Panama - 2004

The Republic Panama can be a pretty weird place to fly. Consider; to travel from Panama City on the Pacific Coast, along the Canal to the Caribbean, you fly Northwest. To head 'up' the Caribbean coast toward the US, you fly Southwest!!???

In geological time, Panama is the youngest part of Central America and consequently the central highlands that dominate the countries to the north, hardly exist in Panama.

Panama's dry season is mid-December to mid-April. The locals tell me that during the rest of the year it rains all the time!

Click on the yellow destination dots to learn more about these locations.

Canal Flight

The Canal is less than 50 miles long so the flight only lasts 20 minutes. We flew it both directions. 

 

Panama City

Upon arrival at the ??? airport we passed quickly through Immigration and Customs and Flight Service. A bus took us to a downtown hotel. 

One of the first things we did was take a bus tour of Panama City which included a visit to the Canal to watch a couple of ships transit the locks.

 

The Canal

The Canal is gravity operated. Rain fall is collected in the lake and the lake empties into the locks at both ends of the Canal. In dry years there is only enough water to allow the transit of 10 ships per day. In normal years 30 to 40 ships pass through daily.  There are only three locks at each end of the Canal. In total they raise/lower a ship about 85 feet (26meters). Ships transit the locks under their own power with a pair of electric locomotives on either side used center the ship in the lock.

The Canal Zone is also used as a distribution point. Many ships never pass through the Canal, they just drop off their cargo at one end and it is transported by either the railroad or pipeline that parallels the Canal. At the far end the cargo is distributed to other ships. The container facilities at the Canal can handle over a million containers. The average ship pays $45,000 to transit the Canal and a large cruse liner may pay $200,000 and schedule the passage six months in advance. Oh yes, that's cash in advance please, no exceptions!

 
Bocas del Toro