Apparently it’s one of the seven human made wonders of the world. And it would actually be ridiculous to go all the way to Panama and not see it. So bang I was there.
It was my first ever venture into Central America at the ripe old age of 30.
I was in the Casco Antiguo (Old City), with Eduardo my new Brazilian friend who I had just met at the bus stop on arrival at the airport. After touring round the Old City, sampling the food there and the beer and ambience in a local pub, it was time to head out to Miraflores, this is the recommended and most popular part of the Canal to view, and you are almost guaranteed to see how boats manouvre through this architectural wonder.
But without a car and with no obvious bus routes direct to the Canal de Panama (which I will call it – as we are in a Spanish speaking country and should not be so lazy to Anglicise everything) it left us with only a few options to get there. Hiring a car just for that trip would have been stupid, literally was only for a few hours to see the Canal, so we wanted to avoid the paperwork and timeframe of that.
We asked the barman in La Viejo Havana about the possibility of walking there and he cited it as three hours of a dander. So that was out.
This left the third option, getting a taxi there. Panama is not as cheap as the rest of South America. This is possibly because they use US Dollars there, but we sussed out a taxi for just 10 dollars to take us from the Metropolitan Cathedral all the way to Miraflores, the touristy part of the Canal de Panama.
The drive was excellent and in the heat a lowered window on my side gave me that cold fresh air I craved.
From the Old City,we were driven through some shanty run down suburbs at Chorrillo, where on the street people mingled, clothes were hung out to dry and a raw Carribean style vibe engulfed the hot hot air.
Soon we were on a carriageway cruising to the Miraflores Locks, which is north west of Panama City, and in fairness definitely NOT for walking to. There, photographed in the taxi, Eduardo wears a Panama Hat.
After passing a Panama canal train and trainline and over a bridge, we arrived at the entrance to Miraflores Locks. I truly expected it to be a mere industrial shipping zone and us two as the only foreigners or tourists.Certainly my experience of Panama so far was that we were the only foreigners around. It is not a tourist ridden place. But the Canal was different…
The entrance to Miraflores Locks. Seen as the “Welcome to the Panama Canal.”
Flying my Northern Ireland flag at the entrance to Miraflores Locks. This was a nice moment for me – before I planned my recent trip, I hadn’t intended to go to Panama (or anywhere in Central America), but it worked out well thanks to a cheap connecting flight to Colombia. I was in awe just to be there.
Eduardo at the Canal entrance.
Once we got dropped off inside, we realised there was an escalator up to a building where you have to pay to overlook the view of the Canal de Panama. The ticket was only 5 dollars, and to see this spectacle from the high platform was easily worth it.
On the escalator going up.
Inside the Visitors Centre at Miraflores.
Plan of the Canal.
Then we got a lift up to the top floor – where it was PACKED with foreigners and tourists – I couldn’t quite believe it – there must have been about 300 people up there and mostly United States people.
My first glimpse of this masterpiece.
The first ship we saw the grey mammoth American
Trains on either side guide it through each “lock” in the Canal.
This was the Oluf Maersk, which crept through the second passage in Miraflores Locks. At at a guess the ship is Scandinavian.
A water lifestyle only the Panama Canal knows of.
There was even a wee bar and restaurant up there, didn’t buy anything though, but of all the places I’ve been I can’t think of a more impressive wee place to sit relax and watch the world go by.
Here you can see the car park at Miraflores and how the massive tankers and freight boats are manoevred so closely and cleverly down a narrow passage. A true masterpiece.
The water flushing through into the next level to ease the boats down lower, termed as “locks.”
These are the trains that are attached to the ships with rope and on either side, a number of these trains guide and help sail the ships through the canal.
One of the locks at Miraflores.
A well timed bird and me at Miraflores Locks.
This Maersk Sealand freight container is guided through the lock on the far side.
I was there in 2010 – 97 years after it opened. Amazing manmade structure this.
More people watch the American ship sail down the Canal de Panama.
The crew on one of the ships coming through the locks.
Some of these photos are very thin – my memory stick ran out at Miraflores and I changed the photo settings to fit more on, hence changing the size and shape of them. Here a narrow photo with my Northern Ireland flag at Miraflores.
We’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland, my Brazilian mate Eduardo flys the flag.
We lingered there for a long time, watching both ships sail all the way through,which takes a brave while, here the locks open.
A great memory – relaxing by the Canal de Panama.
Final shot of the Northern Ireland flag at Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal, Panama.
And a close up of me…
The actual tourist centre at Miraflores, Panama.
The entrance to Miraflores. Soon my visit to the amazing Canal de Panama was over and strangely I don’t feel compelled to ever go there again. It’s a once in a lifetime thing, and I’ve seen it now and been in awe. And amazing to think how many lives were saved and how much fuel was saved by constructing it – I’m thinking of all those boats that would have sunk and all the gallons of oil consumed in sailing all the way round the tip of Argentina and Chile, when the Panama Canal makes life so much easier. A gem, but still. There’s a lot more of the world to see…
What – Canal de Panama
Where – Miraflores Locks, Panama
Opened – 1913
Length of Canal – 77 kilometres
Details – 3 locks up, 3 locks down per vessel passing through
Fact – Almost 22,000 workers died in the 16th Century during the first attempt to construct this canal
History – ON 31st December 1999, the USA handed over full control and authority of the canal to the country of Panama
Yearly – 14,000 ships pass through it…
Cost For A Ship to Get Through – Between 1,000 and 2,000 US Dollars (depends on ship size)
Tourist Entry Cost – $5 US Dollars
Guided Tours – Yes they are available at an extra cost. I’m a budget traveller, I’m not up for a guided tour.
Key Song – Anything by Squeeze:
PANAMA CANAL VIDEO PART 1:
PANAMA CANAL VIDEO PART 2:
PANAMA CANAL VIDEO PART 3:
PANAMA CANAL VIDEO PART 4:
THE TAXI TO THE PANAMA CANAL THROUGH THE CHORRILLO DISTRICT: