|Subject: Fwd: Re: Greetings from the Panama Canal|
|From: Ed Gray W0SD |
|Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2009 10:30:58 -0400|
We have reached the southern most point of our winter vacation. It is a long, long ways(about 1200 miles) from Guatemala City to the Panama Canal. It was 7 hours by bus from David Panama to Panama City. We crossed over the
canal using the Bridge of the Americas. It was a thrilling site even in the dark seeing all the water and the green lights on one side and the red lights on the other as far as the eye could see toward the Atlantic side and on the other side
We got off the bus at the new Albrook Station near the canal zone and got a taxi to our hotel. Panama City is by far the most modern city in Central America and is loaded with skyscrapers. From what I understand it has a huge banking system
with companies all over the world and you can have secret accounts here so a lot of drug money laundering is done here. This is a huge growth area with lots of money coming in from Venzuela from oil revenues and for fear of a government
collapse there. There is something about citizens of Venz. getting $8000 a year and they want to get it into American dollars and invest here in Panama City. Many of them stay in hotels as it is cheaper than housing costs and it has pushed
hotel prices way up. We fortunately had a reservation which we only have because of Yavi!!! It was $·35 a night a year ago and is now $60 a night at this hotel. Prices everywhere have gone crazy here! The Spanish here is hard to understand,
much like Chile, being spoken extremely fast. Prices in the stores and for food are about like the USA. Of course as I mentioned before the currency is US dollars but of course if they tell you the price it is in Spanish. I can usually get that as I am
pretty good with the numbers. If all else fails they can write it down but I try not to do that.
We struggled to get a tour as the hotel web site says they have tours but they donīt. Apparently what happens is if the hotel does not get a big commission they drop the tour company. We were told there was no internet and our Lonely Planet
guide book had no city tours listed. I walked up and down the street and could find no internet (later I found I needed to just go a little farther-also later we found the internet in the hotel) so we were really in a tough spot. I finally though of the
yellow pages and called Greyline tours but it was a bad number. We called Panama CIty tours and were blessed with Jesus who could speak excellent English and we could go on a city tour now and on Thursday we could do a partial canal
tour by boat. He picked us up at 12:45, his English was awesome, he was funny and really knew the history! It was a private tour in his mini-van. He stopped places for pictures. We toured the first city which was burned by the pirate Henry
Morgan. We toured the second city which includes a Chinese and French section and the government palace. We also toured new Panama CIty. There most be over 100 sky scrappers. We then toured the Panama Canal Zone and the
Miraflores Locks observation deck and museum. Jesus took us through the museum. It is great and we seen the big boats going through. One Thurday we will take a boat through this and the next lock. The Pacific and Atlantic are the same
level but the tides are much higher on the Pacific side. To cut down on digging the rivers and lakes in the middle are used so locks are needed on each side to get the ships up the lake level and down. It is about an 80 foot change and takes
3 levels to get from the Pacific Ocean level to the Lake level. Right now there is a north and south lane or they can be used as two south or two north lanes. Note that Panama generally runs east-west and NOT north south.
The imporvement slated for completion on the 100th anniversary of 2014 is supposed to add a third lane through the construction of lock complexes at each end of the Canal. One lock complex will be located on the Pacific side to the
southwest of the existing Miraflores Locks. The other complex will be located to the east of the existing Gatun Locks. Each of these new lock complexes will have three consecutive chambers designed to move vessels from sea level to the
level of Gatun Lake and back down again. Each chamber will have three lateral water-saving basins, for a total of nine basins per lock and 18 basins total. Just like the existing locks, the new locks and their basins will be filled and emptied
by gravity, without the use of pumps. The location of the new locks uses a significant portion of the area excavated by the United States in 1939 and suspended in 1942 because of the start of World War II. The new locks will be connected to
the existing channel system through new navigational channels.
According to the plan, a 3.2 km (2.0 mi)-long access channel will be excavated to connect the new Atlantic locks with the existing sea entrance of the Canal. To connect the new Pacific-side locks with the existing channels, two new access
channels will be built:
- The north access channel, which will connect the new Pacific-side lock with the Gaillard Cut, circumventing Miraflores Lake, and which will be 6.2 km (3.9 mi) long; and,
- The south access channel, which will connect the new lock with the existing sea entrance on the Pacific Ocean, and which will be 1.8 km (1.1 mi) long (see figure 5). The new channels will be at least 218 meters (715 ft) wide, both
- on the Atlantic and Pacific sides, which will permit Post-Panamax vessels to navigate in these channels in a single direction at any time
In a later travelogue we will tell about our boat trip through the canal. We are sending this today as it is quiet day waiting for the boat trip tomorrow so I am doing internet and I have gotten all my daily hand written logs on the internet and sent to
my computer at Salem. Things are really busy here in Panama City, very modern and the traffic is crazy but the roads are some of the best we have seen. Just like in the USA some parts of town are really poor and dangerous. Here it is perfectly safe and
you can walk around at night. There is no army, etc. in Panama, they just have police. On Friday we go back to David (7 hours on the bus) and then about 2 hours to Volcan so we are going to get an early start. The David-Panama bus line
has nice buses with air conditioning and they stop for 30 minutes for noon lunch and have an on board bathroom. The bathrooms where they stop to eat are pretty good. After a couple of days at Volcan(other side of the highest mountain)
from Bouquete) we will head for Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean and eat some Red Snapper and other seafood for a very reasonable price, enjoy the Caribbean and see if Edith can find a big sea shell. We donīt have any room in our luggage. From there we will enterį
Costa Rica from the Southeast corner and head north along the coast to Limon and on north to Tortuguero. Time wise it still looks like we can see what we have planned on and still get to Guatemala City in time for our flight home on
March 31st. We have lots to do and see yet.
BTW diesel is cheaper than gas in all countries in Central America. It is $1.84 here in Panama City and gas is $2.12. I also forgot last time to tell you that Louis HP3XUG and a companion has done some treasure hunting and found some in
the Carribean. It was old stamped Panama coins where they used someone elses coins and stamped them. They were from around 1892( 400 year anniversay of 1492 Columbus) and some had a lot of salt water damage but some were in
excellent condition. Louis is trying to find the history on them. He thinks it was likely a pay roll. It could of been for a Banana Company or something else. We will be in a historic Banana area around Bocas Del Toro and in the banana canal.
Ed and Edith