64. Panama City (Day Four)
Yesterday I thought peanut butter on toast was the best breakfast in the world. Today I stepped it up a notch: peanut butter, banana and cinnamon on toast. You can thank me later.
Danny and I split up for the day so I could run around being all energetic while Danny could take it nice and easy to recharge his batteries. I trekked out to Cerro Ancon, a hill not far from Casco Viejo (at least on the map) that I presumed I could walk to. I could, but I wasn't prepared for a giant barrier down the middle of the motorway, stopping me from crossing over. A long walk down the road eventually led me to an overpass, and after walking all the way back I could continue on my journey (with significant irritation and a lengthy time delay).
The start of the path up the hill was at an artificial village set up to represent different Panamanian cultures. It looked completely abandoned, with not a soul in sight. I felt as if I was trespassing on private property, even though it was a tourist attraction. I quickly power-walked through the town and headed up the mountain.
Halfway to the top I spotted a sloth in the trees. This was the first sloth I had seen without it being pointed out by tour guides. I was pretty impressed with myself. It appeared to be having a feast at the top of the tree. I wish it was hungry closer to the ground.
The summit was a small area with several lookouts, covering the city, Casco Viejo and the canal. From here I could see a ship stopping by the docks to unload its cargo, which was as exciting as it got. The locks would have been more interesting but they were way off in the distance. While walking between viewpoints I spotted another three sloths, again without any help (maybe I should become a tour guide?). Two were asleep up in the tree but the other was awake and happy to pose for the camera, stretching out between branches, with the typical sleepy expression on its face. A few agouti were running around, and monkeys were jumping between the trees, but nothing could steal the spotlight from the sloths. Disturbingly, vultures were flying low overhead, and I was worried I would stumble upon a dead animal (or worse) at some point. Happily I made it back down the hill with no carcass sightings.
I found a modern, Western-style cafe back in town that looked appealing, so I dragged Danny down there for lunch. It was made out to look like a converted warehouse: modern, artsy, industrial. It would have fit right in in Fremantle, our home town. Their lunch deal was actually affordable and came with free soda and plantain chips, which put a smile on my face. Plus it was a cool place to hang out, in both senses of the word - it was as hot as hell outside.
In the afternoon the Panama Canal was calling our names. To be honest, I wasn't expecting to be enthralled with a few ships passing through some locks, and I was only going because everyone said we had to see it in person. We walked to a bus stop and waited for ages in the hot sun, before being told we were at the wrong bus terminal. Great. So off we ventured to the correct location, found the right bus stop, and sat down to wait. And wait. And wait. No bus seemed to be heading where we wanted to go. By this stage it was fairly late in the day and we were over it, so we gave up and headed back to the hostel.
Happy hour drinks was one of our favourite times of day, a great way to get out in amongst the locals (and tourists), unwind from a busy day and to do it affordably. Happy hour in Casco Viejo was not on the same page. While drink specials were advertised at a few bars, their version of cheap did not match ours. So instead of alcohol we bought frozen yoghurt, at a shop where we could add as many toppings as we wanted. I was like a kid in a candy store. Almonds, kiwi fruit, crumbled cookies, cheesecake pieces, peanut butter sauce - so many of my favourite foods and items I hadn't tasted in months. It was a little expensive but not as costly as the alcoholic beverages on offer in town. We ended up drinking our bottle of Bordeaux back at the hostel and eating a salad for dinner, semi-full after our frozen yoghurt indulgence.
The city on the left, the old quarter on the right.