Goodbye South America, we are starting a new section of our travels in Central America! Time is flying! First, Panama City, we stayed in the Old Part of the City or the 'Casco Viejo' which was the second Panama City as the first was destroyed by pirates under the order of an Englishman, Sir Henry Morgan in 1671. Bricks from the first city were used to make the original surrounding wall of Casco Viejo which happened to run through our hostel. The barrio had a lot of character and a bizarre mixed feeling about it, with the presidential palace at one end of the road and brothels at the other. Walking through the streets, it was very obvious we were out of South America, with a lot of creolle influence, the people are darker and you can also see women of the Kuna culture (From an area east of Panama City) in their bright coloured sarongs, stripy leg warmers and nose rings between the two nostrils (like a bull would have), the change was refreshing and exciting. In Casco Viejo itself we visited the Panamanian equivalent of 10 Downing Street, where South African herons parade between the guards on the front terrace (these were a present from Nelson Mandela to the previous president). We also looked around the national theatre where Pavarotti has performed and a couple of dingy museums.
We couldn't miss a trip to the Panama Canal to watch a container ship be lifted through the Miraflores locks, on the museum's database of canal workers from the 1800s and early 1900s we found 44 'Strong's! 60 something Kennedy's but sadly no Hobden's.. We also had a go on a simulator, guidig a ship through the canal. They are currently building two more locks, adjacent to the original ones, one on the pacific side and the other atlantic side as amount of traffic passing through the canal is growing enormously each year.
We also spent a day visiting an Embera Tribe on the Rio Chagres, we had to ride in a motorised canoe up the river to reach the community who danced for us as a welcome, fed us fried plantain and fish all wrapped up in a banana leaf (the Embera version of fish n chips from Brighton Pier almost) and told us about the history of their people and the way they live, in exchange we paid about 12pounds and took purified bottled water for them. There was a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole that we took a dip in and it was a lovely day.
We then jumped on a bus to some islands in the north of Panama which we will tell you all about, just after we have finished enjoying their secluded beaches and caribbean cuisine hehe....
Rae and Mark xx