Thankfully, the similarities with the “Vietnam War classic” genre of films ends there, when it comes to Panama City.
We're staying in the old town – a little peninsular of land that looks out across the bay to its younger, flashier brother – all skyscrapers and neon lights. But the old town is very charming, full of striking colonial buildings which have almost all fallen into a heavy state of disrepair. But in almost every dishevelled skeleton of a building is a team of busy workers, so it seems that in five years, this manor will be quite a honeypot.
We went to Panama Canal the other day and came to the following conclusions:
The canal, itself, isn't that mind-blowing to look at. Sure, when a big old tanker pulls up to a lock it's interesting to watch, but you get plenty of tankers in Hull – that doesn't mean you should visit Hull though. But the canal is a mind-blowing piece of engineering when you hear the figures, the human cost, the amount of earth shifted and the commercial impact it has nowadays (the average toll for a boat to use the 50 miles of canal is $200,000).
We also went to visit Panama Viejo – the 16th century ruins of the old town. Captain Henry Morgan, he of the rum fame, came and sacked the city and robbed all of its gold. It turns out he was in breach of an Anglo-Spanish treaty, but his successful defence went something along the lines of: “I didn't know owt about a treaty guv, honest”.
His blag worked and for his efforts, he got knighted and was made an ambassador in Jamaica, which, I'm sure, is a job we'd all like. Fittingly, he became an alcoholic and died a drunken mess. Here's to Captain Morgan.
- The Panamanians' favourite song at the moment is a horrible cover of Ben E King's “Stand By Me”. They play it all the time – in clubs, in buses, while you wait for buses, on the radio. While in Bocas the club nextdoor played it about five times in one night. Panama, to paraphrase Noel Gallagher: “You're music's sh*te it keeps me up all night."
- We have spent two of our days in Panama City tending to my broken camera. I attempted to fix it myself. I couldn't fix it, but I now know the Spanish for: “Which isle is your WD40 on” and “Do you have a really, really small screwdriver”- two phrases I'm confident I'll never, ever, need again. The camera is fixed now, thanks to a Nikon store downtown. I've decided to give my camera a name, because Stacey names all of her stuff (big things, like cars and bikes, she doesn't name her socks or anything like that) and they never break. An example: She had a Renault Clio called Clint which ran like a dream for four years. I had an un-named Fiat Punto which spent more time in the garage than it did on the road. That might have had something to do with the fact I bought a Fiat Punto though. Anyway, the camera is called Mona – I thought I'd flatter her by naming her after Mona Lisa. Hopefully that'll do the trick.
- We have been sharing a hostel with a semi-naked French-Canadian guy who claims he is a Latino and liked to do the robot dance to dubstep. He was an idiot. We'll tell you more about him some day.
Here is a picture of them lying in state. Fellow travellers have been streaming past them for the last day or so to pay their respects.
The new flip-flops feel stiff. They cause blisters and make a stupid slapping sound when I make an over-enthusiastic descent of the stairs. They have big shoes to fill. Rest In Peace, dear green flip-flops.
Actually, the long-serving flip flops didn't have a name, which may have blown my camera-Punto-Clio theory out of the water.
We go to Columbia on Friday, which is great because our ears may bleed if they are subjected to another rendition of Stand By Me. The trip takes five days and we stop for a couple of days at some islands called San Blas. We'll be out of touch while we're travelling but we'll try and put some more pictures on before we go.