Our cruise took us into the Panama Canal through the Gatun Locks and into Lake Gatun. Passenger ships pay a heavy fee to have priority access to the canal locks and normally pass through the locks early in the day. An east to west transit for a 2000 passenger ship can cost $400,000! The locks use gravity to fill and drain the 1000 foot long chambers which are 110 feet wide, just a few feet wider than our ship. It took 52 million gallons of fresh water for our ship to go into Lake Gatun and then back out to the Caribbean.
Two pilots board the ship before it enters the locks but the Captain never gives up the controls!
The canal cuts through the Panamanian rain forest which keeps Gatun Lake full of water and consequently provides the water needed to run the locks.
After the ship arrived in Gatun Lake, tours set off to different locales . We took an hour and a half bus ride across the Isthmus to the Pacific side where Panama City is located. We drove past Noriega’s house! It’s fallen into disrepair.
Our first stop was Panama Viejo. These ruins are left from the original Panama settlement.
After Panama Viejo was sacked by Blackbeard the pirate, the people resettled to Casco Viejo. This is now a World Heritage Site and is in the process of being revitalized. The streets are narrow so we transferred from the big bus into smaller vans and then on foot to wander past crumbling buildings intermixed with refurbished ones.
The modern city skyline can be seen from the old city. There is some very fun architecture!
This woman is in the traditional dress of the Kuna women from the San Blas Islands off the eastern coast of Panama. They make colorful, multi-layered appliqués called Molas that they attach to their clothing. Molas are great for decorative pillows too.
Here is an example of a Diablo Rojos, a privately owned public bus. They are old yellow school buses that have been painted – this one has Jesus on the back end. We were told they are very dangerous, often driven recklessly by men without licenses. The government is in the process of phasing them out (buying them in order to get them off the road) and replacing them with modern, air-conditioned busses.
Many of these pictures make it look like it was a cloudy day but there was plenty of sunshine – it was 100 degrees! There was also a shower at the end of the day, typical for a rain forest and a necessity for the life of the Panama canal.