Location: Panama City, Panama
Rundown: Spent some time in Panama soaking up the Caribbean heat, humidity, culture, and rumba!
Flew into Panama City from Ecuador. The sticky, humid air wrapped itself around us like a old, moist friend. Brought me right back to my time in Cartagena.
Panama City also reminded me of Cartagena in its architecture, if not its upkeep thereof. Say, Cartagena thirty years ago. Some of the buildings are well kept, and others are in severe disrepair. Sketchy looking balconies and metal reinforcement protruding into the streets. Made for an interesting ambiance.
Casco Viejo, the old city center, used to be the well-to-do part of the city, which eventually became run down. The wealthy left to build where the skyscrapers are now, but slowly Casco Viejo is becoming re-gentrified.
Some buildings were so neglected that the jungle had retaken them. Entire trees jutting from the ground out through where the roof once was, and giant fern fronds poking out through empty door frames.
Some interesting church ruins as well in the city.
Spent a few hot afternoons in the shade pouring coolant into our systems. Fun to be back in the Caribbean heat and humidity and have super watery beer taste pretty good.
In the evenings we would go out on the town, often run into live salsa music in the little bars.
One of the nights we were there the city held a music festival! All the plazas were filled with bands playing an assortment of music and tons of dancing people.
Even some of the old church ruins were filled with music. Even a little rain didn't thwart the Caribbean dance party. Who can stop dancing?
Spent a day on the Panama Canal, one of the greatest man-made construction projects in human history.
The Miraflores locks are a popular spot to watch the boats come and go, so we spent an afternoon doing just that.
The tolls range from $50,000 to $200,000 USD for the big freighters to pass one way through the Panama Canal. The boats are not maneuverable in the canal and rely on tug boats through the canal, and locomotives through the locks to move.
In the space of a few minutes the boats are raised or lowered by water alone. The rainy climate makes the area perfect for the locks, as all of the water is gravity fed from the higher elevation Lake Gatun.
Visited Panama Viejo, the original settlement of Panama City, just a few minutes out of town. The city had been attacked by pirates (the English) a few times and was eventually burned to the ground and relocated to where Casco Antiguo stands now.
Spent a hot afternoon exploring the ruins of the old 15th century town.
PARQUE METROPOLITANA and SOBERANIA
Got our fill of city-slickering and decided to get some mud in our boot treads. Spent a couple days exploring some of the national parks just outside of Panama City. Parque Metropolitana, as it sounds, isn't even out of the city, and yet is a full out rainforest! In the few spots where there are breaks in the great trees, you can see the city!
Parque Soberania is farther out, and more difficult to get to, but both have lush jungle, great bird life, and interesting animals.
Loved the wild birds of paradise and other tropical flowers that are grown fussily in northern Michigan greenhouses roaming free in the jungles.
Hiked in both parks for several hours soaking in the tropical heat.
This type of tree called the 'barrigon' means big belly due to its swollen lower section. I thought the name was pretty cleaver.
And that was it! Headed off after a few days in Panama City and its surroundings to las Islas San Blas!