The Panama Canal

Trip Start Jun 20, 2003
Trip End Mar 01, 2004

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Flag of Panama  ,
Monday, June 23, 2003

After a long, red-eye flight, we arrived in Panama City, tired and sore but happy to have started. We only had a quick day layover here on our way to Peru, but we figured the Panama Canal was something not to be missed. And it was a free stopover on our frequent flyer tickets, so why not?

We flew in at 8 am, and we immediately realized we had hit the rainy season. But we had until the evening to enjoy Panama before we headed off to Lima, so we arranged a city tour. Susan thinks we may have gotten ripped off a bit, but we'll just chalk it up to experience. Our guide Oliver was very nice, but since he didn't speak a word of English and our Spanish is horrible, we had to use lots of hand signals. We somehow managed to communicate and we headed off to see the sights. First we stopped in the older part of Panama City, and visited some churches, and the memorial park for the Canal. After lunch, where we practiced our Spanish with Oliver and definitly impressed him with our ability to add lots of hot sauce to our fresh fish, we went to the main sight of the day: the Panama Canal.

Part of the Canal runs right near the city, and one of the bigger locks, the Miraflores Locks, is less than twenty minutes away. We were lucky to come at a point when an enormous dry cargo liner was passing through. The locks themselves are narrow waterways with mini railroads on either side to help the ships pass through - although the ships are under their steam, which is quite impressive considering how narrow a margin they have to work with. The locks are necessary to raise and lower the boats coming in, and so after the ship navigates into the lock, the water is either pumped in or out. Seeing this huge freighter lower something like 50 feet in front of our eyes in the span of a couple of minutes was very neat. As you can tell by the photobook for this entry, Sharad was completely fascinated by this whole process and took dozens of pictures. Anyone who knows Susan and her amazing, residency-endowed powers of sleeping anywhere, anytime, can guess what she did.

Afterwards, we headed back to the airport and waited for our flight to Peru. We started the fifth Harry Potter book, which Sharad managed to have delivered to our hotel in San Diego. Thanks to JK Rowlings, we actually enjoyed the long wait for the flight to Peru, the interminable flight itself, and the subsquent uncomfortable overnight layover in the Lima Airport as we waited for our 6 am flight to Cusco. It was a GREAT book!
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