I visited Panama to see relatives and enjoy a little low-key sightseeing beyond my usual haunts of Panama City and the Pearl archipelago. It started with an unusual stop for a tourist…
Witnessing the good work of the Missionaries of Charity
One day during my visit, we visited the house of the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s order). My aunt volunteers there every day and she wanted to show us the place. WOW, these nuns do incredible work with those who have nothing and who are the worse-off of the poor and sick. Amazing. The nuns themselves come from all over the world and many actually come from India. It is neat to hear their Spanish with a very slight Indian accent. Later, when we drove to the other side of Panama, to the town of Colón, we visited the other house these Missionaries have in Panama. So in one weekend I covered all their houses in Panama! Anyway, kind and selfless work.
Colón, a true Caribbean town in Panama
Colón, on the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal (Panama City is on the Pacific end of the Canal), is most definitely a Caribbean town. The architecture, the people, and something in the air just made me feel I was in the Caribbean. Interesting how less than 50 miles distance can make such a big difference! I was told the road was really bad (the new highway is still being built but is close to being finished) but, actually, it didn’t seem that bad to me. Perhaps I was expecting rural Tanzania type of road conditions… Anyhow, the drive took an hour and a half and it will be very nice when this highway is finished as it should take an hour or less. The drive is scenic though my relatives said it wasn’t totally safe. Colón is the second largest trade free zone in the world (after Hong Kong) and it seems to be doing OK with that business. I wish I had more time to stay around and explore but we had to get back to Panama City as I was leaving the next morning.
An inland “oasis” in Gamboa
I also got to visit Gamboa in the interior and next to Lake Gatún (which provides the water the Panama Canal needs to operate since water is a key tool in operating the gates or “esclusas” that control ships crossing the Canal). We visited the Gamboa Resort which had great views of the area.
There are tours that take you to see monkeys and other wildlife as well as a canopy tram tour that allows a bird’s eye view over the area. Next time, I will try to take advantage of some of those tour opportunities for a change!
Beach time near Coronado
Finally, we went to a beach next to Coronado on the Pacific called Punto Barco where one of my cousins has a beach house. The beach may not be the best in the world but to have a house there would be a dream! My cousin outdid herself with great food (ceviche!!) and the family had a great time hanging out.
As usual, my visit ends and I long for more time there. My relatives there always manage to take great care of us and make us feel very welcome. I hope to go back and maybe this time not take 2 years in between trips!