Thursday, 17 March 2011

Fuerte Amador

Iguana in a tree
Typical morning at sea- up early 7am, room-service for breakfast and then an hour and a half or so in the gym. Normally I'm painting with Joanne, a delightful teacher, but today I had to miss this to listen to a talk by Larry Rudner of 53 Panama crossings, about the Panama Canal. Very informative. It would be great to get a book about the building of the Canal,( "Path between The Seas" by D. Mc Culloch), because it has a fascinating history. About how The US triumphed over disease and engineering dilemmas to build the canal and then hand it over to the Panamanians in 1999. The French, after the success of building the Suez Canal, had a disastrous time in Panama, with at least 22,000 labourers losing their lives to a variety of deadly diseases, particularly malaria, which was believed to be airborne and not the result of a bite from mosquitoes. It was amazing to find that the regular solution to the prevention of bed-bugs and ants was to immerse the feet of the bed-posts in dishes of water, which when nice and warm and fetid, was a perfect breeding ground for the deadly mosquitoes! Every mile of the Canal can be measured by at least 500 lives cost- and at 54 miles that's an awful loss!

We arrived at our anchorage inFuerte Amador at about luch-time, but it was some time until we were ready to be taken by tender ashore. This is the only thing that doesn't always run smoothly, and means a lot of hanging around.

Eventually we were taken by coach load to our various excursions- we'd opted for the "Canal and Monkey Watch", which took us by speedy boat from a nature reserve to the Gatun Lake and a couple of little islands in the swamp area bordering the Panama Canal. It was agreat way to experience the Canal from the water, where tomorrow we would see it from the comfort of our large cruise ship. All the time our guide kept saying "You are here on the Canal, not in your big cruise ship"!

Panama City
We were fortunate to see a large iguana, basking in the hot sunshine on a mangrove branch. Later we saw howler monkeys, and got very close to some white-faced capuchin monkeys. A coach ride back, and after evening meal, we sat and watched dolphins, spurting as they surfaced and then diving and feeding. We'd seen dozens of turtles off the coast of Mexico, flying fish and whales, but dolphins are always magical. Every now and again, a pleasure boat would come close to us, and very speedily a search-light from our ship was spotting them and lighting them up.

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