Saturday rolled round. Despite being on a bottom bunk now, the sleep got no better. The girls checked out early, leaving me as the only girl in the eight bed dorm. We hadn’t much else planned in the city, and we were taking it easy before heading down to South America, trying to conserve money where we could. Much of Saturday morning was spent cancelling everything on my phone, forwarding emails and whatever else I didn’t get done on Friday. There was still no way of getting in the kitchen during breakfast hours, so we slowly got up to head out for lunch instead.
Sunday came around. The worst night sleep in a long time. I think I only got a few hours, and was wide awake by 4am. Why? Because I found myself riddled with bed bug bites all over my legs. I felt absolutely hideous. Itchy. Sore. Gross. Dirty. You name it, I felt it. Luckily, the super99 was already open by 8 so we wandered over there to grab some essentials. Hydrocortisone cream and some aloe vera gel as well as some painkillers. The best news? I found kiwi and strawberry snapple!!! Hadn’t seen that anywhere since the states. That cheered me up a little. We headed back to our hostel and packed up our things. I had found us a nice four star hotel called The Occidental which would be our home for the next two nights. Thanks to hotels.com and the ability to redeem two free nights, it only cost £20. We booked an über to pick us up from the hostel and take us to the hotel. By this time it was just gone ten and check in wasn’t until three, but we wanted out of the hostel.
There was no early check in but we left our bags and headed out to the mall again. I left underwear and my pjs in the bin at the hostel and set out to replace them. I felt hideous. I was grumpy. Not only had Panama City stolen my phone, it had also riddled me with bed bugs. The walk to the mall took us past more interesting architecture.
As he pulled into the car park at the bottom of the visitors centre, we saw a massive queue. As we joined the back of it, a lot of people suddenly were given tickets and went in. Phew. The queue started moving quicker and we got our tickets for $15 each which allowed us entry to the observation decks, the museum and the theatre. We passed through security and headed up to the fourth floor observation deck, hoping to watch the massive ships pass through.The first attempt at building a route that joined the Atlantic and Pacific oceans started in 1880, by the French. This attempt failed and when Panama gained independence in 1903, they worked with the US and the canal was finished in 1914. With this coalition of construction, the US controlled the waterway until 1999. As of then, Panama controlled full operation of it. The canal is an 80 kilometre shortcut for maritime traffic. It uses a system of locks, with two lanes that act as water lifts. They raise ships from sea level to that of the Gatun Lake, which sits 26 meters above sea level. This then lets the ships cross the continental divide, and then lowers the ships of the other side of the Isthmus. I was truly fascinated by the whole operation. The ship we saw was huge! It barely left any room to move either side of the lane. The Panama Canal was expanded in 2016.
First things first was a shower. I used pretty much a whole bar of soap and was in there about an hour, desperately trying to make myself feel clean after getting bitten alive. I emerged and felt human. Legs shaved too. It was an epic shower. There was only one English speaking channel on the TV so we were treated to Monster University. I found us, hopefully a decent hostel in Quito and tried to research bus companies through South America. Still failed. Central America has been amazing. It has been hot, sunny, cool, wet, stormy, beautiful, downtrodden, dirty, towering, epic, mesmerising and fascinating. We have loved every minute of it. Now, we embark on the last part of this chapter of our travels. South America.
Until next time…