Day 14 -Private tour in Colon, Panama

The day started with the alarm going off, luckily we could still take it a bit easy and see us coming into port from our balcony as the sun rose.

After we docked and got ourselves ready for the day, we headed up to Windjammers for breakfast. Today I discovered a really lovely “raisen loaf”, which becomes a daily standard. Breakfast complete and drink bottles full of water, we disembarked just before 8am – thankfully not in the rain this time. There was a little bit on confusion trying to find out guide Mario as all the other guides were trying to help us – some even trying to get us to take their tour (even though we had already booked and paid). Turns out the confusion was due to their being a few Marios. But we eventually spoke to someone who worked with our Mario (from Tours By Locals ) and he called him – he was just running a little late. It was kind of funny cause we were a bit early and weren’t worried at all about him being 5mins late, but everyone else seemed to be. Finally Mario met us and we headed to his car to begin our tour. I have to say the drivers are pretty crazy in this country. No-one bothers to stop at stop signs and blinkers seem to be optional. Everyone just drives wherever they want to !! Not surprisingly we saw two little accidents within the first 1.5 hours of being in the country.

First was a quick picture stop at the “new”bridge then to the Canal Expansion at Agua Clara’s Locks on the Atlantic entrance of the Canal.

We arrive JUST time to see the biggest ship of the day passing through the the expansion lock. I didn’t even know there was a new one – made wider and deeper to accomodate the newer ships.

After watching as it slowly made it’s way through, we went to watch a movie about the making of the expansion. I loved that a referendum was held to decide whether Panama would undertake the expansion locks. And there was a lot of environmental work done to accomodate the locks. After the movie we went to watch another boat making it’s way through and we got to see the gates closing (which happens in 5 mins) after the big ship passing through into the lake. Such a fascinating project.

We then drove over the fancy new bridge so we could see a “bit” of the original canals and overlook Gatun Lake.

And also the cars that are used to pull the boats through (originally it was mules). The expansion locks use tugboats to pull and push the boats through.

Next on the agenda was Fort San Lorenzo, completed in 1601. In 1670, buccaneer Henry Morgan ordered an attack that left Fort San Lorenzo in ruins.

It was a cool place to walk around and we pretty much had to ourselves. Having a guide really made all the difference to our visit here.

Mario even managed to spot us some howler monkey’s in these trees (I think I caught them on video).

The canons were really cool. One even had the marking of King GeorgeII, which was obviously captured by the Spanish at some stage.

At the end of our visit here Mario cut us up a fresh pineapple that he had gotten from his neighbours farm. And oh my word, it would have to be the best pineapple I’ve ever eaten. How I’ll go back to normal pineapples now I’ll never know !!

We then drove back through the San Lorenzo National Park which Mario trying to look for animals AND avoid the MANY potholes at the same time.

I have no idea how Mario spotted these while driving but he did. And I mean how cute is that sleeping sloth ?

There was also some more howler monkeys – this group had at least 2 little ones amongst them.

Kevin used Mario’s spotting scope to zoom in on the baby. Love the tail wrapped around the tree branch. And it looks like he/she is looking right at Kevin.

We also saw some white faced monkeys. But they moved fast it was hard to record or photograph them, and this blury photo is the only one I have.

As we continued driving we could hear another group of Howler monkeys – wow, the noise they make is incredible. When they are up in the trees they sound like an aggressive dinosaur. You’d certainly be scared for your life if you didn’t know what it was.

Once we left the National Park Mario took us to a nearby Yacht Club for a light lunch. Which turned into not such a light lunch when he found out I don’t eat fish. We ended up with 3 big meals. Mine was veggie fajitas, which were so good. Kevin had one of mine. And Mario took home Kevin’s leftover fish and chips.

We then drove back to the harbour and were back onboard about 2.30pm. Since the boat was still a bit empty of people we decided to go and have a swim in the Solarium (indoor adult pool).

After our swim we relaxed in the room for a bit and watched us leave Costa Rica. Later we had dinner in Windjammers, and another early night since we have another big day tomorrow.