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Monday, August 8, 2011

Colon - Panama

Our makeup port for missing  Cartagena was Colon... we arrived at around 2 pm and weren’t sailing out till 3.30am the next morning.  We had heard of lot of mixed opinions for this port.... but one thing that didn’t differ was the concern about safety.  Where we dock is at a complex called Colon 2000.  This is a secure precinct that was recommended that we stay within, unless travelling in a Pack.... like we did.
The big bonus of this stop was that we could visit the locks and witness the transiting of a ship from land.  There was 10 of us that decided to hop off the ship and try to find a van to take us.... After some heavy negotiation we managed to secure a driver , a van and a tour that would last around 3 hours.
Sam our driver and guide took drove us out of the precinct, through town.... eek, not sure if it was scary or it looked scary because that is what they told us..... but it did have this air of “slums of India” about it...
Our first stop was the Gatun Locks ( pronounced Gatoon ). As we arrived there was a container ship just entering the locks... how lucky was that.... we watched as the Mules ( Electrified towing trucks) guided the ship into the lock. Once in the lock it filled with water  and the ship was raised to a higher level. At Gatun there are 3 locks and all I can say is that it ended up being such bonus that we were able to watch this process...
At the visitors viewing area it felt that you could just step of the platform straight onto the boat, we were so close to it.  We told the guy at the centre that we were from the Dawn Princess and he looked up how much our transit would cost.... approx $280,000 US
Our next stop was the San Lorenzo Fort .....  Here are the remains of a 16th century fortress with beautiful views of the Chagres River and the Caribbean Sea.
As we drove through the rain forest Anthea’s mission was to see a sloth.... Our driver searched and searched for her....... we were all wandering around the fort area and on return to the bus, Anthea very proudly showed us a picture of a sloth she had taken close by .... but when Sam threw something at it to wake it.... it scooted off, so the rest of us missed it....
Later whilst looking at the Canal book that Anthea had bought I mentioned that the photo of the sloth looked just like hers..... hang on.... we had been duped .... we found out that whilst Sam held the book up Anthea snapped the picture...... damn.... it made a good story!!!
Once back at Colon 2000 we found a lot of souvenir type shops were we picked up some Panama hats ( did you know that Panama Hats were not made in Panama but Ecuador)  and some Molah’s ( these are like really bright appliqués of native animals on black fabric )that I hope that someday will end up being a quilt.
The supermarket that is open 24hrs was doing a roaring trade and I think throughout the day a lot of passengers were making several trips on and off the ship bringing on their allowed allocation of Beer and wine EACH TIME.
After making our own legitimate purchases a few of us found a Spanish speaking, Lebanese restaurant in panama..... very nice food washed down with very nice Panama Beer ( well the boys anyway ).... Best of all they had free wifi, so there was Ros and I out with our Iphones.... phoning home, checking into facebook and getting our fix of the internet.... Anthea and Dennis looked at us just as we would our own children and scolded us for using our phones at the table... but under the circumstances we were allowed special dispensation....
Not long and we were getting back onto the boat just as I think, half the crew would have been getting off..... they had till 2am to party.....

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