Parque Nacional Natural Utría (Utría National Park), Colombia

Arrival on the beach at Parque Nacional Natural Utría (Utría National Park), Colombia

Arrival on the beach at Parque Nacional Natural Utría (Utría National Park), Colombia

Located north of Nuqui on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, Parque Nacional Natural Utría (Utría National Park) is considered to be one-of-a-kind, containing a variety of ecosystems, ranging from the sea to the jungle.  It framed by the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and the foothills of the Serrania del Baudo.  Utría is considered to be one of the most bio-diverse national parks, not only in Colombia but in the world.

Kayaking in the seclusion of the mangroves at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Kayaking in the seclusion of the mangroves at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

We first had an opportunity to kayak along the coast and through the shallow waters of the mangrove swamps, getting up close to an amazing wealth of flora and fauna.

Mangrove roots at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Mangrove roots at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Gecko at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Gecko at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

After our two-hour kayaking excursion, we walked along a newly installed boardwalk, through the mangrove swamps, catching sight of a broad array of flora and fauna in a virtually untouched ecosystem.

Tree fern at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Tree fern at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

 

Mangroves at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Mangroves at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

 

Bromeliads at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Bromeliads at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

 

Closeup of Bromeliad at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Closeup of Bromeliad at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

 

Black (and red) crab climbing a tree at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Black (and red) crab climbing a tree at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

 

Flower at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Flower at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

 

Elevated walkway for exploring the flora and fauna at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Elevated walkway for exploring the flora and fauna at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

 

Vine at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Vine at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

 

Ants moving leaves at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

Ants moving leaves at Parque Nacional Natural Utria (Utria National Park), Colombia

 

Panama City, Panama

BioMuseo -- Panoramas of Panama City in 1907 during the American construciton of the canal and a century later; Panama City, Panama

BioMuseo — Panoramas of Panama City in 1907 during the American construction of the canal and a century later; Panama City, Panama

Panama City (Spanish: ciudad de Panamá) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Panama.  It has a population of 880,691, with a total metro population of 1,440,381, and is located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, in the province of Panamá. The city is the political and administrative center of the country, as well as a hub for international banking and commerce. — Wikipedia

Panorama of new skyscrapers from Avenida Balboa-Cintra Costera to Punta Pacifica (2015); Panama City, Panama

Panorama of new skyscrapers from Avenida Balboa-Cintra Costera to Punta Pacifica (2015); Panama City, Panama

The city of Panamá was founded on August 15, 1519, by Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila.  The city was the starting point for expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru.  It was a stopover point on one of the most important trade routes in the history of the American continent, leading to the fairs of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo, through which passed most of the gold and silver that Spain took from the Americas.

On January 28, 1671, the city was destroyed by a fire when privateer Henry Morgan sacked and set fire to it.  The city was formally reestablished two years later on January 21, 1673, in a peninsula located 8 km (5 miles) from the original settlement. — Wikipedia

BioMuseo -- Panama, Bridge of Life; building designed by Frank Gehry; Amador Causeway, Panama City, Panama

BioMuseo — Panama, Bridge of Life; building designed by Frank Gehry; Amador Causeway, Panama City, Panama

The BioMuseo (BioMuseum), or La Puente de Vida (Bridge of Life), Frank Gehry’s first project in Latin America, opened in 2013.  Under the jumble of multi-colored, irregularly shaped roofs, eight pavilions feature exhibits drawing on research by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

BioMuseo -- "Worlds Collide" (when the isthmus emerged geologically, Panama became a living bridge); Panama City, Panama

BioMuseo — “Worlds Collide” (when the isthmus emerged geologically, Panama became a living bridge); Panama City, Panama

Three million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama emerged from the oceans, dramatically changing the world’s climate and biodiversity by becoming a land bridge between Central America and South America.  A great many species crossed it, embarking on an unparalleled journey.  The story of the intertwining of humans and nature over the past 15,000 years is told in an open gallery.  Pictured below are two displays that show the crops indigenous to Mexico and South America — foods that are very common now in the U.S. and around the world.

BioMuseo -- "The Human Path" (foods with origins in Mexico); Panama City, Panama

BioMuseo — “The Human Path” (foods with origins in Mexico); Panama City, Panama

 

BioMuseo -- "The Human Path" (foods with origins in South America); Panama City, Panama

BioMuseo — “The Human Path” (foods with origins in South America); Panama City, Panama

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Casco Viejo (Old City) is an historic district that was established in 1673 by the Spanish colonialists and the Catholic Church, following the destruction of the original Panama City in 1671 by pirates.  At one time, the Old City was one of the richest and most sought after areas to reside in the Americas, but the area experienced decades of neglect from the 1950s.  Many of the buildings were meticulously restored and now serve as museums, restaurants, shops and luxury residences.  It is also common to see some buildings that remain in a state of complete ruin and renovated structures located next to humble homes that visually tell the story of the area’s past.

Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion (built between 1688 and 1796) -- at the Plaza de Independencia, Casco Viejo (Old Ciry); Panama City, Panama

Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion (built between 1688 and 1796) — at the Plaza de Independencia, Casco Viejo (Old City); Panama City, Panama

Built between 1688 and 1796 and standing amongst the ruins, Panama CIty’s stately cathedral is one of the Old CIty’s best preserved buildings.  The interior is characterized by the 1884 marble altar, religious paintings, and beautiful stained glass.  The bell towers are decorated with mother-of-pearl from the Pearl Islands, and the bells of the let tower are origianlly from the city’s first cathedral in Panamá Viejo.

City Hall -- at the Plaza de Independencia, Casco Viejo (Old Ciry); Panama City, Panama

City Hall — at the Plaza de Independencia, Casco Viejo (Old Ciry); Panama City, Panama

The bunting on the buildings is in honor of Panama Independence day, 3 November (1903).

Contemporary design in the Colonial style -- at the Plaza de Independencia, Casco Viejo (Old Ciry); Panama City, Panama

Contemporary design in the Colonial style — at the Plaza de Independencia, Casco Viejo (Old City); Panama City, Panama

 

Museo del Canal Interoceanico de Panama (Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum) -- at the Plaza de Independencia, Casco Viejo (Old Ciry); Panama City, Panama

Museo del Canal Interoceanico de Panama (Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum) — at the Plaza de Independencia, Casco Viejo (Old City); Panama City, Panama

Museo del Canal Interoceanico (Panama Canal Museum) was once the Gran Hotel and then the French canal company’s headquarters.  The facility presents exhibits detailing the Panama isthmus from the pre-Columbian period to the arrival of the Spanish, all the way to the present.  The three primary historic events concerning the canal are explored:  the initial attempt by the French in the 1880s; the completion of the canal by the United States in 1914; and the return of control of the Canal Zone to Panama in 1999.

Apartment building and reatail shops on the street level; Panama City, Panama

Apartment building and retail shops on the street level; Panama City, Panama

 

Presidential Palace; Panama City, Panama

Presidential Palace; Panama City, Panama

 

Traditional housing across the bay from the Presidential Palace; Panama City, Panama

Traditional housing across the bay from the Presidential Palace; Panama City, Panama

 

 

 

Transiting the Panama Canal (part three), Balboa and the Pacific Ocean, Panama

After crossing under the Centennial Bridge we approached the first of three Pacific locks that will lower us 84 feet (25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

After crossing under the Centennial Bridge we approached the first of three Pacific locks that will lower us 84 feet (25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Our first blog post on “Transiting the Panama Canal” took us from the Caribbean Sea entrance to the Panama Canal at Colon, Panama, and through the Gatun locks; the second followed our journey across Gatun Lake in very inclement weather.  This third blog post takes us down through the three Pacific Ocean-side-of-the-canal locks (84 feet, or 25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean. 

In the photograph, above, on the far right hand side, the new channel for the new locks (about 50% longer and wider than the 1914 locks) is visible.  Built by the Panamanians, the new locks will accommodate the newer, massive freighters for the first time — scheduled for opening in April 2016.

Approaching the single Pedro Miguel lock that will begin our descent to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the single Pedro Miguel lock that will begin our descent to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

After the water level in the Pedro Miguel lock was lowered and the gates opened, the "mules" pull us into Miraflores Lake; Panama Canal, Panama

After the water level in the Pedro Miguel lock was lowered and the gates opened, the “mules” pull us into Miraflores Lake; Panama Canal, Panama

One of the four "Panama Canal mules" (electric locomotives) that pulled us into, through, and out of the Pedro Miguel lock; Panama Canal, Panama

One of the four “Panama Canal mules” (electric locomotives) that pulled us into, through, and out of the Pedro Miguel lock; Panama Canal, Panama

Beautiful geometric patterns of the adjacent lock gates holding water; Panama Canal, Panama

Beautiful geometric patterns of the adjacent lock gates holding water; Panama Canal, Panama

Being positioned, by the "mules", in the first of two Miraflores locks (along with one of the Canal's tugboats); Panama Canal, Panama

Being positioned, by the “mules”, in the first of two Miraflores locks (along with one of the Canal’s tugboats); Panama Canal, Panama

Looking aft from the stern of our ship towards the Centennial Bridge and the Caribbean Sea, from the first Miraflores lock, as the water is drained; Panama Canal, Panama

