We were abruptly aroused from a sound sleep around 6:00 AM this morning by honking cars, blaring music and loud voices coming from the street in front of the hostel where we are staying. Looking out the window I could see carloads of youth driving around making a lot of racket. If we were in the States, we would have thought the home team just won the Super Bowl or the World Series. Later I found out that is was graduation day for several schools in the area, and the new graduates were celebrating their recently earned diplomas. Still, 6:00 AM seemed like an odd time to celebrate graduation day. Perhaps they had been out all night and were just getting home.
Since we were wide awake we decided to get up and get on with our day.
First on the agenda was to find a place for breakfast. Today, we wanted to avoid the commercialized establishments like those you find in the States and go to a budget restaurant that serves food more typical for the region. We put on our tennis shoes, grabbed our daypacks, and headed down a road we had not walked before. Like the parts of the city we toured the previous day, this area showed all the signs of extreme wealth, including a Ferrari dealership. However, just past the dealership and across the street from a modern hospital was just the kind of place we were looking for. It was an open-air café that served street food like we have eaten so many times on our journey. We had rice, lentils and fried plantains. I have grown to love this simple but delicious food.
After breakfast, we continued for a few more blocks before we decided that the route wasn’t very interesting and opted to get a taxi to the Panama Canal. A short ride of about 20 minutes and we were at the entrance to the museum overlooking the Miraflores Locks. These locks are part of the system that was built over 100 years ago and dedicated in 1913. It is quite a sight to see a structure built so long ago that still plays such an important role in international commerce. New locks were recently constructed and dedicated that can handle the largest super max cargo ships, but the original canal system has special appeal to me, since it has been in operation for such a long time. Unfortunately, there were no vessels passing through the Miraflores Locks when we were there, so I didn't get a picture of that.
Today, we got the final details for the passage we secured on the boat that is taking us from Panama to Columbia, and it is not exactly what we expected. This passage will be a special shortened run that, for the most part, will take us directly from Carti, Panama to Cartagena, Columbia. We originally thought we would spend a couple days leisurely sailing through the San Blas Islands, but that is not the case. Since this is one of the last ships capable of carrying our motorcycles this season, we don’t have any other options worth pursuing. And air shipping our bikes is far more expensive.
During our time in here in Panama we have made an interesting observation. There are a significant number of Venezuelans who have temporarily or permanently relocated to Panama. Like people everywhere, they probably came to Panama to escape the poverty and social unrest that has engulfed their homeland. A young lady named Nakarlin, who works at the hostel where we are staying, is such a person. She is sweet gal who has been very kind to us. As a modest attempt to thank her for the kindness she has shown us, we are taking her to an early dinner tomorrow afternoon. Over dinner I hope to learn more about Venezuela and the factors that motivated her to move to Panama. I will let you know what we learn in a subsequent post.
I continue to work on my Spanish as much as time will allow. Even though I knew some Spanish words and a few basics about the structure of the language, it has been far more difficult to pick up than I thought. Nevertheless, I plan to have Omar video me reading an article in a Spanish newspaper or magazine in the next day or so. After reading it, I will attempt to describe the topics covered in the article. I will post the results on our website, which should be interesting and probably somewhat embarrassing.