So, Panama City. The things I knew about this place before I arrived can be counted on one hand: There’s a canal; it’s where John Darwin was hanging out for a while; it’s where Mo comes from; and I knew about Noriega. (You really would think I’d know more about these places, considering I wrote an atlas, wouldn’t you?)
Obviously, I’m here now, and it’s a steep learning curve. I went to the hotel reception at lunch time, asked if they had any sort of map of the town, and, err, sorry, no. So I just walked the two blocks towards the ocean. It seems like in the immediate area around the hotel there’s a [collective noun] of hospitals and clinics. Helpfully, and somewhat ominously, there’s also a bunch of funeral parlours. And I walked past several people with obvious mental illnesses. It was quite a sad sight.
At the waterfront – where I’m seeing the Pacific Ocean for the very first time – there’s just a bunch of black rocks, some black birds, a fair amount of garbage, and several gazillion litres of murky water. To one side it looks all modern and skyscraper-y; to the other all old and colonial Spanish-y. I choose to go in the direction of the old stuff. Shortly after that, I saw a white-skinned couple who were rather obviously tourists: taking photos, and a Lonely Planet guide in hand. Keith and Claire were from Adelaide, and seemed only too happy to chat in English for a while. I walked with them past the rather grubby dock area, and wandered around the virtually deserted fancy old bit.
I couldn’t find an ATM, so I left the Australians to get on with their sight-seeing, and because I only had $8 in my pocket, I couldn’t risk getting a taxi. So I had to walk all the way back alone the sea front road and on and on to where all the skyscrapers were. By this time, I’d eaten virtually nothing for 24 hours, and despite still feeling a bit grotty, I was hungry.
Once I’d found an ATM, the first restaurant I saw was the Hard Rock Cafe. Never been in one of these before. I got to see one of Richie Sambora’s guitars AND eat a cheeseburger. Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit more interesting.