Panama Canal

It’s a funny old life, sometimes it would be better to just go back to bed and wait for tomorrow. My first day in Panama and I came down to breakfast early; I had too, the traffic noise outside my bedroom window made it impossible to sleep any longer. The hotel agreed to move me into a quieter room and I should have realised then that it would be best to stay there.

Breakfast is normally a very straightforward affair, cereal, fruit juice, toast and marmalade, and coffee. Toast; the most common breakfast item anywhere in the world except Panama. They have a kitchen where the chef will prepare all sorts of delicious dishes from around the globe, but he can’t do toast.

I took a taxi to the shipping agent, my first priority, so that any paperwork problems could be sorted out before Bridget arrives on Monday. The agent wants money before he does anything. I explained that all costs have been paid to the agent in Ecuador, but he looks doubtful and I have a funny feeling that this subject is going to come back again on Monday.

When I had finished at the agents I discovered that my mobile phone wouldn’t work in Panama and so I decided to go to the shops and perhaps buy another one that will work from here to Canada. This I managed and then I thought I should get some more cash from an ATM. I tried four and they all said that they couldn’t complete the transaction and referred me to my bank. Initallly I blamed my bank but it transpires that the chip is most likely faulty.

With only $20 in my pocket I decided that I would have to change some traveller’s cheques for my immediate needs. None of the eight banks I tried would change the cheques, including such international institutions as HSBC, BNP and Citi bank. As they all sell this product in most European countries they should be prepared to accept them at all their branches.

Then to finish off the day, as I started out at a brisk walk for the hotel the skies literally opened and one of the noisiest thunder storms I have witnessed in a very long time emptied itself all over me. Somebody said it wasn’t personal, but I am not so sure.

Perhaps tomorrow will bring a ray of sunshine, it can’t get much worse; can it?

It is now 2:15am and I was awoken twenty minutes ago by a violent shaking. Panama has just suffered an earthquake which is I am told unusual here. Even though I have never experienced  such an event before I knew what it was and I was getting out of bed even as I awoke, but my brain was questioning what was going through my mind.

I jumped into a pair of shorts and left my room and immediately confirmed the situation. People were milling about and it became clear that as a heavy sleeper I was one of the latter risers. I walked from my fifth floor room down to the hotel lobby and most people were making their way outside. A night porter told me that such a strong quake was very unusual and that we should wait in case of aftershocks. We won’t know until the morning what strength the quake was or if in fact we were only on the periphery of it.

News reports this morning are saying that the earthquake was centred on the Panama/Costa Rica border some 400 miles north of here. It measured 6.5 on the Richter scale and was at a depth of 15 miles. Initial reports said that there were no reported casualties or damage.

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