Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Panama Trip (Day 5)

Saturday, December 30: Partial Canal Transit + Thunderstorm + "Safari" + Badgers
We had an early departure time of 6:50am since our partial Canal transit was starting from the marina at the end of the Amador Causeway back in Panama City. I did 40 minutes on the treadmill plus some yoga and grabbed a bit of breakfast to go from the buffet.

Our "party boat" included passengers from other groups and tours. There were just under 150 total passengers plus the crew and a local guide, Juan Carlos aka J.C., who provided commentary during the tour. We claimed seats on the top deck under the roof cover for protection from the drizzle and potential future sun. The boat left at 8:15am to begin our partial transit through the Canal.

We got some great views of the city skyline and Biomuseum as we entered the mouth of the canal and passed under the Bridge of the Americas.

We arrived at Miraflores Locks and piggy-backed with a large container ship that was our lead for the transit journey. Another tourist boat joined in as well, and the other lock chamber was filled with a huge Princess Cruise lines boat, which became our companion through both the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks.

Being on a smaller boat provided an awesome close-up view of the lock chamber walls and doors. I remembered this experience from the Elderhostel trip that Mom and I completed about 8 years ago, and it was just as impressive the second time around!  We also got a good view of the new locks during our approach, which was an interesting perspective after seeing the Agua Clara locks from up above yesterday.

Our Caravan group was supported by a young woman steward, S, who brought beverages around throughout the tour, let us know when meals were ready, and just generally provided very friendly hospitality. The local guide was quite entertaining, and I enjoyed listening to his commentaries in both English and Spanish, since they were often a bit different. We finished the lock journey at the level of Lake Gatun, traveled through the Culebre Cut, passed under the Centennial Bridge (looks sort of like the Zakim Bridge in Boston), and ended near the dredging station port in Gamboa, which was a very short ride back to our hotel.

We were back in our room by 1:30pm and had decided to head to the pool when suddenly a hard rainstorm broke through the clouds and pounded down. Mr. E figured we could still go swim, so we put some stuff in a plastic bag to stay dry and ran off to the pool area. Just as we got in, we heard thunder crashes, so we quickly got out and waited to see if the thunderstorm would pass by. We managed to get back in for some laps before the thunder returned, this time with lightning strikes, so that was the end of our pool time for today!

After getting dry, we went up to the lobby to check out the gift shop and had drinks at the Monkey Bar while playing cards. Mr. E had a not-so-great food experience with a tardy and lukewarm order of french fries, but he did win the card game. We then found a spot in the lobby seating area for me to read and Mr. E to work on the travel journal as we waited for the next Caravan tour group to arrive. Mr. E had left the camera battery and charger in our hotel room at the Marriott in Panama City, so Gerardo was able to contact the tour director of the next group to claim the item from lost & found and transport it to us in Gamboa. Very convenient to have tours beginning daily at this time of year, not to mention staying in each location for two nights so that missing things have a chance to find their way back to the rightful owner.

I enjoyed my bottle of Seco with cranberry back in the room before dinner, and we saw two agouti frolicking by the pool area. So cute! We joined some other Caravan guests for dinner and then went on a 30-minute "safari" around the grounds of the hotel to look for nocturnal wildlife. Our guide had a spotlight to shine on the surround rainforest, and we managed to spot an agouti paca (nocturnal with white spots vs. the typical diurnal non-spotted agouti), a capybara, some white birds, and a supposed crocodile.

(NOTE: Photos below are representative of the agouti, agouti paca, and capybara but aren't photos that we actually were able to capture. More agouti photos from our camera are posted with a later blog entry.)

When we got back to the hotel, we tried to access Xfinity to watch the Badgers in the Orange Bowl and discovered that those streaming services only work in the US. Luckily, the TV in the Monkey Bar was broadcasting the game, so Mr. E headed back there to watch while I stayed in the room to read my Spanish Agatha Christie book and keep tabs on the game score via the NCAA web site. Although the situation looked a bit rough after the first quarter, the Badgers took the lead before halftime and won the game. Go Bucky!


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