Cityscape @ Panama City
We awoke in the morning, doned our backpacks yet again and headed for the bus station. By bus station, I mean side of the road. Where the buses leave for David every 30 minutes, we were quickly on our way to Panama City. With a quick bus change in David, we were on a double decker, an eight hour ride to Panama City. Not to mention that this bus was full to the brim.
Four hours into our journey, which means four hours of pretty solid sleep for both of us after a Dramamine each, we had a quick bathroom/snack/scoff some food break at a truck stop. With barely enough time to do the wee dance through the queue of women, we grabbed some buffet noodles to go as the bus honked its impatient horn at us.
Bird Bath and City View @ Casco Viejo, Panama City
The next four hours, between more naps, we witnessed two grown adults practically eating each other’s faces whilst their children mucked about, occasionally kicking the backs of chairs. Every now and then they would decide to “parent” by smacking one or both children, before going back to eating each other’s faces off. I almost started kicking the back of the chair out of disgust myself, it was pretty inappropriate behaviour to say the least, along with the minor child abuse and closely matched by the films yet again shown on a day bus.
We eventually drove over the Panama Canal and arrived in the Big City. This was probably the biggest, most modern city we had seen in a long time. A $2 Uber ride later, we arrived at Entre 2 Aguas. A less than warm welcome from the worlds most inefficient woman, we threw our bags down in our hotel room, wait our Hostel room! I am under the confident impression that this place had once been a hotel, because the rooms, bathrooms and kitchen were immaculate and definitely the poshest place we had stayed since Zitacauro, but for half the price. We even had a flat screen tv and air con! The football was on and we had a TV! Oh wait, the best part? We were literally the only people in the whole place.
Keel Billed Toucan @ Parque Natural Metropolitana, Panama City
Mirador @ Parque Natural Metropolitana, Panama City
We decided to try make use of the rest of the evening and headed to a nearby mall for some shopping. It had reached that point in our trip where things needed to be replaced, and some things needed to be upgraded. Our shopping list was getting out of control. We managed to find a few bits and pieces, but soon hit a “bus napping is exhausting and malls are so boring” wall. We managed to pick up a replacement day pack, that we then found a big hold in once we got it home. Excellent.
The next morning we ate our free breakfast (yep, another amazing perk of Entre 2 aguas) watched the 7am World Cup match then headed for a self guided walk around Casco Viejo, Panama Old Town.
Before the beautifully restored buildings of Casco Viejo that we see today, the old town had been reduced to a slum. The city started when its location made for a good vantage point to defend from enemies via land and sea. But as time wore on, the Panama canal was created and subsequently the population expanded further east, the elite abandoned Casco Viejo, which in turned, all but destroyed the city.
Old Meets New @ Casco Viejo, Panama City
We spent hours walking around the easy to navigate city, seemingly designed for tourists. We started at the Iglesia de la Merced, where we found a map of the old town, including a walking trail to see the best points. We bought a few souvenir presents to send home to our families and just had such a nice time walking around.
After a cool off sushi/artic aircon lunch, and a bit of cheeky football, we spent the rest of the afternoon escaping the heat in yet another shopping mall.
We found and subsequently purchased another rucksack (but returned it the next day due to quality). The store we purchased it from turned out to be an insane “gun/wannabe in the army but didn’t get in” shop. Selling things like glass breaker pens, knuckle duster glass breakers, tasers, pepper spray, I think we pressure bought the pack without thinking too much about it. When we returned it, it had already started falling apart a bit anyway and we felt a bit better that we weren’t contributing to such a store. We later returned our original rucksack with the hole but we still wanted it and the hole was a bit superficial. Unfortunately there was none left to swap it and they couldn’t give a refund until the following Tuesday because of some policy. Alice was having none of it and we somehow walked away with a 30 % cash refund and a new drinks bottle.
The following day we headed to Parque Metropolitana. This park sits literally just outside the city, and during our two hour hike we managed to see two types of mot mots, toucans, woodpeckers and two sloths!
Macho Sloth @ Parque Natural Metropolitana, Panama City
Baby Sloth @ Parque Natural Metropolitana, Panama City
Hairy Caterpillar @ Parque Natural Metropolitana, Panama City
The day before we headed out on our San Blas Island adventure, we were asked to attend a meeting where our guide could speak to us about any further requirements, our itinerary, preparations and also to meet the people we would be spending four days with. To our surprise, we showed up along with 26 others, a massive group and not at all what we had expected. The cliche “let’s go around the room, say your name, where you are from and why you are doing the San Blas crossing” introductions began. Within the first ten people introducing themselves, and their answer to the last question of why are you doing the San Blas Crossing being along the lines of “to party”/“to get drunk and have fun” we were more apprehensive than you can imagine. Especially as Alice’s answer was “We heard you have about a 95% chance of dying if you do the land crossing so we kind of had to” fell Onto a silent room. One of the girls at the end of the meeting wouldn’t stop banging on about getting out in time to get her free hostel pancakes. Such a dick. (We love you (now) Jy-essie). We were mainly concerned that we would be the oldest and the lamest.
Las Mujeres @ Casco Viejo, Panama City
Apprehensive but telling ourselves it will be fine, we headed for the Panama Canal. Now, neither of us are engineers, nor boat fanatics. So I really struggled to see the draw to visiting the canal, other than wasting a few hours of my life, but Alice was keen to go if not just to tell her Dad she had been.
Let me tell you what I learnt in these couple hours.
1. The highest tariff ever paid by a vessel to cross the canal was a ship, carrying 22 thousand shipping containers, who paid $250k US.
2. The lowest tariff paid was .64 US cents, by some idiot who swam through.
3. and even bigger idiots were us two, who spend $50 US on attending this shit show.
Look, honestly it wasn’t that bad, I had a great snooze while everyone else went grey as they waited for the cargo ship to go through the locks.
No, honestly, some of it was interesting, but the museum and video were a bit of a write off. Two hours and $50 bucks lighter, we retreated back to Entre 2 aguas to not only pack, but super waterproof all our belongings as instructed. We were really looking forward to this trip!
Jess’ Least Favourite Place @ Panama Canal
Panama, interesting, huge, and vastly diverse. We wasted too much time replacing things and in shopping malls to fully enjoy everything you have to offer. I will say this though, you are having a laugh with your entrance fee to Mirar locks at the canal.
Alíen @ Parque Natural Metropolitana, Panama City
What What Mot Mot? @ Parque Natural Metropolitana, Panama City