Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Panama Canal and our last days in Panama City.

The Panama Canal runs Southeast to Northwest and is the shortest distance between the Pacific and the Atlantic. It saves shipping vessels 8,000 miles off of their trip around  Tierra Del Fuego. Around 27,000 workers died building the canal which opened in 1914, and is the largest and most difficult engineering project ever undertaken.  What a wonder, and I was there to see it, live and in action!!!

Note: if you are planning on visiting the Miraflores Locks aim to arrive before 11am or after 2pm as there is little to no vessel traffic during the noon hour. There is an excellent visitors center at Miraflores with a museum, a restaurant and 3 levels of observation decks.

Panama City is on the Pacific Ocean and this is where the Miraflores Locks are located. Here are ships that have gone through the Miraflores Locks and are heading through the canal to the Atlantic or Caribbean side.

The gates closing on the lock, workmen walking on them checking on closure.

The ships coming into the lock.

The ships ready and the water starting to come in to fill the lock. The higher water level is ahead of the ships.

The water in the lock is rising.

All filled up.

The ships look a lot bigger once the lock is filled as they are so much higher up. They take off for the canal lake portion of their 8 hour journey through the canal, with more locks up ahead.

My friend Steve that I had met the  night before at Hostal Amador was working on this ship. A big surprise to me to see someone I knew on a ship in the Panama Canal!

From a photograph in the museum, this shows the huge quantity of containers that go through the canal on a daily basis.

Hostal Amador, our home for the last 3 nights in Panama. I met up with Ivo and Marga from the Netherlands, and Steve was still there, also.  The second morning I opened the door and found that my friend Avichai from the Santa Clara beach had decided to come there as well. It was like old home week!!  Hostal Amador isn't in the Lonely Planet guide book, a taxi driver had taken me to it when I told him I wanted lodging near the canal. I shared this find of a place with friends I met along the way, and then I saw them again when they came to stay.

A restaurant that fancied itself a castle. Los Templarios, good food and 2 blocks from the Hostal Amador.

I went shopping near our hotel but could only take about 15 minutes of it, too much stuff and I didn't need any of it. I bought a small hand made fabric piece.

My favorite outdoor kitchen at the Hostal Amador.

I spent many hours talking, laughing telling stories with Yolanda, her daughter and Maria. That's me in the middle and this was all in spanish, a great time.  Yolanda's daughter wanted to learn how to use my camera, so I showed her how and she was a very quick learner. She took this photo, but I set it up with too high an ISO so there's lots of noise... my fault.

Yolanda, her daughter Ann Rachelle, and Maria all work at the Hostal cleaning rooms and serving breakfast. They work 10 to 12 hour days and keep a smile on their face, they were good company.
Ann Rachelle. She loved posing for the camera.

Panamanian policeman who were friends of Yolanda's coming for a visit. As we were all playing with the camera, I asked if I could take their pictures and they happily agreed.

Our last dinner in Panama at the outdoor terrace of the Balboa Yacht Club.

Thursday, March 26th we rose at 4am to take the taxi to the airport back to our respective homes: Washington DC for Ian and me, Denver for Andrew and Cleveland, Ohio for Ethan. The birders here walking to our gates at the very modern Panama City airport and a good trip was had by all.  They saw many birds over our 10 days here, and I met many, very interesting travelers.


  1. Great fotos of the canal and the locks. What did you hear about the size of ships going through it? Are most ships too big nowadays and have to go around? Do they build ships specifically sized to make it through the canal? 8 hours seems pretty fast - I had no idea. Where to next?

  2. For now they are building ships to size them for the canal, but bigger ones are on the way and the canal people are talking remodeling the canal to fit the bigger ships. All they need is money and time!

    Home is where to next!!! MA here we come!