Panama City

So, from paradise to the big and busy city of Panama City only took a few hours.

Because the Panama canal has been operated by Americans for many years, there’s a large American community in the city. Because of that, the whole place is very American. The big skyscrapers are modern and there are malls, of which Albrook Mall is the largest and the most famous. It has more than 700 stores (according to advertisement) and an enormous food-court. The official currency is the Balboa, but in reality it’s the US Dollar they use.

We stayed in the city for a few days; to get everything organized again, to check on the route and to visit the Miramar locks in the canal. According to the taxi driver, we’d need about 1,5 hours to look around, but we ended up staying all afternoon. It was a very nice and interesting place and some very large ships passed us through the locks. Even a Dutch ship!

The Panama canal is 80 kms (50 miles) long and there are 3 sets of locks, 1 on the Caribbean side and 2 on the Pacific side. These locks lift the ships a total of 26 meters (78 ft) from sea level to the water level in Gatun Lake, which they have to cross. The French started building/digging the canal in 1880, but when it became too expensive they stopped. After Panama got its independence in 1903, they negotiated with the US for the construction of the canal and the locks. The whole project finished in 1914 and the US managed it till Dec. 31st 1999, when Panama took over control.

You can visit the first locks on the side of the city (Pacific side). There’s a visitors center, museum and viewpoints from which you can watch the whole process. Currently they’re constructing new and larger locks, so more and larger ships can pass through. That whole project is supposed to be finished in 2014, when the canal celebrates its 100th anniversary.

We leave the city tomorrow for our journey through the country. We think we need about a week to get to the Costa Rican border.

One thought on “Panama City

  1. Hoi,
    Wat een mooie bootreis hebben jullie gemaakt. Het fietsen in Panama lijkt i.d. wel gevaarlijk zo langs de grote weg. We zagen dat jullie alweer op pad zijn, richting Costa Rica. Daar zullen jullie ook wel weer veel moois zien.
    Goeie reis Kiki, papa en mama.

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