Panama connecting

Published: July 31st 2015
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A kind of extreme trip across to LA this time, what with a 10 hour delay on Virgin, missing our connection with our Avienca flight pass and loosing all the subsequent flights, and then having to negotiate over hours with the help of Virgin staff to correct the flow-on effects. Wonderful support during the night from crew leader Kylie, but also day-long support from local Virgin employee Delilah, it was all good. Virgin ultimately consoled us with Velocity points and a night with food at the Sheraton Gateway. Things were not all that bad.

Avianca had threatened to cancel the travel pass because we were late for the first leg. Through Catherine's persistence and the support of Delilah, the flights were connected through after an additional fee each. The original proposal was that we would stay that evening and hopefully pick up a standby seat. They were telling us 15% chance of getting a seat. Given our tiredness and the frustrations, we opted for the night and extra day in LA. We finally got to the Sheraton Gateway in LA at about 9 pm.

Surprisingly we were up by 0730. The previous long night meant that we were immediately
Entry to the GettyEntry to the GettyEntry to the Getty

"Air" in lead in the foreground
in the time zone. After a great Sheraton breakfast we decided to check out the Getty museum by public transport. This involved two busses across the urban sprawl of LA. As usual there was a selection of characters on the bus. Speaking too loudly, and sharing just too much of their personal stories with fellow travellers. Got to the Getty museum area easily enough, but crowds encouraged us to enjoy the 15 minute climb to the galley itself. It would up a desert hillside flanking a 10 lane highway to San Diego. Spectacular white and sandstone architecture with a spectacular view over sprawling LA. The Galleries themselves were crowded - given that this was holiday time in the U.S., and an especially popular attraction. We followed the early European art collection which includes Grand Masters and excellent sculptures. Guides were coming through and we attached ourselves to them to pick some extra tidbits. The marvels of their techniques, or the allegorical meanings of different aspects. The highlights were Roden sculptures and Van Gogh's Irises. There in its original form. Catherine was very excited by this and shared an image with Leigh - another life-long fan. During a pleasant lunch on one of the patios, we learnt that Wendell was also significantly delayed in Miami. It may be we all arrive in Panama at about the same time as opposed to distributed across 36 hours as we had thought.

After lunch we discovered a photographic display by four radical artists still using paper techniques. One had collected old photographic papers for the previous Century of photography and was enjoying the amazing images that pre-existed or self-developed. The second was using a large format camera and bright lens to photograph the sun's tracks across the sky. The next had built a massive, trailer-sized camera and was using it to capture huge images on large format papers. Finally the artist Brandt was capturing images of nature and then using nature to auto-develop the image. For example using Rainbow Lake water to make exciting images of Rainbow Lake. Cool stuff!

We left the Centre and headed to the Mall to kill time, and to marvel at the serving sizes of the average suburban American. Dinner for me was a massive burrito from Chipotle. To the airport via the Sheraton, and the traffic of Sepulveda parkway. Getting through LAX was its normal self
Less well renovated splendourLess well renovated splendourLess well renovated splendour

View from Magnolia Inn
and we left for Central America on a 0130 Avianca flight to Guatemala City. It left on-time; thankfully

Morning saw us landing in Guatemala City. Not surprisingly the first impressions are of green and lush landscapes. We stayed on the plane as they cleaned around us. Catherine was able to stretch out. Next stop Sao Jose in Costa Rica. The departure time for our next flight was confusing and so we ran down the corridors, for completely no purpose. Next stop Panama City.

All the delays meant that our time in Panama City was very truncated. Landing into the haze of Panama it is obvious we have come to the "Torrid Zone" during summer. Straight forward transfer out of the airport, and our mate Bill was the first person to officially welcome us to Panama! Wendell had landed about an hour before and Bill about 2 hours. Great to be together again since last travelling in South America. Many stories to tell of public health adventures, and raising post-adolescents.

We went straight to our hostel, the Magnolia Inn which is in the old downtown area. We did spot the best place for ceviche and beers later tonight. Our driver was keen to show us also the "special police" who were riding around. Best to stay out of their way he said. Will do that!

Panama central area was full of enormous high rise right to the waters edge, like Hong Kong, Singapore. Some interesting shaped buildings, one like a spiral. Much more urbanised than we imagined. We walked around the old town, established in 1673. Like Goa, Fort Kochi or old Macau. Cobble stoned streets. Deep gutters to deal with the tropical down pours. Houses right up to footpath, with balconies on upper stories hanging over the foot paths.

Our travel buddies slept off the jet lag while we wandered the streets a bit, before finding a Havana-styled bar for mojitos. Eventually we walked down to the waterfront and met Bill and Wendell there. Bill translated the 9 Spanish inscriptions around the Panama Canal monument. Amazingly 22,000 people died during the construction, from the tropical diseases alone. Who knows how many from actually building the canal. Breakthroughs in public health, like understanding the role of mosquitoes in malaria and Yellow Fever helped push it through. Ultimately completed by U.S. Engineers in 1913, and hence the US Leased it until 1999. The US aloo held a protectorate around the canal for strategic reasons.

We wandered over to another bar for more mojitos and some ceviche. Ultimately over to the fish market, which was really buzzing for more fresh ceviche and accompaniments. I went to the toilet which was a bit of an adventure and where a number 1 was 25c on a weekday: 50c on a Sunday.

Additional photos below
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Travel buddies having an empanada breakfastTravel buddies having an empanada breakfast
Travel buddies having an empanada breakfast

Bill, Wendell, Catherine and Greg

31st July 2015

Tough start
Sorry to hear your holiday got off to such a disappointing start. Surely things can only improve, as they seemed to do for your stopover in LA. I'm inferring that your health hasn't been the best, Greg? Better take it easy in the fevered swamps of Central America! We'll look froward to reading the next instalment. Ian & Roslyn.

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