I'm being lazy in Panama City right now. I arrived here in the early hours of Monday morning, groggy eyed after a 16 hour bus journey from San Jose. I felt like rubbish after a night of no sleep cramped on an uncomfortable bus. I checked myself into a really nice hostel. I never thought I'd say those words not exactly being the world's biggest hostel fan. But this place is small, the staff are really lovely and it feels almost like hanging out in someone's apartment. I came here really cos I'd discovered after a bit of internet research that the guy who runs it has information on boats sailing to Colombia... which is something I have decided I want to do. So I've booked myself onto a boat and I set sail for Cartagena on Tuesday. We sail for 5 days in total with 2 days on the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. The islands are nothing less than paradise! They're inhabited and governed by Kuna people, Central America's most independent indigenous community. The islands are part of Panama but the Kuna have their own devolved government and only they are allowed to own land on the island. They are picture book desert islands with white sand beaches surrounded by turquoise sea and coral reefs... so a couple of days of snorkeling, fishing and sun basking should be absolute bliss. Then we carry on to Cartagena. I'm really excited about getting to Colombia. It wasn't in my original plan to go but the more I've learned and heard about it as I've gone along the more I've realised it's not to be missed. So I'll be there for about a month before moving on to Ecuador.
Yesterday I took a trip to the Panama Canal. It's one of those things that you do just 'cause you have to if you visit Panama. But it was worth it. It really is incredibly impressive. Almost unbelievable. I arrived just in time to catch two giant cargo ships from Europe and Japan pass through the locks. Watching the whole process, my eyes started playing tricks on me and as I looked down on it all it started to look like dinky toys! They were so big they looked small! They had each paid over $200,000 to pass through. Seems like crazy money but it's probably pocket change in the scheme of things. I had gone at rush hour and there were queues of huge great liners waiting to pass through... but once you've seen the whole process from start to finish there's not really much to see... plus the sky had turned black and had started thundering so I made my way back into town. Tomorrow I'm off to explore the old part of town and some ruins. Other than that I'm kinda lazing around, reading, cooking, making friends and avoiding the rain until it's time to set sail!