Prancing Around Panama CityMay 7, 2018 in Panama ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C
With only a short stay in Panamá, we booked an early flight from Cartagena to maximise our time on the isthmus. So rising early and catching an Über to the airport with plenty of time to spare, we were faced with probably the most unhelpful staff member that we have ever experienced at check-in. After collecting our details, she requested proof of our onward journey as per the requirements by Panamanian immigration. We proceeded to inform her that we had a ticket to return to Australia from LA in July, which would prove that we would not overstay in Panamá. Apparently, this was unacceptable and she would only allow us to fly if we could show proof of exiting Panamá. Now with only about 45 minutes before boarding, we quickly scrambled to come up with a solution. Our intention was to catch a bus to Costa Rica after Panamá but now we were forced to leave the country by a certain date and wouldn't allow us the freedom to change our plans, if we decided we wanted to spend extra time in a particular place. Most tourists, like us who are travelling for long periods of time simply mock up fake airline or bus tickets to get through the immigration bureaucracy. We hadn't bothered going to this extent because we could demonstrate that we would leave the country within 90 days. When we arrived in Panama City, the immigration officer didn't even ask how long we were staying let alone ask for proof of our onward journey. So at the end of the day, we needn't have booked our bus trip to Costa Rica and it was just the interpretation of immigration requirements by Copa Airlines. Needless to say, we will never fly Copa Airlines again.
Once we settled into our accommodation, we wondered around the El Cangrejo area, admiring the unique architecture of some of the skyscrapers in the city. The downtown area looked modern and clean, and much more like an American city than anything else we had seen in South America.
The following day, we headed to the Panamá canal, probably the most iconic attraction in the country. While neither of us are engineering nerds, it was actually quite interesting watching a large cargo ship enter into the lock and see it rise as the lock was flooded with water. Prior to the creation of the canal, ships either needed to sail to the bottom of South America, which took more time and was more dangerous, or the ships needed to be transported across land. The history behind the canal is almost as fascinating as the actual mechanics behind it all. As part of the museum that is attached to the Miraflores Lock, there are a number of artefacts from the period when the canal was being constructed as well as a machine that supposedly calculates the amount of water in your body. Apparently Ricky is 70% water and Jason is 78%. So, we're not fat - it's just water retention, probably guanabana juice retention to be precise.
Three days was not long enough to experience all of the wonders of the city. But we did manage to fit in a quick tour of the Old town and Parque Natural Metropolitano. The old town, similar to many other Latin American cities, is filled with colonial-style buildings, many of which are in need of repair. Afterwards, we headed for the Parque in search of sloths, as we had heard that there were some living in the middle of the urban park. The woman at the nature reserve was extremely helpful in pointing out the most likely places to see a sloth. And just as she advised, near a wooden bridge and small pond of water, high in the trees was a sloth clinging onto a tree. Unfortunately, the sloth was so high-up the tree that they were a mere speck in the photo. We continued the hike in the hope that others might be viewed up-close. But alas, we ended our hike without seeing another. We did see lots of turtles, a few agoutis and a very cute woodpecker pecking wood. Maybe next time we will have more luck at our next destination.
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