Mike and I went to Panama in summer of 2003. It was my first time out of the country
and I had a great time. We stayed with a friend in an area called Sea Cliffs (it was the
only English name in the country, I swear!)I would call it a town, but it wasn't. It was
merely a neighborhood. To get to the house you had to go down a series of rough, dirt
roads that had deep holes in them from where rain had washed chunks of the red clay away.
Once we got to the area where houses
were they were tiny houses but the people
really enjoyed them. From the house we
stayed in it was just a trip down the
driveway and then a hill to the beach.
Our beach was totally secluded. The only
people who went to this beach were from
the neighborhood. I think we saw three
other people on the beach the entire time
we were there.
This is what our beach looked
like the whole time we were there.
Not a soul in sight. Just these two
little hut things that were really
nice when you wanted to get out of
the sun but didn't want to go
indoors on such a beautiful day and
leave such a beautiful beach.
Of course a trip to Panama would
not be complete without a trip to
the Panama Canal. The man we stayed
with is an ex-patriot who retired
in Panama after working on the
canal. It was interesting and
insightful to have him on the tour
with us. Even without him as an
unofficial guide, the tour would've
still been good. The official tour
guide was excellent. He spoke
perfect english from attending
college in Texas. He gave us many
impressive facts about how much
cargo passes through the canal,
some historical background and
walked us through the process as
a ship came through the locks on
its way to the Pacific.
Seeing all the ships that come in
and out of the canal and all the
goods and people that move through
there was truly amazing. It starts
to make sense as to how 130 million
tons of cargo headed for the United
States come through here every year.
The canal is a lot narrower than I
had imagined with very little room
on either side of the huge ships. I
ended up sitting in the observation
deck for two hours just watching the
ships move through the canal, it
was just completely memorizing.
In the middle of the country there is a region called
El Valle, "the valley". It is a region of the country
that is much different from the beaches of the coasts
and from the city-life of Panama City. Everything is
quiet and seemingly unspoiled. There is a really neat
zoo set in El Valle as well as an old home of
Noriega, but you have to be with someone who knows
where the home is in order to find it. Because it is
a pristine and undeveloped part of the country the
rainforest still exists here. For a fee of $10 you
can get hooked up to a zipline and see the rainforest
and its creatures from high in the air. I am afraid
of heights and even though I am smiling in the
picture I was pretty scared. I got stuck in the
middle of one line because I wasn't heavy enough to
have the momentum to get to the next platform; so I
had to move hand-over-hand until I could get enough
momentum to move to the next platform. Even
through the fear of heights and getting stuck the
view was amazing and worth the struggle.
STRANGE CREATURE WARNING: Howler monkeys are
common in the rainforest. I too, was fooled and
thought that monkeys are cute and sweet but these
things are LOUD and will definatly make you jump out
of your socks the first time you hear one.
For history buffs like me there are many
different forts around the country that
are interesting. However, there is no
national park service like we have in
the U.S. Therefore, when you get to these
forts that's all there is. The fort (or
what's left of it) is all you will see.
There are no signs giving you any
information or historical reference point
and no guide to tell you cool stories of
pirates. If you do a little research
before you go - I know the idea is a
dreadful one, especially for a college
student to do more work than is
required - you will have an idea of what
took place here and it will be easy to
imagine times gone by. Most of the forts
in the country are very off the beaten
path and a hassle to get to. If you only
have a mild interest in seeing them and
don't have an interest in the historical
background I would recommend a better use
of your time.
At last it was time to return home.
The picture at right was taken
from the car as we approached
Panama City to catch our flight
back. My only regret is that we
didn't spend some time in the city.
We used it only as a arrival and
departure point. If I ever go back
to Panama I would definatly like
to do some exploring of city life.
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My Travel Reflections