I took the opportunity to sleep in this morning....which means I was up at 7AM
doing my best to be loud and obnoxious and wake up all of the hungover Wasteoids
who woke me up last night at 2AM. Sometimes Hostels can be a real pain in the
First order of the day was a little exercise and a shower. I was
out running without a shirt on (it's so damn hot down here) and a cop stopped me
and told me to put my shirt back on before he gave me a fine. Apparently it's
illegal to exercise without a shirt. Go figure.
Mamallena's Hostel has
free pancakes for breakfast, so after cleaning up, I gorged myself on hotcakes,
did some laundry, and read a book. A bit later, Stan, the older scottish
gentlemen that I had rode with for a few days, showed up unexpectedly at the
Hostel with Mike, one of the other bikers who is taking the boat with me.
Around luchtime I left and ran some errands around town. Picked up some
lithium batteries and WD-40, you know, the usual. As I was walking around, I ran
into that big RTW rig I had seen yesterday coming in on the freeway.
an F-550! I lurked in the shadows nearby until I spotted a likely looking gringo
couple. After accosting them, I found that they were the owners. Apparently they
are retired and had this vehicle custom made for them. They've been on the road
for over two years now!
are about to cross the Darien as well.....to the tune of $5,000! Apparently they
use RORO (roll on, roll off) on a big cargo ship. They said it cost less to ship
their vehicle from Germany to the United States than it does to cross the
After talking with the dutch for a while, I had a hankering for
come to really enjoy McDonalds down here for some reason. I would never touch
the stuff at home, but down here it's like a little slice of America. I also
found some Cuba Libre in a can:
wasting the morning doing nothing important, I decided to get off my ass and do
some touristy stuff. I hired a Taxi and went to the Mirraflores Locks on the
The canal was a lot smaller than I imagined it. Still, it
was quite impressive. It's hard to imagine that the canal is almost 100 years
old and remains virtually unchanged! I can't imagine what it must have to took
to dig this thing out back at the turn of the century. It's an impressive
There is a large museum and grandstands at the locks. You can sit
on the balcony and watch ships transit the locks and listen to a commentator
explain the process in English and Spanish.
average container ship that goes through the canal pays around $100,000 to
transit, which is apparently cheaper than going around Cape Horn.
was facinating to see these huge container ships pass through with only 24
inches of clearance on either side! And it only takes 8-10 minutes for one of
these things to pass through the locks. Most ships take about 8-10 hours to
transit the entire canal.
In 2007 they began to build some even bigger
locks behind the existing ones. The new locks will be able to accomodate even
bigger vessels. They are supposed to be finished by 2014 which will be the 100th
anniversary of the completion of the canal.
finishing up at the canal, I was looking for a Taxi when I spotted Stan and
Mike. We all caught a ride together and went to Casco Antigua, a historic
section of Panama City. Casco Antigua was founded after Henry Morgan, the famous
pirate, sacked the old city. The city fathers decided that Casco Antigua was a
significantly more defensible position.
Most of the district looked like
it was in a state of disrepair, but workers were going crazy restoring buildings
and fixing streets. There was also a little promintory with a great view of the
an amazing Panama Hat shop.....
we were walking around, we noticed a ton of cops. These guys where having a
also found this sick DR650 police bike:
they wouldn't let me sit on it. As we were leaving in the taxi, I took a picture
of this cop:
he saw the flash go off and came over to the cab in a rage, demanding me to give
him my camera. I used a little slight-of-hand to remove the memory card before I
got out of the car in case he decided to keep it. He launched off on some big
speech about how we weren't allowed to take pictures of the police, and how we
was part of the special presidential detail, etc, etc, etc,. I played dumb and
told him that I didn't speak spanish. He then tried some English on me but it
was obvious he didn't habla. I turned the camera on and scrolled through the
pictures on the internal memory to convince him that I hadn't taken his picture
(I really had, it was just on the memory card in my pocket) and eventually he
came down enough from his power trip that we were able to leave.
were driving away, asked the cabby why the cop was being such a bendejo.
Apparently, if I understood the cabby correctly, the President of Panama lives
in Casco Antigua and his house was only 100 yards from where I had taken the
picture of the cop. Ahhhhh....now it make sense.
We headed for
amount and size of the skyscrapers down here is incredible. Eventually, Stan,
Mike and I decided to go to the Hard Rock Cafe for some good old fashioned
you can see by my shirt, it's hot down here. Tomorrow we leave for the