As surely as we keep counting down degrees of latitude, do our daily experiences continue changing. Panama city is a jarring conclusion to our Central American traversal.
Given it’s position on the isthmus of the northern and southern American continents and also of the oceans Pacific and Atlantic, this seems entirely appropriate.
In fact it’s a point of intense fascination for me – going even beyond my regular interest in the arbitrary political boundaries that define borders between countries.
Carve a channel down the middle of the nation – in arguably the most ambitious, massive scale engineering project ever undertaken – connect two oceans to forever revolutionize global trade, and you’ve got a place with a thoroughly unique perspective on the world.
After the day’s heat passed yesterday afternoon we explored the old city in detail, enjoying the aspect cast by modern sky scrapers crowding the far edge of the bay, and the container ships slowly entering and departing the Pacific Ocean.
I was struck with the thought that in amongst this Spanish colonial quarter where – the impending tourist boom notwithstanding – a watchful eye has been cast over silent ships that for 95 years have facilitated the fusion of people, culture and produce throughout the world. All squeezed through a channel just 32 metres wide.
The Miraflores locks provided the full canal experience earlier that day, and for me was certainly a highlight of the trip so far.
Elsewhere in the city we’ve been re-acquainted with American style customer service, and some rather excellent food, albeit at almost-USA prices.
We even made up for the last couple of months absence of red meat (and red wine) with an Argentine feast, so enormous that it left my stomach feeling a little worse for wear the next day.
Our trip for some Panama City style casino action also had us ahead of the house on departure.
A few essential items have been purchased – the shopping here is “good” in the American sense, but didn’t live up to expectations in terms of either price or variety.
We’ve traded our Central America Lonely Planet guide for the South America one, and have booked onto the crazy Austrian captain Fritz’s 50ft catamaran for the 5 day trip to Cartagena, Colombia departing Sunday June 28th. Sea-sickness pills at the ready. Speared lobster is anticipated.
So don’t be alarmed by a short period of silence whilst we’re on the high seas ;-)