I took the opportunity to sleep in this morning....which means I was up at 7AM doing my best to be loud and obnoxious and wake up all of the hungover Wasteoids who woke me up last night at 2AM. Sometimes Hostels can be a real pain in the ass....
First order of the day was a little exercise and a shower. I was out running without a shirt on (it's so damn hot down here) and a cop stopped me and told me to put my shirt back on before he gave me a fine. Apparently it's illegal to exercise without a shirt. Go figure.
Mamallena's Hostel has free pancakes for breakfast, so after cleaning up, I gorged myself on hotcakes, did some laundry, and read a book. A bit later, Stan, the older scottish gentlemen that I had rode with for a few days, showed up unexpectedly at the Hostel with Mike, one of the other bikers who is taking the boat with me.
Around luchtime I left and ran some errands around town. Picked up some lithium batteries and WD-40, you know, the usual. As I was walking around, I ran into that big RTW rig I had seen yesterday coming in on the freeway.
It's an F-550! I lurked in the shadows nearby until I spotted a likely looking gringo couple. After accosting them, I found that they were the owners. Apparently they are retired and had this vehicle custom made for them. They've been on the road for over two years now!
They are about to cross the Darien as well.....to the tune of $5,000! Apparently they use RORO (roll on, roll off) on a big cargo ship. They said it cost less to ship their vehicle from Germany to the United States than it does to cross the Darien.
After talking with the dutch for a while, I had a hankering for some Hamburguesas:
I've come to really enjoy McDonalds down here for some reason. I would never touch the stuff at home, but down here it's like a little slice of America. I also found some Cuba Libre in a can:
After wasting the morning doing nothing important, I decided to get off my ass and do some touristy stuff. I hired a Taxi and went to the Mirraflores Locks on the Panama Canal.
The canal was a lot smaller than I imagined it. Still, it was quite impressive. It's hard to imagine that the canal is almost 100 years old and remains virtually unchanged! I can't imagine what it must have to took to dig this thing out back at the turn of the century. It's an impressive feat!
There is a large museum and grandstands at the locks. You can sit on the balcony and watch ships transit the locks and listen to a commentator explain the process in English and Spanish.
The average container ship that goes through the canal pays around $100,000 to transit, which is apparently cheaper than going around Cape Horn.
It was facinating to see these huge container ships pass through with only 24 inches of clearance on either side! And it only takes 8-10 minutes for one of these things to pass through the locks. Most ships take about 8-10 hours to transit the entire canal.
In 2007 they began to build some even bigger locks behind the existing ones. The new locks will be able to accomodate even bigger vessels. They are supposed to be finished by 2014 which will be the 100th anniversary of the completion of the canal.
After finishing up at the canal, I was looking for a Taxi when I spotted Stan and Mike. We all caught a ride together and went to Casco Antigua, a historic section of Panama City. Casco Antigua was founded after Henry Morgan, the famous pirate, sacked the old city. The city fathers decided that Casco Antigua was a significantly more defensible position.
Most of the district looked like it was in a state of disrepair, but workers were going crazy restoring buildings and fixing streets. There was also a little promintory with a great view of the city:
And an amazing Panama Hat shop.....
As we were walking around, we noticed a ton of cops. These guys where having a little formation:
I also found this sick DR650 police bike:
Unfortunatley, they wouldn't let me sit on it. As we were leaving in the taxi, I took a picture of this cop:
Unfortunately. he saw the flash go off and came over to the cab in a rage, demanding me to give him my camera. I used a little slight-of-hand to remove the memory card before I got out of the car in case he decided to keep it. He launched off on some big speech about how we weren't allowed to take pictures of the police, and how we was part of the special presidential detail, etc, etc, etc,. I played dumb and told him that I didn't speak spanish. He then tried some English on me but it was obvious he didn't habla. I turned the camera on and scrolled through the pictures on the internal memory to convince him that I hadn't taken his picture (I really had, it was just on the memory card in my pocket) and eventually he came down enough from his power trip that we were able to leave.
As we were driving away, asked the cabby why the cop was being such a bendejo. Apparently, if I understood the cabby correctly, the President of Panama lives in Casco Antigua and his house was only 100 yards from where I had taken the picture of the cop. Ahhhhh....now it make sense.
We headed for downtown:
The amount and size of the skyscrapers down here is incredible. Eventually, Stan, Mike and I decided to go to the Hard Rock Cafe for some good old fashioned American food.
As you can see by my shirt, it's hot as balls down here. Tomorrow we leave for the boat.