Panama
July 12, 2002 GMT
9. Panama, a hard place to leave....

The first challenge in Panama was to find my bike, and a very helpful lady behind the National Car rental counter spent 10 minutes phoning around and found it for me. Apparently Vensecar air cargo was tied with DHL, a simple fact which my agent had neglected to pass on in Venezuela...

After 3 sets of customs and 1 hours work on the bike in sweltering heat, I raced for Panama city before the deluge of afternoon rain hit.

In Panama I met a British pair on a R100GS and R80 Kalahari doing RTW having started in the USA. We traded info and maps, and visited the Panama Canal and parts of the city with Richard and Kali in her Jeep Cherokee.


Canal spotting, a new breed of Train spotters...
Richard, Kali, John, Annette and yours truly at the Miraflores locks - Click here for a larger image

The canal really does have to be seen to be believed, a feat of engineering with a fascinating history and a price tag measured in lives as well as dollars.


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A British ship called 'Sydney' moving through the Miraflores locks


The French tried to build the canal in 1880, but failed due to financial problems, disease, and the overwhelming scale of the project. The US stepped in during 1903, and ten years, 400 million dollars later, the first ship sailed through August 15th 1914. The average ship pays $46,000 US to transit the canal, and in 2000, tolls totalled $574,227,659 Million US.....


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Amazing how these suckers fit...



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One of the Mitsubishi trains used to center the ships as they pass through...


John told me (incredible fountain of knowledge that man is... ) that Panama was selected for the canal as it was far more stable than it's earthquake prone neighbours. A proof used to support this is the 15 metre long arch built of bricks and mortar {arco chato} built in 1673, which stands to this day.


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The arco chato...


The day I left Panama I guess I should have stayed in bed. It took me 1.5 hours to cross the bridge of the Americas, as I went around in circles in the blistering heat trying to get out of Panama city. It turned out I was my own worst enemy, as I was asking people for the exit direction south out of the city. Due to Panama's layout however, you have to head south of the city to travel north, and vice versa. I kicked myself when I realised my mistake - a real homer simpson duh !

I've subsequently decided to give up asking locals for direction...., most often they have absolutely no idea, and won't admit it.

Posted by Jeremy Andrews at 11:28 PM GMT
 
 

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