Monday, January 16, 2012

Invading Panama (by Todd)

Just after sunrise the Luka eased into the harbor at Portobelo, a city that once was one of the main arteries through which gold and silver from South America flowed back to Spain; it was also a favorite invasion target of pirates in the late 1600s/early 1700s. From appearances, it did not seem like Portobelo had ever grown much from that state - the cannon-lined city wall and customs house (though which the materials were processed) were still standing and made up the significant pieces of the city's landscape.

We gathered our belongings and took leave of the ship, heading to Captain Jack's Hostel where we had to wait for our passports to clear immigration control. Being a Sunday morning and even worse, a Sunday preceding a national holiday, we ended up waiting 4 hours for our passports to be stamped and returned. Our hopes of making it to Panama City by noon, then getting on a quick tour to the Panama Canal were dashed. But we made the most of the time, getting in both a shower and a change of clothes for the first time in 5 days!

Right after getting our passports we hustled down the hill to board a bus that would take us to Colon. Most of the bus ride was along the coast so the scenery was nice. The buses that run on this route are school-bus style, painted with very bold colors/characters and accompanied by very loud sound systems. Fortunately we had earplugs with us to deal with the beats blaring from the speakers right behind us on the bus. The other funny thing about the bus ride was the number of stops the bus made along the way...they must have consulted SF MUNI when planning their bus service, it seemed there was a stop about every 1000 feet along the road! Although it only took about 45 minutes to reach Colon, when we boarded the bus in Colon that would take us to Panama City, already sitting there was the entire crew from the Luka who had caught a bus after us in Portobelo but still beat us to the bus in Colon!

In Panama City we walked around the historical city center (well, the post-Captain Morgan invasion city center), Casco Viejo, which was very similar to Cartagena's old city - narrow streets and a mix of dilapidated and totally refurbished buildings, with several open town squares/parks scattered throughout. On the last night of our trip we also got treated to probably the best sunset of the two weeks:

That evening we enjoyed a few beers in the town square, had a nice dinner, and then randomly ran into our friends from the Luka who were at the store buying groceries. Together we gathered for one more evening of beers and drinking games, this time at least on dry stable land, and finally saying our goodbyes to the group and for Juli and I, our goodbyes to Panama.

1 comment:

grace c tullis said...

Loved reading all about your journey! Both you and Juli write so well and keep us entertained with your words and photos! Thank you!!