I didn’t do much yesterday – stayed at the hotel and did stuff on the computer. I downloaded a VPN (virtual personal network) application, which masks my computer’s location and allows some web pages to load when they’re geo-blocked, due to me being in Panama.
This morning I ate at La Luncheria for breakfast. Scrambled eggs, an hojoldre, pineapple juice, and coffee. Again, almost more than I could eat. Total cost: $4.35. Hojoldres (pronounced o-HOL-dress – the “h” is silent, and the “j” is pronounced as an “h” – confused yet?) are very similar to Native American fry bread, and are great with honey (which they didn’t have, but it was still good).
After breakfast, I got a massage at the hotel – it wasn’t really a deep-tissue massage, but it was very relaxing. Then it was on to visit the Panama Canal at the Miraflores locks.
But not so fast! I called for an Uber driver when I was in my room, then headed to the elevators to meet him. Just after I punched the elevator button, the power cut off for just a quick second, then the lights came back on – but not the elevators. So I’m on the fifth floor, my Uber driver will be here in two minutes, and I don’t really want to trot down five flights of stairs.
I called the front desk, and they said it would be about five minutes before power was restored to the elevators, and they let my driver know the situation. It was actually more like 10 minutes before the elevators powered up. I could see on the Uber app that my driver was still there, driving around the block several times. I finally got downstairs and thanked him for his patience. Next time, I’ll wait until I get to the lobby to call Uber!
There’s a nice visitor’s center at the Miraflores locks, and my new resident visa got me a sweet discount on admission. For non-residents, the cost is $15, but as a resident, I got in for $3. Just viewing the ships is free, but the ticket gives you admission to a movie about the canal, as well as several rooms with exhibits depicting its history.
The first ship we saw coming through the locks was a car carrier named the Valiant Ace. I think they said it could carry more than 4,000 cars. Notice in the first photo how high above the walls the ship is, and in the second photo, how far down it is.
The canal lowers the ships 27 feet in eight minutes. Somehow, I expected to see great gushing streams of water when they released water into the next lock, since it flows at the rate of 3 million gallons per minute. Nope – you could just see some gentle ripples from the 100 inlet holes in the bottom of each lock, and it’s all accomplished using gravity – no pumps at all. Pretty amazing engineering feat from 104 years ago!
The canal expanded to include a third, larger set of locks about two years ago. This set is 60% wider and 40% longer than the others, to accommodate larger ships. The ship in the photo just above is going through the new locks in the distance.
Another container ship from Hong Kong came through while I was there, and I shot a video of the gates opening. If you want to see all the photos and videos, go here.