Thursday, 5 December 2013

260 Panama and the canal

Sunday 1st to Wednesday 4th December 2013
Miles Today 0 Total miles 28,432

After an exhausting couple of days we did nothing on the Sunday but rest up. Oddly enough Monday was very similar.

The old town from our hotel.

Ships queuing up to go North through the canal

View of financial center from out hotel

Tuesday was a bit different. We decided we needed to get out. Karen's arm was playing her up and tiring her out so it was an easy day. We decided to go and visit the famous Panama Canal.

We jumped in a cab and 10 minutes later we were at the Miraflores Lock. Sadly, it started to hammer down with rain as we arrived so the pictures are a bit drab but I have lightened them up a bit with Photoshop.

Driving through the outer city area was an eye opener.

As well as ships, the canal company was a railway link to transfer containers over Panama from Atlantic ship to Pacific ship and vice versa.

The canal was originally commenced by the French in 1880 who wanted to dig a level canal from one side to the other. Sadly they ran out of money and many workers died from tropical diseases. On top of that the depth of cut was so great that the sides kept falling in, hence the extra costs.

The Americans finished the job off in 1914 using a series of locks. The locks needed a large water supply so they dammed a large area off and created the worlds largest freshwater lake at that time. Lake Gatun. Ships pay according to their tonnage and the most ever paid was $200,000 in 2001 by a French cruise ship, the Infinity. The lowest was paid by a guy named Richard Halliburton who swam through in 1928. The grand sum of 36 US cents.

A Panamax ship entering the canal from Gatun Lake.

Looking South towards the Pacific.

The Panamax ship almost lowered to the next level.

The biggest boats to go through are called 'Panamax'. They are built to fit the canal with only 2' either side. When in the canal, they use their own power and the little train things either side are just there to keep the ship in the center of the canal.

And another entering along the other channel.
The 'Panamax' ship being lowered in the lock (speeded up x36)

A third and much larger canal is currently being built that is 40% wider and 60% longer then the current capacity. The mind boggles.

In fairness, it is a truly awesome sight to behold. Even Karen was impressed and she's a girl !!

It was then back in the cab and down to the old town for a bite to eat and a little exploring.

Statue of Simon Bolivar who Bolivia is named after. He has the honour of sharing my birthday along with the small accolade of liberating South America from Spanish rule. He is a hero throughout the continent.

The old town was in a state of slow refurbishment and the colonial side was showing through.

Before we got fleeced for the cab ride home we checked out the financial center skyline.

The financial center to the North of the old city.
 On the Wednesday we decided to do some shopping so got a cab to the local mall. They are serious about Christmas here. All the Christmas songs were the same as ours only in Spanish. It was a bit surreal but nice.

We entered at Zebra entrance and then went to Giraffe Plaza. Go figure.

They even had a merry go round at Rhino entrance.

And as luck would have it. There was a TGI Fridays just outside Elephant entrance, where we had dinner.
The mall was absolutely enormous and after dinner we caught a cab back to the hotel to pack for an early start the next day.

Tomorrow we ride the 70 miles to catch the boat to South America. It is called the Stahlratte (which is German for Steel Rat). Stahlratte Link  It is a 100 odd year old steel hulled, Dutch built, world sailing ship and once on board we legally become part of the crew and all have to muck in to keep the boat running and the 'crew' fed and watered. The boat actually sails on the Friday the 6th but the bikes need to be loaded on the day before. It will be fun but it does mean that there will be no blog for about another week.

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