I am forever amazed by places that attract tourists in hoards for their world enhancing wonders. Say the big banana in Coffs Harbour Australia, is that a banana in your country or are you just happy to see me?
Or maybe the ever so ugly yet somehow beautiful Eiffel Tower, wait isn’t it art? Or maybe the famous bat tours in in Texas, where despite the fact you would normally smash a flying mouse with wings over the head with a tennis racquet, suddenly when viewed near sunset on a boat with many other camera cocked onlookers it now seems enchanting. Or of course one of the great achievements of planet earth… a shipping canal!
Don’t get me all wrong, The Panama Canals achievements and time saving efficiencies are impressive. From it’s initial conception in 1881 where, the French company, whose name I felt was too long to type, began construction. It only took eight years and twenty-two thousand deaths before (long name company) also died a bankrupt death.
Always one too see an opportunity, America stepped in in 1904 and with only some five or six thousand deaths and $8.6billion dollars along with a decade of work, it now had an amazing military port strategically build. Shit, I mean a really nice shipping port built.
After eighty-five years or so of America keeping an eye on the worlds shipping merely to cover it’s costs they finally cut a deal with Panama and got their military out then handed the reigns over to Panama by December 31st 1999. Well it didn’t take long for Panama to decide it needed the cash more than America and the rates quickly increased taking in about $769 million in 2000 to $1.4 billion by 2006. Now you know why your South African wine slowly had a premium price tag.
They realized they were onto something with this cash cow and decided to build a bigger, better canal just up the hill to double revenue and in 2016 the second canal was ushering through more boat loads of wine. Despite all these figures being thrown around I think my favorite was the $0.36 paid by Richard Halliburton in 1928 to swim the canal. Needless to say that isn’t happening these days.
Since I happen to be in the neighborhood we went to check out this watery wonder and was advised to show up around 10am or 2pm to see the actual ships passing. Naturally we rode up around 11am instead and passed some time in the museum learning amazing canal facts I quickly forgot once I found the ship simulator.
It’s here you can actually feel like you are driving the ship and yelling into a cb radio and honk the horn and all kinds of fun ship things. Well that is until some three year old kid catches on to the fact that you are the one having all the fun and quickly positions himself in your spot with his mum to make sure you don’t try and say accidently push him out of the way.
That little punk was arms deep in my shipping fun in seconds. I shoulda baited him out the door with some candies.
Quickly board to tears we left for the mall (there are many in Panama City) and came back at 2pm to be greeted by hundreds of camera toting tourists all pushing their way to the front for a better view. I thought maybe Elvis had been resurrected and they deiced to stage his final, final concert here today. Nope just awkward looking Asian boat workers who we’re trying to act casual while people all waved excitedly and snapped photos of this poor men who’d likely not seen another person for months.
I think my favorite part of this all was turning my camera around to take photos of the tourists who I thought looked at tad ridicules. All in all good times and if you are in the neighborhood I’d say go have a boo, however I’m not sure I’d block off my two weeks vacation around it.