20 Oct 2011
After 40hrs of transit my brain might not yet have made it, but physically, I’m in Panama!
Panama wasn’t initially on my radar, but my friend Aileen has been working here at the U.N. in Panama City and we are finally in the same part of the world at the same time so its a good chance to catch up, and also get a tonne of info for Mexico! So here I am. It doesn’t hurt that Panama has some amazing wildlife and scenery too!
The U.N. office is located in a former American Base from when they occupied the city. Now called “Ciudad Del Saber” (The City of Knowledge), it is home to various NGO’s, a hotel, and staff who stay in the former Officer’s houses. It is right on the edge of the jungle & just up from the Panama Canal, so there is a tonne of wild life in the area. It’s great to just open the door in the morning and see cute animals eating fruit from a tree 5m away! The Neque and Coati are most common (see the pics) but I also saw an Armadillo and a couple of Crocodiles, all within the compound!
We went to Cerro Ancon, which is a hill with a view over the city, and we spotted some sloths on the walk up! Three actually, on only my second day in Panama! They are so cool.
A couple of days later I walked around the National Metropolitan Park, but didn’t see as much wildlife, just a few lizards & Neque. But I did see a few leaf frogs. OK, I saw someone else staring at the ground and when I asked what they were looking at, they pointed out the frog. But I couldn’t actually see it until it moved! I did manage to spot another one on my own after that though.
On the way back I almost got into a religious debate with the Taxi Driver! Not something you really want to do here. But it was quite funny that I could get into such a topic with my extremely limited Spanish!
The Miraflores Locks are one of 3 locks on the Panama Canal, and just in front of the entrance to Ciudad Del Saber. All ships must pass through the locks in taking the shortcut across Central America, instead of going the long way, around South America. You can see huge container ships and even cruise ships passing through here. When we went, they were changing one of the gates so it was a big procedure. There was a massive friggin’ crane on a boat, lifting the 7-story, 600 tonne slab of concrete and metal into place. A diver jumped in to make sure it was all set up right, and then they started welding it on. Crazy.
There is a Causeway leading to, and connecting, three islands just off the coast, and from here you can see all the ships lined up out to sea, queuing to enter the Canal. It’s also a good view of the city!
We took a trip to Playa La Angosta, one of the beaches on the Caribbean Coast, a couple hours north of Panama City. Its quite a nice beach and very local. Aileen has also been playing translator (her Spanish is Muy Bueno) and we met a couple of ladies from Colon with their kids. Colon is quite a dangerous town in Panama, and Aileen wanted to visit but we didn’t get time. They said if we went, during the day and with them, it would be fine. But on our own or at night is definitely not a good idea!
The water wasn’t exactly clear but it was really nice and the first of many water ventures for me in Panama!