09 March 2012
Connit, hot and humid
We flew from David, Panama to Panama City and it was quite a sight to see as we flew over 100’s of tankers and freighters anchored and waiting their turn to transit the canal. Also, the skyline full of high rise buildings was a surprise to see. I had no idea Panama City was so full of high rises, it looked like Miami. Actually, we talked to a man from Florida at our hotel and he said Panama had more high rises than Miami! We found out that most of these high rises have been built in the last 10-12 years, since Panama took over running the canal from the U.S. in 1999. There are also many new buildings under construction. As I looked across the city from our 7th floor hotel room I counted about 8 cranes working on new buildings. Panama appears to be very prosperous and there are many Americans living and working here. Along with the big city, comes big traffic congestion! Looking down from our hotel room one evening around rush hour, all we could see was gridlock. The 4 lane main street was barely moving, the side streets were backed up waiting to get into the main street, and other cross streets were backed up waiting to get into the side streets that led to the main street: total gridlock!! Our hotel was located about 3 blocks from the harbor and had about 12-15 restaurants in a 2 block radius. We had lots of choices of good restaurants to walk to, which was nice. We saw 3 marinas and 3 anchorages. The marinas were full. One of the anchorages near the entrance to the canal was where private sailboats and powerboats waited their turn to go through the canal. We went to the Mira Flores locks to watch the boats go through the canal. There was a viewing area right next to the locks where we were “up close and personal” with the ships going through. It was a great vantage point where the boats were at eye level and we looked down on the canal. Right when we got there we were lucky to have a ship coming in to the locks and it was a big car carrier that was the biggest size ship that will fit in the locks. It dwarfed the locks and looked like it had about 1 foot of room on each side of it. It was interesting to watch the whole sequence as it moved forward into the lock with the “mules” on each side of it keeping it centered in the lock, then slowly rising with the water level, then the gates opened and it moved into the next lock. It was interesting to learn that the water flowed from the high lock to the lower lock strictly by gravity, there were no pumps involved. After the big car carrier came into the lock then 2 tour boats came in side by side with plenty of room around them and they looked small in the lock whereas the car carrier had filled the lock. There was a museum and a movie that showed the history of making the canal that was very good. After this we went to Casco Viejo which is the old colonial part of Panama. It had beautiful churches, monuments, statues, and an old theater. The architecture of the buildings was quite beautiful and we had lunch in a small restaurant on the plaza and enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere. We enjoyed Panama City very much, but after a few days in the hustle and bustle of a big city we were ready to move on to Ecuador.