ship leaving the locks

As mentioned in my previous blog I said that I would tell you something of the country of Panama, a History and a Geography lesson.

What do you know about Panama? Do you know where it is? I was surprised to find how many whom I told that we would be going there, had no idea as to where it is though most had heard of the Panama Canal. I remembered learning about the construction of the Canal in Std 5 (Gr 7) History and it was always on my bucket list.

ship leaving the locksA ship leaves a lock at the Atlantic side

Panama, which is in Central America, was the last country to be formed by volcanic eruptions about 70 million years ago. Before that the North and South American continents were completely separate and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans flowed back and forth between one another. As the volcanoes erupted and formed land they gradually joined to form the land of Panama. It is bounded by Columbia in the South West and Costa Rica in the North East. This newly- created Isthmus caused a major change in sea temperatures and movements because the 2 oceans could no longer flow back and forth. Unbelievably this eventually led to the last Ice Age. We learnt this at the Bio-Museum in Panama City and about which I will write in another blog.

Panama map boundaries cities locatorMap of Panama. The red circle is where our dtr lives and the green is where her husband works

This country has formed into one of the most amazingly shaped countries so that, although it joins north and south continents, Panama itself faces almost East/West. Part of the country which is on the Pacific Ocean is further East than parts on the Atlantic Ocean. This was why we would see the sunrise from our daughter’s condo but we did not see the sunset. It took me, who is generally good with directions, quite some time to take this layout in. Two mountain ranges divide the country lengthwise and causing fairly different climates. On the Atlantic side of the country the mountains face the Atlantic Trade Winds which bring rain most of the year allowing jungles and gardens to develop. Conversely, the Pacific side gets a lot less rain. There are distinct wet and dry seasons on this side of the country and when it is dry it is very dry and when it rains it does so very heavily. Also, from January to March there are extremely strong winds.

Gamboa JunglePart off the Gamboa Jungle near the Panama Canal

Wind blown Palm TreesWind blowing the trees at Vista Mar

Due to having rain almost all the year is heavily forested and has a large variety of animals and birds. When the country finally connected itself and the 2 existing continents, people, animals and birds were able to cross over and so populate the new country. The people were Native Americans mainly Kuna (Cuna), Guaymí and Chocó tribes with a few other smaller groups of American Indian tribes. There are now 7 villages of these early people where they make traditional clothing and household items which they sell in local markets. The variety of animals and birds in the country is absolutely amazing and some are unique to Panama such as the Howler Monkeys, small animals which make a lot of noise.

Molas made by the Kuna TribeMolas made by the Kuna Tribe

Animals birdsModels of some of the birds and animals which moved into Panama

Panama has only one highway which forms part of the Inter Americana as it is known in Panama or the Pacific Coast Highwayin the USA,, and runs from Alaska in the North to the southernmost tip of Chile. Panama City is the largest City and is now a financial and commercial hub with dozens of modern high rise buildings. Many people work in the city and have to drive this one highway to work and back each day. Delays can last for a couple of hours as you will see when I write about Carnival Time.

Downtown Panama CityDowntown Panama City

The only natural resource of Panama is copper for which a mine is currently being built. It will be the 2nd largest mine in the world with the largest one in Chile. Most people are poor and use their gardens for subsistence. If you want to know more details about this small but beautiful country please go to the link given in the first sentence.