Friday, January 2, 2009

Panama! (a la Van Halen)

A good rule of thumb for us--eat where the old men are eating. Subtle changes in the various proportions of beans, rice, eggs and plantain have marked our passage through Central America. Gone now are the beans for breakfast, and the thin tortillas ubiquitous in Guatemala have slowly morphed into thick fried cornmeal cakes. Meat and empanadas take center stage in Panama and reminds me that we're closer now to South America than North America. This is in many ways the end of the road. The jungle closes over the Pan-American highway, and all travel to Columbia goes around, by air and by sea.

After two 7 hour bus trips with New Year's and the border in between, we've landed in Panama City. Specifically to the Casco Viejo neighborhood. I've never seen anything like this place. When the original city (Panama Viejo) was sacked by the pirate John Morgan, Panama city was rebuilt at Casco Viejo in 1694. The city was fortified with a wall and is surrounded on three sides by water. When the Panama Canal was started in 1904 all the city existed in Casco Viejo, and then expanded from there. Casco Viejo was somewhat abandoned and then bombed in 1989 by the US. This is all to say that the town now is a Mad-max like world of derelict 300 year old buildings. Trees grow out of the old wall and ruins. And what seems like a ruin may actually be occupied. A few of the buildings are restored and the contrast is striking.

A couple in El Salvador who were sailing down the coast told us that every boat going through the Panama Canal needs 4 people to handle the lines and keep the boat steady through the locks. We learned that you can volunteer to 'line-handle' by putting your name on the message board at the old Balboa Yacht Club in Panama City. A pipe dream, maybe, but we tossed our names into the hat. Regardless of what comes through, we're headed to the indigenous owned San Blas islands for our final days of our trip.


bri said...

my suggestion is to stay down in the warm sunny tropics and have a few more beers. you can work the lines on the locks. sounds pretty easy... "hold this line.... okay, now let go."

Jeremy Joseph said...

...AHH...urge...too strong....

.........YO HO HO!!!

AAAAHHH!! *muffled yelling and sounds of broken bones and shallow thuds caused by Lucas*

C'mon! I had to!!! ;)