Finally, we spent Monday checking out the Panama Canal. This, obviously, is a canīt-miss while weīre here, so we took a bus out to the Miraflores Locks to look around
. As a bit of background on the canal, it connects the two oceans by taking the boats up a bit to 80-some feet above sea level, then putting them back down on the other side. This is done with three sets of locks, the closest to Panama City being the Miraflores Locks. At this particular set of locks, the boats go up 27 feet then immediately go up another 27 feet in the next lock. The entire process is done by moving water using gravity only (no pumps), and takes about 45 minutes per boat. We watched as a few very large barges passed through, then checked out the museum and video presentation, and learned that they are currently building a new, parallel, set of locks to open in 2014, to allow more and bigger boats to pass through. Overall, it was a pretty neat thing to see!
After arriving in Panama City, John and I spent the first few days taking advantage of the big city. In addition to taking care of all the boring errands that had been piling up, we also started exploring the city. We checked out Calle Uruguay, which is one of the most ĻhappeningĻ bar/disco streets in town. Itīs only a few blocks away from our hostel, so we grabbed a beer in an outdoor cafe, and watched Panamaīs high-end bar crowd pass by. It was interesting for a while. We also checked out an area known as the causeway, which is a long street extending out into the bay to reach a few small islands. The stretch is home to several bars and resturants and also to a nice park-like stretch of sidewalk and grass thatīs popular for families out on a Sunday stroll, runners, bikers, etc. It made for a nice walk.