Miraflores Locks and the Great Panama Canal - Days 526-527
From learning fascinating facts of the construction of this critical Panama Canal to the excitement of seeing the Miraflores Locks in action.
Our original plan was to stay in South America for six months, so how comes we are now in Panama?
We discovered that our sons' friends, Will and Rosie, were here working. We were so near that we decided to come and visit. Plus a lovely lady Eve, from Seattle, who we met in South Africa, is now living in Nicaragua, so that's also on the agenda. We love going with the flow.
Day 526 equals flight, get to Airbnb, meet Eddie, our incredible 97 years old host, eat and meet Will and Rosie for much chatting, laughing and drinking. So delightful to see them and catch up on news.
Day 527 commenced with much chatting with Eddie, putting the world to rights and hearing snippets of his life. He spent a few terrible years in the Japanese concentration camps building the train lines. We do hear the most fascinating stories of people's lives.
We then met up with Will and Rosie at Miraflores Locks. First was the museum where we learned about the history of the Panama Canal and how it has changed the face of trade, politics, and economics by significantly reducing the journey connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
The French started to build the Panama Canal in the late 1800s, but due to the complexity of the project and tropical diseases killing many workers, they stopped.
Under Roosevelt, the United States took over. Through the engineering ingenuity of building locks and creating a vast artificial Lake, they were able to complete the construction of the Panama Canal. If you are interested in reading more, there is a fascinating article here: https://www.pancanal.com/eng/history/history/american.html
It's funny, I was never interested in history, however since our travels I am curious to find out more. How and why did Panama become independent from Colombia? USA President Roosevelt played a big part in this, all so that North America could benefit from connection of the oceans.
The USA got their way and controlled 5 miles either side of the canal until the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaty when there was a period of joint American–Panamanian control. In 1999, at last, the channel was taken over by the Panamanian government. Enough said.
We learned many facts as we wandered around the museum; my favorite was that Richard Halliburton paid the lowest toll of 36 cents when he swam the 80km length of the Panama Canal in 1928.
We also stood on a machine to check out the percentage of water we had in our body. We had to type in our age and gender. I'm not sure that the result was correct, we were both at 78% which seems rather high for our age!
Time to see if any ships were coming through the canal. At first, there was just one massive cargo ship slowly sailing through the new canal that was completed in 2016. This ship probably paid between $500,000 and $800,000 for the convenience of using this passageway.
At last, there was action on the two locks near us. One lock had two passenger ships and a yacht tied up together with a large cargo ship behind them. On the nearest lock was another yacht between two catamarans and a massive blue cargo ship piled high with containers coming up the rear.
It was so exciting to see the locks open, the water being transferred and the sailing vessels moving through the canal. Not only the passengers but also the crew members were waving at us. I'm not too sure who was excited the most!
Afterward, the four of us took a taxi to the old part of Panama City, Casco Viejo, for a late lunch and sat chatting for ages. What a delightful couple Will and Rosie are; a pleasure spending time with them.