Where are we?

Panama Canal

Night sky from a side window in the BnB

Wow we had a good sleep! The bed is very comfortable and it was hard for us to get up at 8 - but since today is our trip to the Panama Canal we'll have to start early. Looks like its going to be a cloudy day - so walking will be a little easier.

We walked to the subway and took the train to the last station. There we crossed over to the Main Bus Terminal. I had read we could take a bus from here to Miraflores Visitors Center. So we walked around the very HOT terminal looking for the right bus. But found none. So asked at one of the ticket booths and was told to go to the end of the terminal and turn right.

So we did that and didn't see any buses, only a food court. Asked a Transit Policia "Donde el bus a Miraflores?" and he pointed us to an opening at the far end of the food court. So we walked there and were told we had to buy a card and load the fare of $1 each for a one way trip at the kiosk. We walked back to the kiosk and tried to buy a card. I put in a dollar bill and then a $5 dollar bill but the machine would not except it. After awhile the machine gave me a receipt for $1 but no card! From what I could figure out from the on screen message was that I had to use correct change. But it didn't give back my dollar! So went to the ticket booth and explained what happened and was told I had to go to information in the main terminal to get my card.

We walked back to the centre of the main terminal found information and after explaining what I was trying to do and what happened the girl asked for my ID. Strange, but anyways gave it to her. She came back with a photocopy of the receipt AND my ID (drivers license) and told me to go to another booth and I would get a card.

So off we go to another booth. There is a lineup so I went to one on the opposite side where there was no lineup but was told I had to go across the way - what?!? By now I'm getting a little ummm frustrated! I'm ready to throw the photocopy in the garbage and start over with exact change! But since I'm close I continue on and speak with the girl at the correct booth. She took the photocopy plus $1 and gave me a card!!! I Know..... all this to save a buck??? Well we are retired so have lots of time, plus I needed the extra steps! LOL!!!!  The girl also added to the card the $4 I gave her for the fare. In Panama City you dont buy tickets for the bus and subway, you first pay for a card and then you go to the machine and load on the amount of cash you want to have on the card. Then when you get to the turnstile you slide your card over the light, it deducts for the trip and opens the turnstile. Once you run low on credit you put the card in the machine again and add money to it.  Great system I'd say :)

We head back to the original area by the food court, (oh ya I also have a blister on the ball of my left foot from yesterday's walk that is really starting to hurt!)  use our card to get thru the turnstile and sit and wait for the bus. It's suppose to arrive in 25 mins at 12 noon.

As we wait 3 buses arrive in the area just in front of us. They are the crazy "pimped out" buses like they have in Guatemala. From what I had read the bus we are to take should have "Miraflores" across the front like a city bus, none of these buses had that.  At noon I ask the lady by the turnstile is this the bus we are to take? Yes. (Remember I'm doing this all in Spanish - or my best attempt at Spanish since there is little English spoken here!)  OK,  guess we get on the pimped out buses for a fun ride!

Main Bus Terminal with many shops

One of the fancy local buses - love those exhaust pipes!

Even detailed paintings above the windshield

We're on the bus for only about 15 mins when I check my Maps.me and see that the Miraflores bus stop is just ahead. So we get up to walk to the front of the bus. The drive says we need to pay him $1. But I said we paid with the card. Nope we have to pay him. So Dwayne does. Now I know we got on the wrong bus plus we also have to walk 1km to the visitor centre in the heat!! Blah Blah Blah guess I (we) screwed up and maybe should have asked for the bus going to Miraflores VISITOR CENTER?????

Anyways we get to the visitor centre - pay $20 each to get in. We take the elevator to the 4th floor to get out on the viewing platform to watch the ships go in the locks right in front of us. As we get to the railing we see a small boat coming into the lock. Thinking this must be the Tour of the Canal you can take, but turns out to be a private catamaran 2 storey yacht!! Didn't look very big in the lock. And since it is small it can go into the lock with a ship. The ship that was sharing the lock was still coming out of another lock wayyyyyyy out there. The ship was not large - not even a container ship so not very exciting watching it come into the lock. These ships do not move fast since they are being pulled by tugboats from lock system to lock system  and then by a train thru each lock.

