tight squeeze ..
photo of the dam up close..
The Panama Canal
photo of Lake Gatun
The Rio Chagres was damed to make Lake Gatun which is the top part of the Panama canal. We took the trail from the river through the forest and eventually up a large grass embankment to he top of the dam and could see the first of the two locks dropping ships down to the Atlantic ocean as well as a line of ships motoring along the lake after being lifted from the Pacific ocean. All the traffic seemed to be from west to east when we were there and we didn't in see any sailboats among the monster ships.
finally dam it ..
June/2/2011, Rio Chagres, Panama
photo of brown frog with white stripe down it's back..
We took three walking trips one through the forest and up past the dam to see the canal, one up to Fort San Lorenzo at the head of the river and one to see what it would be like to hack your way through the jungle with machetes.
This trail to the dam was not difficult.
Colourful Plants too..
Photo of bats hanging around under a bridge we had to duck under.
Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (which we saw in the Chagres river) reported that bats, in the lowland tropical rainforest in Panama, significantly reduce insect abundance and damage on plants. Evidently, they can consume roughly twice as many plant-eating insects as do birds in a natural forest ecosystem.
Other then the howler monkeys, we hear many sounds coming from within the natural rain forest. Here in Panama, one of the first things you notice, is the beautiful, colourful birds and butterflies... and it's really hard to capture them on camera.
One day, Steve spotted a group of howler monkeys.
Video attempt... we will have to share later..
At first sighting, Steve used the camera to record all the commotion but failed to get a good shot of the monkeys. Here's one photo of a howler monkey just hanging around.
Steve wrote: Along with the magnificent view from the river itself there are a number of tributaries off the main river, some navigable in the dingy for more than a mile. The tributaries are less than 10 feet wide and have you surrounded in the forest. On one trip along the river heard a large commotion in the top of the trees and on closer inspection saw one of the troops of Howler monkeys we had heard howling day and night. We got them on video with sound. Turn the sound up real loud because thats what they sound like. One started howling like crazy, maybe they didn't like us siting under their tree or more likely they just like to howl.
May/30/2011, Rio Charges, Panama
Photo.. Time for yet another Canadian Flag.."Diva" following us into the River with Fort San Lorenzo in the background.
The Rio Charges is surrounded by virgin rainforest. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has an active laboratory here, you can see their 160 foot crane from the river . They use it to get assess to the forests canopy. This is a RAIN forest so we shouldn't have been surprised when we received 5.8 inches of rain in a 2 1/2 hour period. There was so much water we had both 100 gallon water tanks filled within minutes and the scuppers couldn't handle the flow so the water was poring over the sides. Most of the time the weather was quite pleasant although there is little wind in the river and it is tropics so we shouldn't have been surprised that it was hot (we weren't ).
Sailing past the Panama Canal - Colon to Rio Chagres
May/30/2011, Rio Charges, Panama
Photo of one of many ships heading straight for us..
The trip from Portobello to the Rio Chagres was a motor with only minimal assistance from the wind. The route took us across the entrance to the Panama Canal (Colon). There were more than 30 ships at anchor off shore waiting for their turn through and in the time that we passed, 4 ships came barreling out of the inlet. They are accelerating and threw a huge wake, Diva the boat we are traveling with caught the first wave broadside and went for quite the ride, this gave us the heads up and we were able to turn into the waves and the water broke over our bow. Both boats arrived at the Charges unscathed. 14 thousand ships cross the Panama Canal a year each using 52 million gallons of water supplied by the Rio Charges. The Charges was a major transportation route for both the gold stolen by the Spanish and the riches from the California gold rush then it was dammed in 1910 to make the Panama Canal.
Church of San Felipe de Portobello
This church is home to the Black Christ of Portobello, a wooden statue of Jesus of Nazareth, celebrated throughout Latin America. Evidently, every October 21st., people walk on their knees (??if someone's on their knees are they really considered to be walking??) as far as Costa Rica to pay their respects. Now, I've bussed it for an hour to Sabanitos which is only 20 winding and hilly miles away and it's arduous... I'm a doubting Thomas for this one. Besides, while growing up in the Catholic faith, my mum acknowledged that Jesus was not as lilly white as all the church statues depicted... However, I'm not sure he was black as the ace of spades either!
Good old plastic Jesus.
Bus trips to Panama City
We visited Panama City on the Pacific end of the canal. This is a major undertaking. We first took a chicken bus to Colon, these are converted school buses with exotic paint jobs. Nobody actually brought a chicken aboard during the 1 1/2 hour ride but the aisles were packed and someone would often be hanging out the door as we drove along. We where fortunate enough to be dropped off in front of the express bus to Panama City by the driver and quickly boarded. We have been told that Colon is so dangerous that if you want to go to a store just a half block away you take a cab. If you walk you will either be stabbed or robed or both.
There was a 45 minute wait while they filled the Express bus with passengers because the bus doesn't move until all the seats are full, then people are picked up along the way and stand in the aisle. The ride to Panama City took 1 1/2 hours. We toke a cab to drop off an alternator for repair and shopped at a mall buying me some cloths that fit. Then went through the whole thing on the way back. It made for a long day and we had to do it all again to pick up the repaired alternator. The chicken bus was $1.60 and the Express to Panama City was $3.15. There is a chicken bus to Panama City which we took the second time that cost only $2.00 but it took the back roads and stopped constantly to pick up and unload passengers.
Larry was right! We should have re-installed the Ports before leaving.
While in the anchorage of Portobello, we thought it best to address the Ports before going into rain country (Bocas in the summer). We spent 3 days working on the Portside Ports. Removing, cleaning and digging out the wooden core between the outer deck and inner lining, we were pleasantly surprised. Most ports showed little sign of water penetration. Once we cleared the wood core that surrounded each porthole, we filled the void with West system and reinstalling the 5 portside Ports (windows) with new caulking (this time we used 3M 101 - bought in Grenada and 3M 4000 which is all we could find here in Panama City). We have to do the rest before...oops too late it's raining cats and dogs... May 28th..We'll have to wait for the next break in the weather.
The other view towards Colon