March 23, 2009

San Lorenzo fort and Gatun Locks

This morning, I wake up early to catch the train to go to Colon, on the Pacific Coast. This train goes along the canal and is very famous, but I heard it was difficult to get a ticket so I arrived at the station at 6 am. I understood quickly why. This train is for workers who live in Panama and go to Colon to work everyday. They is only a wagon for tourists and it's quite small, so places are limited.

Anyway I got on board! Built at the same time as the canal, the rail fell into disrepair but in 1998 the Panama Government partnered with Kansas City Southern, an American-based railway holding company, to create the Panama Canal Railway Company. In 2001 was introduced a passenger service.
It take 1 hour to travel the 76 km and 304 bridges and culverts. A nice trip looking on the Canal and Gatun lake.

On the train, I met Alan and Alan, 2 guys traveling together from UK and Canada. And we decided to take a taxi together to visit Lorenzo fort and Gatun Locks. But here in Panama all the touristic activities are very expensive. They started to ask USD80!! but we arrived to get down to USD30!

Fort San Lorenzo is perched at the mouth of the Rio Chagres on a promontory west of the Canal. Built in 1595, by order of Philip II of Spain, the fort was under constant pirate attack. It was abandoned in 1821 by Spain when Panama became independent. The fort was subsequently used as a Colombian prison, a post office for English mail and a campsite for gold miners en route to California.

Then we went to the Gatun locks, the first one coming from the Caribbean sea and the last one coming from the Pacific. It raises southbound ships 29.5 metres from Caribbean waters to the level of Lago Gatun.
You can have a good view on the locks, better than at the Miraflores locks. We saw the last ship for the day entering the canal and the first ship getting out of the canal. So it was quite interesting.

After a quick lunch, we took a bus back to Panama City for my last night in town. Tomorrow I'm leaving at 8:25 am to go back to Guatemala. Bye bye Panama, I'll be back!

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