I am in Costa Rica now, or I should say San Jose. I immediately feel comfortable here, and I am trying to figure out why. Partly, it must be that I just love the tropics – the lush vegetation and colourful wildlife. And somehow that ‘pura vida’ (pure life) rubs off on the people, who are friendly and helpful. Another reason must be that this country and this city wears its colours on its sleeve. By that I mean that there is art everywhere – on the walls as murals, in painted tiles, and with the vibrant rainbow textiles.
Twitter / WayneVisser
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Sunday, 15 August 2010
Now let me tell you about my tour yesterday. We visited both sets of locks on the Pacific ocean side. I suppose what I didn’t realise was how long the canal is – around 50 miles. It links a natural lake with the coasts. To take advantage of the lake, the locks raise the ships about 26 metres. It takes 22 hours to transverse the canal, and only Panamese pilots can do the navigation. The idea for the canal was first proposed by a Spanish king in the 1500s, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the French began construction.
Mostly, the labour was brought in from the West Indies and many thousands died of tropical diseases. The Americans took over after the French gave up, from about 1903 until it was completed in 1914. It was then owned and operated by the Americans until a revolution (by students) in the 1960s, after which there was a sharing arrangement. However, it was only in 1999 that the Americans finally gave the canal back to the Panamanians. As far as i can tell, this is when the country started to prosper, and probably accounts for all the ‘bamboo-like’ apartment blocks and hotels that have shot up.
Looking out the window now, we are unmistakably in the tropics, a green mosaic of palm plantations and natural forests – my kind of paradise (except for the things that buzz and bite! I saw some humongous specimens at the Panama Canal museum yesterday).