Monday, January 10, 2011

The Big Ditch

We made it through the canal and finished this trip in Balboa! The Panama Canal really deserves its reputation as one of the modern wonders of the world, but for sailors it is just a really convinent way to get between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. And quite pleasant, considering the alternatives are Cape Horn and the icy Northwest Passage. The canal itself is really a lot of concrete, it`s the dream of connecting the oceans and the sacrafices it took to build it that take your breath away.

Getting anything done in Central America generally costs twice as much and takes twice as long as was originally expected, and now was no exception. I ended spending several weeks in Colon waiting for the chance to go through and dealing with endless delays. Fortunately, my family decided to join me for this bit of the trip and we did a bit of exploring in Panama. As an 18 year old, the very thought of traveling anywhere, especially internationally, with my family sends terror into my very being, but the Canal was too great an opportunity for them to pass up. So we did some exploring while waiting for our go at thte canal.

And it was wet. So wet that flooding had closed the canal for the first time in decades due to the level of the water in Lake Gatun, and roads and homes were deystroyed all over the country. My 15 year old brother and I took a 28 mile trek in the jungle and it was the wettest, muddiest, least pleasant hike of my life. It was wet as it only can get in the Panamanian rainforst, a Bear Grylls would be crying right now type of experience. We made it almost all the way through to the end of the trail, but were unable to cross a swollen river and had to hike all the way back. We later learned that an expereinced jungle guide had died trying to do the same thing three days earlier.

But, in the end we survived and made it back to the canal for our sucessful transit. Our trip through went well and we were tied to another sailboat which made it quite easy for us. Now Im doing a bit of tramping around Central America before my return to society.

The canal down, now just Cape Horn to go!




  1. What a fantastic experience you've just had. I think it's great that your family was able to make the trip through the canal with you. It's amazing how many parts of the world have been experiencing destructive rains. Brian Caldwell provided some photos of "ISIS" which miracously survived the floods in Bundaberg, Queensland. I've been following news of the Queensland floods daily and my heart goes out to those who have been affected. The typical January rain in Port Angeles will seem mild after the heavy rains that you've seen in Panama.

    Thanks for the update, Ryan.

    From Seattle, WA, USA

  2. The adventurer is still adventuring. If not by boat, by foot. 28 mile hike; you and your brother must have been very tempted to find a way to cross the swollen river (build a raft?) The wrong decision could have spelled disaster so congratulations on showing wisdom when the going got tough.

    Floods are still making news, now Sri Lanka. I wonder if we (earth) are entering a new permanent climate phase. Of course nothing stays constant and there will always be cycles but it seems the pendulum is swinging farther each year. Interesting and worrisome future. And now I'll think very positive thoughts for the rest of the day as life IS wonderful. And what a joy it is to be alive on our beautiful planet.

  3. Well cool, Ryan! Both the sailing and the trekking! I've been in some wet, muddy forests, but that sounds like the worst. This is the stuff that memories are made of. And sharing it with your brother will mean a lot more to you later on in life.

    Tramping about sounds very cool, Mexico is the extent of my Meso-American adventures. Enjoy it while you can.

    Tray M.

  4. A wonderful story Ryan, you are a great writer, your trek through the jungle and your description of the Panama Canal brought it all home so well and I agree with Bob from Seattle - "the adventurer is still adventuring."