It finally arrives and gets into the lock. It is being pulled in place by small electric trains on a track using steel cables. This keeps the ship in the middle of the lock. All ships that go thru are captained by Panama Canal Authority pilots from beginning to end. We watch as the lock closes and water drains into the second lock. Yacht and ship move to second lock and then into the bay before heading towards the Pacific Ocean.  It probably took 1.5-2 hrs to get thru those 2 locks.
First of the Miraflores Lock filled

At the end of the lock you can see the yacht entering. The ship to join it is way back in another lock

Zoomed in to the ship after the tugboats leave to head back to the other lock  for the next ship and the electric trains take over 

To show the ship has a ways to go before being totally inside the lock
Video of the electric trains at work

Here is the yacht out of the lock and into the next one ahead of the ship

Looking towards Panama City and seeing some of the high-rises peeking over the hills 

Cut away picture showing the 3 lock systems from Colon to Panama City

This is a picture of the new locks -never found anything about being able to get to those.

We then went into the museum to learn more about the canal and its beginning. Hear are a few facts:

- 1881 the canal is started by Ferdinand de Lesseps who also developed the Suez Canal. His original idea was to dig out a canal as was done for the Suez Canal and not use any lock system
- Many workers died (20,000) thru accidents and disease like yellow fever and malaria
- the project was dropped in 1889 because of money shortage,  and the project had not progressed very far since digging thru hard rock was much more difficult than sand as in the Suez Canal project.
- US was given approval to continue the construction in 1904 after promising to help Panamanians separate from Colombia in 1903. US bought the canal for $10 million plus a yearly lease and handed it back to the Panamanians in 1999 as agreed in 1977
- 5000 workers died while construction was done by the US
- takes a ship anywhere from 6-8 hrs to travel thru all 3 lock systems . If it were not for the canal it would take 2 weeks for the ships to navigate around Cape Horn in South America
- this also substantiates the fees that are charged to get through the locks - an average of $200,000 paid in CASH 48 hrs prior to entering the canal.
- Average of $12,000,000 earned A DAY! Half is used for expenses - employee pay, maintenance etc and half is straight profit!!
- most expensive toll was for a Norwegian cruise ship at $375,600!
- but that was before the new larger locks expansion was completed in 2016 which now allows ships carrying 10,000 20' containers thru. The toll for that weight is $829,000! and with bigger container ships being built to carry 13,000 containers the toll will easily surpass $1 million!!
- the millionth ship to pass thru the canal was on Sept 4, 2010

Picture from the musuem of the workers

pictures of the butterflies in the area

Beautiful blue ones and.....

ones that look like owls and are called Owl butterflies

After going thru the museum we thought we would have lunch at the restaurant in the building. Being Sunday they were only having a Brunch at $42 each!!! You can bet we just turned around and headed downstairs to a little walkup cafe for a coffee, pop  and 2 sandwiches for $10 :)  And while we were sitting there a huge container ship was in the lock.

Thru the heavy rain you can see a large container ship coming into the lock

And as it goes by while we are having lunch 

As we watch the container ship go thru we can see one of the huge ships going thru in the new bigger canal  behind the berm. It was raining pretty hard so the picture isn't very clear
Forgot to mention that it had really been raining hard for the last hour. And it was now time to head back home. So we walk down to another building where the taxis are because not walking out to the highway to catch a bus! When we get down to where the taxis are I ask if a bus comes by. They pointed to a spot outside. OK so that must be the bus we SHOULD have been on.  I asked the taxi driver the fare to a mall that is near the last stop of the subway - $15. Decided to much. We wait for about 15 mins and its still coming down in buckets. We talk about when we get off the subway we're still going to have to catch a taxi to the BnB since its at least 5 blocks. That will probably cost $5. So I asked another taxi driver how much to our BnB - showed him on Maps.me and he said $15 (the map shows its 15KM)  So we decided WTH lets spend the $15 and get right to the door 😂

Glad I wore my flip-flops today :) 
As we drive away in the cab the rain slows down and there comes the metro bus with Miraflores on the front!!! 😫

We get to drive thru the main part of Panama City on the way home. I'm still amazed by all the high-rises :) They all seem so close together.  As we get closer to our place I have to give the driver instructions from my maps.me on which way to turn to get to the building. It was nice to not have to walk up that hill again!!

Thats the bank we deal with in Honduras 

Got a better shot of the F&F Tower- soooo amazing!!
Once back in the room we sit out on the balcony and enjoy the view. The clouds are very dark in the distant and doesn't take too long before they get closer and it really starts to pour. I then went into the bedroom and watched thru the big window as the rain is coming down and worked on the blog :)

Tomorrow is our last day so hoping the weather is good since we want to get to Casco Viejo (Antiguo) Spanish for Old quarter. This was the area that was built after the original Panama City was destroyed in 1671. The original Panama City has a few ruins left after it was burned down by the Spanish. It was originally founded in 1519

No comments:

Post a Comment