29 September – Day 69
Panama City, Panama
Today was the first time in a long time that I’ve been on one of those red ‘hop on, hop off’ tourist buses… and it was excellent! A really good way to get an overview of the city – with some interesting information along the way. The tour included a stop at the Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal, although there weren’t any ships any coming through when we were there so we didn’t get to see the lock working first hand. Even so, it was still impressive. Equally impressive is the work currently underway on an expansion to the locks, including a new lock that will be massive ie four football fields long and three basketball courts wide. And from a historical perspective, I hadn’t realised that some of the earliest work on malaria eradication happened in the early 1900s when construction work on the canal started: the death rate due to malaria in employees working on the canal dropped from 11.59 per 1,000 in November 1906 to 1.23 per 1,000 in December 1909 due to the introduction of seven compulsory measures including drainage requirements and flyscreens.
It was while we were at the Canal that it started to pour (again). So we jumped back on our red bus and headed towards the old town, lured by the thought of lunch and, dare I say it, coffee. However… several streets were closed due to a huge parade of students, marching bands, dancers and more… so the bus dropped us off in some other dodgy part of town a 30 minute or so walk from where we actually wanted to be. We got there in the end though – absolutely drenched, which made the deli café we found seem all the more inviting! We ended up hibernating there for longer than expected… we kept thinking that if we just waited a bit longer, maybe the rain would ease up a little. It was still torrential, the streets were flooding and being outside just didn’t seem all that exciting. Finally though the downpour reduced to rain, so we braved the streets and went for a walk around the old town… on a sunny day, it would be a lovely area with a great view and some interesting little shops and restaurants. Next time maybe…