Subject: Fwd: Re: Greetings from the Panama Canal
From: Ed Gray W0SD
Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2009 10:30:58 -0400

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thu Mar 5 12:59
Subject: Fwd: Re: Greetings from the Panama Canal

Hiya SD Travel Guys -

Super descriptions of your trip to the "City" - here known as Panama City with about 40% of the country's population in/around this section.  David and Colon sort of claimed 2nd place.  Chiriqui province (state) is the major producer of AG products, and they have their own styles - as you saw with Yari!

Yes, there are about 150 Banks of the World in PMA, which has some pretty secure banking laws - thus the reason so many have branches here.

That 2nd Bridge across the Canal was completed at end of the lady Prez term.  She did a pretty good job of emptying the coffers in her final year.  The current one is just about now able to start their pillage-ing now!  Latin governments make the US look like amateurs in the methods of securing "their" rightful $$ - The Government Reps that is - like senators, called Legislators.  The orig $$-cost for the Canal expansion was considered about $5B - which we all laughed at!  Yes, it is still creeping upwards, and think it is close to $14B now!

No info on the Venezuelan $8K you mentioned, but they are coming here in massive droves, buying up whatever they can get, and then fly back to Caracas & sell off the goods, and start all over again.  Funny, if that idiot Chavez was really on top of things, he would have probably have stopped this currency drain.  But, so much $$ are being funneled out under his nose, that he hasn't a clue what's going on!  Best for the YV populous however.  Once things do shut them down, there will be huge amounts of $$ in the hands of the New Expats coming to Panama from YV land!

Yari was happy to have been able to help a bit on the rooms in PMA City.  We know the problems, as is a real pain to get decent priced rooms, at ANY time now!  I'm supposed to get to the USEmbassy for my mail @ month.  But, with these problems we're lucky to get there every 2-3 months!

Yes, tides are quite something else here.  In Chiriqui waters, we typ see about 12-15 ft tides. At the area of Panama and The Canal, typ are around 25 ft!  An interesting sidelight (and not often heard) is that during all the 100's of years that Spain claimed this area (as they did with so much of all the middle American Continents N & S); the King commissioned various study & surveyor  groups to seek a means to "Bridge the Isthmus".  The #1 and Main Problem that was studied  (call it a job security point for those commissioned by the King to find a solution) was what would happen if a Canal was dug between the `2`oceans and the Pacific would then be allowed to flow into the Atlantic!  The current Canal is the only real solution possible!

On the coins we found, they were only 50 centavo pcs, minted in Columbia, dates 1869-1899.  My supposition is that they may have been part of a payroll for the Colombian soldiers, as in 1899 there was a HUGE Civil War that enveloped the area (Panama was part of Columbia at that time - seceded from Spain in early 1800's in the same venues as so many of the other countries did - but, immediately joined with Columbia for protection, as Spain touted they weren't going to allow any more of their territories to be "liberated by Bolivar sympathizers"!  But, owing distances and lack of adequate capabilities to support such, they finally gave in and the various SAmerican countries subsequently.  In the ensuing years after 1820s, Panama and Columbia were one - but with lots of problems.  The Columbian Gov also created a couple different "republics" in the 19th Century!  At the time from 1870s on, the 2 entities were squabbling about both making Panama a separate nation (which Columbia rejected - forcefully), as well as the intervention on the famous '49er Gold Rush (Calif) and the intent to build a Canal by the USA. 

The US tried for many years, without much success to convince Columbia to build The Canal.  The success of Lesseps and his Suez Canal prompted the Columbians to make a pact to build the Canal - same area as was done later.  The project was started and fow a while seemed might succeed.  However, 2 major items took control: 1- the heavy losses due to the little bug that became so famous "eadeis eagyptis" (prob isn't spelled right) that carries both Yellow Fever and Malaria that really cost a lot of lives (many Chinese), and 2- the powers to be within the management levels squandered huges sums of funds.  Lesseps did manage to get some additional funds - but well below what was required, not withstanding the continuing corruption losses!  BTW this same bug is still an issue here in Panama - and now it also carries the Dengue Fever virus!  Can't say if it can carry all 3 or even 2 at same time!  Fortunately, it is mostly a lower elevation critter, and basically doesn't survive above 300 mtr ASL.

That event in the 1890's prompted the US Gov to re-start, again!!! the negotiations with Columbia to make a Canal across The Isthmus.  There were a few years of "negotiations" which were hardly such!  The US Gov were mostly against the Canal, owing the poor responses from Columbia and a new possibility in Nicaragua that showed much better promise!  That the Columbians were not overly interested was well known - but in the US, there were some who really wanted to do it in Panama.  At the end of the Century (1899) Columbia fell into a Civil War - Massive! 

