Last Sunday we had a fantastic opportunity! The ACP (Panama Canal Authority) opened the new locks to the public for one day only, and anyone who wanted to visit was welcome. I had seen photos and read articles, but to actually go to the construction site was too exciting to pass up. Next month they are going to start filling the locks with water so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
It all started when someone posted this article on Facebook http://www.prensa.com/sociedad/visita_a_esclusas_0_4201080042.html All we needed to do was show up at the designated parking area wearing long pants and proper footwear for a construction zone.
So, we took the bus to Panama City on Saturday, booked the Allbrook Inn for a couple nights, and contacted Luis Arce to pick us up and drive us to the site.
We made it to the parking area, and then made our way to the main parking area where there was a long line around the parking lot and down the street.
We were in this line about two hours before we made it to the bus, most of it in light to heavy rain. People were upbeat and cheerful though and didn’t seem to mind getting wet. Here though the rain is warm and getting wet is a common occurrence.
The bus took us on a short ride, and then let us off in another parking lot where there was a huge line!
And, then, we were THERE!
I believe I have identified the director in the white hat and black shirt as Guillermo O Chapman, Jr. and clicking on his name will take you to some information about him.
We boarded the next bus and headed to the “mirador” or look out spot. Every bus had someone in a lime green t-shirt cheerfully telling us where we were going, what we were going to see, and any other information that would be helpful.
At first I thought we must be at different locks, until I looked way down in the distance in one of these photos and saw we were actually at the other end of these same locks. The size and scope of all this is pretty incredible.
This was an all day event, but an excellent experience! I heard later that 45,000 people visited. A lot of credit goes to the people who organized all this, the personnel, the buses, the parking and waiting areas, the water, the bathrooms, the little flags that were handed out to everyone, music, drones, security, and I’m sure a lot more things than we realize. They did an excellent job of handling this many people and making it a great day for everyone.
Here is some more information on this construction project
Plans are for the canal to be open and operational in 2016. I definitely want to go back then, and that will be even more interesting after seeing it before the water!