62. Panama City (Day Two)
What's the one thing you can't miss in Panama? The Panama Canal. Today was an introduction, a sneak peek if you like, to the main event (to be completed a few days later).
It started with the Panama Canal Railway, an hour long journey loosely following the canal. Upon boarding we were given a free snack box with chips, nuts, lollies, biscuits and raisins, which I thought was awesome. Any amount of free food is awesome in my book. The canal was visible about half the time, part of which was under construction due to their expansion plans. We passed a couple of ships but there was no lock action from our viewpoint, so overall the trip wasn't as entertaining as I had hoped.
As much action as we saw.
Often the view out the other side of the train was more interesting.
At the end of the line we tried to catch a bus out to the Gatun locks, however no one could help us to find the right bus. We asked a couple of taxi drivers but with the astronomical fares they were charging we knew this was not an option. Instead we jumped on a chicken bus for a painfully slow journey back to Panama City. The driver refused to go above 30km/h, yet still liked to swerve sharply to avoid stationary objects at the last minute. This caused all sorts of abuse from the passengers to the driver, which was hilarious. What was not so funny was the two hours it took us to get back to town.
The afternoon was spent at the Panama Viejo ruins, which were average at best. The cathedral and chapel held our attention a little longer than the rest of the site, but I wouldn't have been sad to skip it. Entertainment did come in the form of watching a taxi drive through the site, going at about 10km/h, and managing to hit a wooden stump marking the edge of the road. The taxi must have been in great condition, because after this minor impact its whole front bumper fell off. There was a good 30 minutes of pacing back and forth by the driver, trying to come up with some sort of plan (or possibly an excuse). We didn't see what he decided as this too became boring after a while.
Catching the bus back through Panama City to Casco Viejo, we admired the abundance of skyscrapers and peak hour traffic, forming a modern city that was almost out of place in Central America. It was reminiscent of many Australian cities, providing us with another reason for why we should move to Panama. Now we just needed to learn Spanish and find jobs. Simple.
A real city!
Dinner was economical option of home-cooked veg stir fry at the hostel, along with 50 cent wine cups. Any way we could save money, we would take it. Dozens of other travellers felt the same way, as we had to fight for space in the tiny kitchen. If we did move to Panama we better have decent-paying careers, so we could afford all the over-priced restaurants that were currently too far out of reach for us.