Also in this period, the Panamanians (Columbians in defacto, but run by the ones living in Panama) made a declaration that "there were too many Chinese in Panama and they must return to China"!  Indeed, Yari's Greatgrandpa was a worker on the Canal; having been brought over from China to work on this Canal.  He apparently left a wife and child(ren?) in China - never returned.  But, the Columbian Government (might have been just the local Panamanians that made this decision) were for-giving, as they would allow anyone (from China) who had been born in Panama, who had married and had children with local women, or other "legitimate" reasons to stay, would be considered as Panamians.  Not sure where Columbia stood on this apparently Panamanian decision.  But, when her Great Grandpappy appeared at the appointed place, he proudly responded to the question of what his last name was, as "Sanchez".  The clerk simply noted as born in Panama and that's how this Chinese line of Sanchez came to be!  To this day, they don't know what the original Chinese name was!  So, my 1/8 Chinese - Panamanian wife named Yariela is who I married and you got to share a little of our crazy lives!

(Sort of re-joining the paragraphs above now)  This war went on until 1902 nearly 3 years and was called The 1,000 Day War of Columbia.  Not just a few, but (my best reports in middle of numbers) indicate upwards of 250,000 people died in the conflicts!  But, after the war finally collapsed, the US Gov (which Congress had been pushing bhard to get it to Nica and forget Panama) under Teddy made one more attempt.  In those days, there were no rapid comm means in Columbia, and required a 6 week trek to Bogota, just to deliver the messages!  In this same period, the Panamanians declared their Independence from Columbia.  That the 1,000 Day War had just terminated, the US made a last attempt to build the Canal, and the Panmanians also claimed their Independence - made huge problem.  Teddy had sent the USS McKinley to Colon, in anticipation of a possible deal with Columbia.  However, as soon as Columbia learned that Panama had claimed their Independence - they immediately dispatched the troops back to Colon from Cartegena. 

When they arrived at Colon, the US Marines were they, with orders not to shoot, but simpy be prepared to assist the "new" Panamanians!  The cross-Isthmus train completed in the 1850s for the 49er Gold Rush, was commandeered by the Columbia troops.  US troops had orders to simply observe.  The Columbia Officers, noting the train is small, ordered the Enlsited to stay at Colon and take the next train to Panama City.  As there were rapid communications available from the USS McKinley and other locales at Colon, the US Gov ordered the trains to be held and no one allowed to board.  The Marines took a position to guard the train upon its return.  As the Columbians weren't nearly as well armed, the `enlisted were simply fed and allowed their freedom - but, could not go via train to Panama City.  After a couple days, the ships from Cartegena had orders to return to and the Enlisted simply had the choice to return - which they all jumped at!

After several days the Columbian Officers, who been having a ball in Panama, noted the troops hadn't arrived, as the train also hadn't returned.  After a period, the train was sent to Colon to collect the Officers and upon arrival at Colon, boarded another vessel to Cartegena.  The rest, as they say, is history.  A new country was formed, new deals on the Canal made - that the US did NOT uphold their side of the bargains - to boot!

There are a healthy number of US Cits that think Jimmy Carter was a lousy Prez, a poor sample of what leadership is!  I won't comment on that, since I last voted for Kennedy and choose not to participate in this stupid system that screws the best and rewards the un-deserving!  But, one thing that Jimmy Carter DID Do and caused him to loose a 2nd Term - is that he caused (forced?) Congress to up-hold the "original agreements" on the Canal!  His integrity on this issue speaks volumes more than any others have ever said!

Politicians are just that!  Poly = many, Ticans = small blood sucking critters!

Enjoy he rest of you Latin America ventures.  You may be in for another one when you head to Bocas.  The natives there are upset about their bridge at Punta Pena being wiped out by the massive floods last Nov.  Their access bridge across that river was wiped out.  We found out about this 1st hand on Tues, when we drove over to the Bocas side (trying to get to Chiriqui Grande, where the PTP Pipeline ends).  These injuns are really PO'd!  The are blocking the most of the day and not allowing ANY to pass - in either direction!  This appears that it will continue for some time - just started Monday 2nd!  IF you get this msg (and read it) while still on the Panamanian side - you might want to consider take the early AM (think it is about 0900) plane from David to Bocas.  They only fly once/day on on weekdays.  I think you can get the flight discount also (showing your ID over 62), but is only about $30 or so.

I just added the red note about the above commentary of the blocked roads!  We got caught on that Tues, when attempted to get to the Bocas side.  Nov had serious floods, still some problems, but can get around most the bad places now OK.  Now Injuns blocking the road!  Never just an easy life here!  Always have to be on the look-out!

Warm 73 from us both,
Louis HP3TA and Yari

On Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 7:12 PM, Ed Gray W0SD <> wrote:

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

the Pacific.


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:


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  

Louis N. Anciaux