Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Elephant of Panama

We arrived at Fuerte Amador the other morning. The modern city of Panama glimmered through the haze.

Panama at night

There is no cruise ship dock here so the crew lowered the tenders and shuttled us across the sea to the marina.  
We were headed for another shore excursion. This time a ride on the Panama Canal Railway and a tour of the Gatun Locks.

Ships that are too large to fit through the canal load and unload cargo at either end, and the railroad connects the two ports. The passenger cars are restored cars from the 1940’s and 1950’s. The tracks parallel the canal and once I got outside I was able to get some shots without the distortion from the trains windows.
Riding on the Panama Canal RR
At the end of the line we boarded busses for the ride back to the Locks. It was on the way to the locks that I started to notice how bad our guide was. This guide was making our guide in Guatemala sound like a scholar. Perhaps it was the Spanish to English translation he was making in his head, or maybe he really was just stringing words together. Canal…Teddy Roosevelt…Ships…Simon Bolivar…Columbia…. On and on and on it went. Our bus driver on the other hand was a highly skilled operator. Sitting in the seats just to the right of his sealed compartment I was reassured that this man could drive this huge vehicle with 50 of us on board, at 120 kmh, and still be able to use his phone.
Our Driver Multi Tasking

The locks truly are wonders. Completed by US in 1913. They still work as designed. Gravity moves the water in and out of the locks raising or lowering the ships 80 some feet above sea level.
These cargo ships were starting their journey from the Pacific to the Caribbean. The ship on the right has been lifted some 20 feet, while the ship on the left is still at sea level.  We would be making this same journey, but first we had to get back to our ship.


Island Princess waiting for our return.
We were not certain if we were going to transit the canal at night, but once back on board and safety forward in the food court our captain came on the intercom and said we would stay at anchor for the night and take to the canal with a pilot in the morning.

Entering the second set of Gatun Locks

We started through the canal around 7:00 this morning and arrived at the Caribbean around 5:00. We shot photos from the forward open decks 10, and 11. We shot photos from our cabin. We shot photos aft. We shot photos from deck 7, and the tropical sun has seared our flesh to cherry red. Oh what a feeling…Oh and the elephant? I suspect we have tipped our housekeeper too often. It could be driving him mad.

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