LOCATION: Housesitting in Panama City, Panama
WEATHER: 90s and humid. Downpours
On Fridays, the homeowner’s maid comes and can take Mac, our dog, for his mid-day walks, meaning that we can be away from the house on Fridays for longer periods. With that in mind, we planned our day to cross the isthmus from ocean to ocean.
We got up early and caught the train here in Panama City.
Our car, with an open dome, was for tourists, but the other cars shuffle businessmen between Panama City (on the Pacific) and Colon (on the Atlantic). .
Had we taken the tour, it would have cost $300+ each, but we did a “do-it-yourself” trip. The one-hour train ride, including coffee and snacks, was $25. The train route follows the Panama Canal.
We could see big cargo ships going up and down the Canal.
The Canal, and train route, go between the Pacific and Atlantic.
The map shows how the Canal shaves off several days of traveling around South America. We arrived in Colon, the Atlantic port. The tourists on the tour were whisked away in tour buses. We had met a Dutch guy on the train traveling alone, and decided to pair up with him to share costs. The 3 of us found our own taxi, and I negotiated a flat fee for taking us to see the new locks, then to take us to the bus station. So, for $13 each, we had our day trip planned! Much better than $300!!!
We toured the new set of locks. They were only recently finished, in 2017, allowing even bigger container ships to go through.
We were lucky to be there right when this big guy came through.
Then, it started to rain. It was a real downpour. This part of Panama gets rain like this daily. Guidebooks had warned us that Colon is an extremely poor and dangerous town. The book actually described it as a “hell hole” and warned tourists to not walk around AT ALL. I’m afraid they are right. The taxi took us through the town to the bus station. It was dismal, especially with the streets flooding from the downpour.
From the safety of our bus, I took this picture of the street…
Then this photo of one of the housing areas, chock full of garbage, next to a sign saying “Keep our neighborhood clean”. So sad…
The 1.5 hour bus ride back from Colon to Panama City was another $2.50, compared to the $50 that the tour guide people had to pay on top of their $300 tour. (Can you tell I’m full of myself from these savings???!!!)
In addition to saving gobs of money, we “enjoyed” a unique experience that you don’t get on a guided tour! A guy got on the bus and started preaching. He went on and on and on, at least 30 minutes. I could understand most of what he said…..Mostly that we owe everything to God. He was a sinner, spent 12 years in prison, and has now found God. He talked about the poor people of Colon. Then, he passed the hat and almost everyone gave him a dollar or two. He wasn’t real clear about where that money would be going….
Arriving in Panama City, we found the subway and took it to a stop that is somewhat near the Old Town, our destination for lunch. (Now back on the Pacific side). As we were standing there figuring out which exit to take, an official-looking guy came up to us, asked us where we were going, and escorted us through the subway to the street and hailed a taxi for us. So kind!
We had lunch in the Old Town, now about our favorite place in Panama. It is full of restaurants, bars and boutique hotels. We went to a rum bar where we had coupons for free mojitos. (Of course!) We each had a drink and split a “Panamanian Cuban” sandwich.
Now it was pouring here in Panama City. We waited until the deluge abated, then caught a cab home.
A great day!