Transamerica 2021 STOP 10 

October 8, 2021

Oranjestad, Aruba – Panama City, Panama

Flight distance: 621 nm
Hours in the air: 1:48

Panama – the country with so many faces

We are leaving the islands of the Caribbean for now, heading to Central America. Approach to Panama City was very nice and impressive seeing all the vessels awaiting the passage through the canal.

On ground we were immediately hit by “famous” local weather conditions, really hot and humid and most importantly everchanging from sunshine to rain.

This time we are not staying in modern downtown but rather in Casco Viejo, old town. The American Trade Hotel apparently was the hotspot and local drug gang headquarters at times before this part of Panama City was slowly but surely becoming the new hip place. One third of the original town burnt down in 1878 and only since 1999, following a huge rebuilding effort, is this jewel coming back to original grandness again. These days there are dozens of restaurants and bars together with local stores nested in the narrow roads and bring a nice atmosphere into town.

For dinner we enjoyed the company of a member of parliament and her brother, an aquaintance of Rainer. She was also the youngest ambassador for Panama to the U.K. in London for four years.

The next day we got up early for a canal and rain forest tour. It is very impressive to see these huge vessels and all the work and infrastructure required to make this possible, even more so knowing construction happened more than 100 years ago. The entire canal zone, formerly controlled by the Americans until 1999, now having been converted into seven National Parks covered with rain forests and an abundance of wildlife and flora. The different kind of monkeys just being one great and lively example.

After a lunch break we had the opportunity to see all of it during an epic helicopter ride bringing us from the Pacific to the Caribbean and back, seeing the huge elevated artificial lake and the locks making the passage happen in the first place from above, what a treat. 🙏

And in case I have forgotten to mention the weather pattern here. For nine month of the year it rains (or pours) at least once a day for a short time before the sky is opening up again, on so it did during our stay as well.

Facts & figures

Panama, a country in Central America on the Isthmus of Panama, the landbridge between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean that connects North and South America. Panama is bordered by Colombia and Costa Rica. The country is best known for the Panama Canal, a man-made waterway, opened in 1914. The canal cuts through the country, linking the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic) with the Pacific Ocean. Until 1999 the Panama Canal was controlled by the United States.

Panama occupies an area of 74’177 km², making it slightly larger than the Republic of Ireland or slightly smaller than the U.S. state of South Carolina. Panama has a population of about 4’3 million people capital and largest city is Panama City; official language is Spanish. The country’s landscape is mostly montainous, covered by rainforest and jungle. The highest point in Panama is Volcán Barú, an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3‘475 m is located in west, close to the border with Costa Rica.

Panama was inhabited by indigenous tribes before Spanish colonists arrived in the 16th century. It broke away from Spain in 1821 and joined the Republic of Gran Colombia, a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela. After Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada eventually became the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the construction of the Panama Canal to be completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. The 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties agreed to transfer the canal from the United States to Panama on December 31, 1999.

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