I really hadn’t the slightest idea of what to expect of Panama. In my complete ignorance I had imagined a shady place full of questionable people laundering money. Well to say I was totally of track on that is putting it mildly! All my ill pre- conceived ideas where thrown out of the window from the moment we landed.
We were met by a local who I had found on the internet who drove us, luggage and all to Lake Gatun before we checked in to our hotel. I didn’t really know what to expect but it certainly wasn’t the most amazingly fabulous breathtaking moment that it turned out to be full of surprise and delight.
We arrived to a small sort of jetty, well more a piece of wood platform, that had a boat that had probably seen better times. A scraggy dog wagged it’s tail as the captain helped us on board with our local guide. It was all just super charming friendly and it was just a stroke of luck that we happened to have a wonderful local Panamanian who loved and knew absloutly everything about Lake Gatun. It made the whole experience intimate and personal and wasn’t the usual tour guide thing.
This lake was at some point in the 19th century the largest man made lake created to to serve as a channel to the Panama Canal and dam. It was pretty amazing how they did it which was by flooding the area and valley with water, so what is now islands is or was in fact hill tops. As we cruised along meandering between these islands in absolute tranquility we saw so many birds, lizards, monkeys and a huge variety of plants as apparently it has this unique micro climate. There we were on this wonderful calm quite lake with an intense heat cooled by a lovely breeze when wam you get to see the million dollar moment. The Panama Canal with loads and loads of ships from all over the world. It was just an incredible sight and unexpected to see this traffic jam of tankers on what moments before had been a a total deserterd lake. The dam had been built over a hundred years ago to allow a short cut between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean thereby cutting down the time and cost for cargo ships. It was an engineering feat and one of the benifits for us is the beauty of Gatun Lake. I loved it.
I am so glad that I had opted to go through locals rather than a professional tour guide because for us it added to the magic and experience, more so when we were presented with a great simple lunch of rice beans and chickens cooked by his wife. We weren’t expecting this and it just added to the whole adventure.
Everything in Panama was a revelation to me from the old part of town were stayed that had a wonderful vibe with the plus of the view of all the tankers and in the distance the high rise towers of downtown, to the breathtaking islands of San Blas which are semi autonomous with very limited visitors , to the sheer spectacular beauty of the highlands of Boquete.
I absloutly loved Panama it’s huge diversity it’s people. I will be writing about these experiences.