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Panama - Biking on the Causeway (Feb 20)

sunny 33 °C
View Panama Canal on Sue McNicholas's travel map.

Wednesday, February 20.

After a relaxing morning, all five of us set out on foot. We planned to do the two hour walk out to the causeway. The walk is long, but it is one way to get a feel for the place.

Along the way we came across a monument to the workers who died building the Panama Canal. This monument depicts a drag line which would have been used to dredge the canals as the locks were being built. Do you know that the deadly endemic diseases of yellow fever and malaria were obstacles that had already defeated French efforts to construct a Panama Canal in the 1880s. The effects of these diseases, which caused at least 20,000 to die, led the French to abandon their goal in 1889. For the later American effort, Dr. William Gorgas was appointed chief sanitary officer. President Roosevelt granted the funding, and Gorgas unleashed one of the most extensive sanitary campaigns in history. In the summer and fall of 1905, more than 4,000 people worked for Gorgas on his "mosquito brigades" in what would become a yearlong effort to prevent the insects from depositing their eggs. An army of fumigators visited every private home in Panama repeatedly, armed with cleaning agents, insecticide powder, and wire mesh for screen windows and doors. Teams sprayed drains and cesspools with oil and filled in pools of standing water.

The eradication of yellow fever and significant reduction in the number of malaria cases on the isthmus were two of the most revolutionary developments in the Canal Project. Without these enlightened efforts, the Canal Project could not have been completed in the nine short years that followed. With this dramatic decrease in fatalities due to disease, workers no longer deserted the project. This allowed for its timely completion. The removal of the threat of mosquito borne disease caused travel and tourism to the area to flourish, and with that, the economy.

A monument to the workers.

A monument to the workers.

Aidan, Jude and Eldon. Do they look good for another hour's walk?

Aidan, Jude and Eldon. Do they look good for another hour's walk?

We continued along, on occasion finding interesting houses and little shops. One little corner store had gin, which had eluded us at the supermarket a day earlier. It was priced so that it would drive you to drink: $5.00 for a litre. We found our little hotel with a view and stopped for a cold one. Thirty minutes of relaxing and eying the distance to the bicycle shop on the causeway, caused some flagging of determination. Three went ahead, while Eldon and I decided to walk the last one or two kilometres. Jude, Yvonne and Aidan rented two 'tandem bicycles' out there and rode back to meet us. We hopped on board and started peddling. It was quite enjoyable to race each other out to the islands linked by the causeway. There was a light breeze, and the tandem bicycles had a canopy, so the ride was delightful in spite of the temperature. Riding these bikes is heavy work, so we were very pleased to find an ice cream stand. We enjoyed another break, and then rode back slowly admiring the sailboats in the bay with a backdrop of the skyscrapers in the distance. On the other side of the causeway was the Panama Canal. We marvelled at the large cargo ships moving past the locks and out the mouth of the canal.

Jude and Aidan heading out to the islands.

Jude and Aidan heading out to the islands.

Me, Yvonne and Eldon.  Hey!  Who is not peddling?

Me, Yvonne and Eldon. Hey! Who is not peddling?

Sailboats by the causeway. Panama City centre in the background

Sailboats by the causeway. Panama City centre in the background

A good day's work done, we decided to head back to Ancon Hill. There was time when we arrived back to relax by the pool, and plan our next day's outing..... The visit to the Embera village, where this indigenous group of Indians lives in much the same way as they did at the time of Colombus' arrival here in 1502.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 12:50 Archived in Panama

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