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Published: August 12th 2015
We picked up a taxi from the main square in Panama City to take us to the Flamenco Marina at Armado Island. At the marina we enjoyed a light breakfast of coffee, condensed milk, and cheese empanadas from a roadside cart. We also spoke with the tourist police who were cruising the areas. Their uniforms displayed their blood-type, and they were well equipped for semi-military operations.
To see the Canal from the inside, we had to take an organised tour. This involved a bus to the middle lake section of the Canal, about have way on the 37km canal. The road followed the Panama Canal railway line along the edge of the cutting. Some historical carry over infrastructures from the American time were left empty. Also ruins dating back to 1560.
We got onto a tourist boat and soon after throwing off the lines we were in-line with several container ships transiting at that time. We sailed through the deepest cut gouge which is essentially unchanged since the early 1900's when it was blasted out. We sailed into the first lock and were followed in by the container ship we passed further up the lake.
It was secured quite close behind us. Little diesel-electric engines secured the lines around the ship and inched it into place. On the people on the boat people were going crazy with repeated selfies with the ship nearby in the background. One guy had the selfie stick and machismo pose for each photo. Likewise the stylist French couple and the colourful Mexican family who took hundreds of selfies. We had a great bilingual commentator to tell us about the ancient and modern history of the place.
The water left the lock with stunning speed and we dropped 31ft to the next level. Same-same for the second and third locks, dropping a further 54 ft. Down near the third lock we saw the constructions for the new extra-Panama-max locks. This will speed the transfers but still the gorge section limits just how wide these ships can be.
After the canal tour we visited the biodiversity museum which was in an innovative and colourful building right on the foreshore. Called Biomuseo, designed by Frank Gehry and opened in October 2014. The museum had a stunning video-surround approach to demonstrating the mega-biodiversity of Panama. There were stories of the
great mixing of species from the North and the South after the land mass was formed. Also the story of the Panamanian invasion and the integral role of Panama in the development of human evolution.
Dinner was street food of BBQ chicken and 'cocana' fried up ripe banana rounds. We got caught in traffic jam on the way to the airport. Finally got to the affected cars and there were bullet holes in the windscreen of one car. And Panama is pretty well policed! Airport then for a 2130 short flight to San Jose Costa Rica.
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