not so long ago in Oz there was a really good doco on the building of the Panama Canal, so I remember a lot of things that are mentioned.

 

After the visit to Miraflores we go to Gamboa, a rainforest resort about 20 minutes drive.  At 11:45 I am booked to go on a boat tour to Monkey Island.  The boat leaves on time, but less than 10 minutes from shore the captain is nervous and says that the rain threatens to come down suddenly and so we return to shore.

Miraflores Locks, Control Room
 We are to try again at 1:15 pm. 

 

I take Katya for lunch in the bar/lounge area of the resort.  I have a prawn cocktail, but the sauce isn’t as nice as the one that Judy and I make. 

 

At 1:15 I go on the boat trip.  It’s rather fun to be on the Panama Canal.  We go to Monkey Island where there are Capachin monkeys which even come onto the top of the boat, and turtles swim close by.  All tempted with food, of course.  Later we see a sloth asleep in a tree and the captain revs the boat up to make the howler monkeys howl; they do this when they feel threatened.  I don’t like the latter, but I suspect that the monkeys only howl by association, not because they are scared.

Inside the museum, "piloting" a ship into the lock.

 

We get back to Canal House around 4:30 and I walk down to Buzios again, order the same meal as yesterday.  That should be boring, but it isn’t, it’s yummy again.  Go to souvenir shop near Buzios and buy more souvenirs.

 

When I go back to Canal House there’s a lot of noise.  Saturday night and the locals are playing music very loudly.  Jasmina rings the police at least twice.  She’s told me that this has happened before, but tonight is the noisiest that it’s ever been.  Eventually around 10 everything quietens down.
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Miraflores Locks Visitors building
Miraflores Locks Visitors' building
Ships in locks, Pacific to Atlantic
Ships in locks, Pacific to Atlantic
Miraflores Locks, looking left to …
Miraflores Locks, looking left to…
Miraflores Locks, Control Room
Miraflores Locks, Control Room
Inside the museum, piloting a sh…
Inside the museum, "piloting" a s…
Gamboa Resort
Gamboa Resort
Gamboa Resort, bar area
Gamboa Resort, bar area
On the Canal
On the Canal
Hello!
Hello!
Tails are very useful
Tails are very useful
Capuchin monkeys
Capuchin monkeys
Turtle
Turtle
Sloth - a bit hard to see
Sloth - a bit hard to see
Agutis, no I hadnt heard of it ei…
Agutis, no I hadn't heard of it e…
Gamboa, units for rent.  Built in …
Gamboa, units for rent. Built in…
Part of buildings opposite Miraflo…
Part of buildings opposite Mirafl…
Canal House
Canal House
From Canal House at dusk
From Canal House at dusk
Panama City
photo by: Biedjee