Looking aft from the stern of our ship towards the Centennial Bridge and the Caribbean Sea, from the first Miraflores lock, as the water is drained; Panama Canal, Panama

Looking forward from the bow of our ship as we get snuggled into the second Miraflores lock; Panama Canal, Panama

Looking forward from the bow of our ship as we get snuggled into the second Miraflores lock; Panama Canal, Panama

Watching the water drain from the lock by gravity -- no pumps -- lowering us down to the level of the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Watching the water drain from the lock by gravity — no pumps — lowering us down to the level of the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

After the water levels were equalized, the gates are electrically opened and we prepare for the final "pull" from the "mules"; Panama Canal, Panama

After the water levels were equalized, the gates are electrically opened and we prepare for the final “pull” from the “mules”; Panama Canal, Panama

The tugboat that shared these locks with us steams out towards the Pacific Ocean under its own power; Panama Canal, Panama

The tugboat that shared these locks with us steams out towards the Pacific Ocean under its own power; Panama Canal, Panama

Disconnected from the "mules", we proceed under our own power towards the Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Disconnected from the “mules”, we proceed under our own power towards the Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal has been called the “Greatest Shortcut” in history.  Prior to its completion, the added distance for ships sailing from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn at the lower tip of South America versus through the Panama Canal was 8,000 miles (12,874 kilometers).

Sailing at dusk towards the Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Sailing at dusk towards the Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

A telescopic, twilight view of some of Panama City's new high rises overlooking the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

A telescopic, twilight view of some of Panama City’s new high rises overlooking the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal has been described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and the greatest engineering achievement since the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

As dusk turned to night, we sailed under the Bridge of the Americas and into the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

As dusk turned to night, we sailed under the Bridge of the Americas and into the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

This was a truly remarkable day.  Breakfast in the Caribbean Sea, riding up through the locks to witness nature’s fury with the thunderstorms on Gatun Lake after lunch on the lake, and then descending the southern locks to cross under the Bridge of the Americas and dine on the Pacific after sunset.  The journey generated a toast that evening to the foresight, leadership, perseverance. engineering brilliance and hard work of countless French and American leaders over decades (1880 to the canal opening in 1914), and a memorial toast to the thousands who died in the jungle while helping build this amazing transcontinental canal.

Transiting the Panama Canal (part two), Gatun Lake, Panama

Entering Lake Gatun after exiting the upper Gatun lock, to then sail south across the lake; Panama Canal, Panama

Entering Lake Gatun after exiting the upper Gatun lock, to then sail south across the lake; Panama Canal, Panama

Our first blog post on “Transiting the Panama Canal” took us from the Caribbean Sea entrance at Colon, Panama, and through the Gatun locks.  This blog post follows our journey across Gatun Lake in very inclement weather.  Our third blog post in this series will take us down through the three Pacific-locks (84 feet, or 25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean.

Gatun Dam (completed in 1913), which created Lake Gatun by damming up the Chagres River; Panama Canal, Panama

Gatun Dam (completed in 1913), which created Lake Gatun by damming up the Chagres River; Panama Canal, Panama

The Gatun Dam is a large earthen dam across the Chagres River in Panama, near the town of Gatun.  The dam, constructed between 1907 and 1913, is a crucial element of the Panama Canal; it impounds the artificial Gatun Lake, which in turn carries ships for 33 kilometres (21 mi) of their transit across the Isthmus of Panama.  In addition, a hydro-electric generating station at the dam generates electricity which is used to operate the locks and other equipment in the canal.  Construction of the dam was a great engineering achievement, eclipsed only by the parallel excavation of the Culebra Cut; at the time of completion, the dam was the largest earth dam in the world, and Lake Gatun was the largest artificial lake in the world. — Wikipedia

As we began sailing south across Lake Gatun, we encountered an hour-plus series of powerful and drenching thunderstorms; Panama Canal, Panama

As we began sailing south across Lake Gatun, we encountered an hour-plus series of powerful and drenching thunderstorms; Panama Canal, Panama

Torrential rains while sailing across Lake Gatun; Panama Canal, Panama

Torrential rains while sailing across Lake Gatun; Panama Canal, Panama

Sailing across Lake Gatun we saw some amazing lightning strikes (and BOOMING thunder), many less than 0.2 miles (0.32 km) from our ship; Panama Canal, Panama

Sailing across Lake Gatun we saw some amazing lightning strikes (and BOOMING thunder), many less than 0.2 miles (0.32 km) from our ship; Panama Canal, Panama

With the visibility on Lake Gatun dropping close to zero, it was comforting to know our experienced captain had excellent radar and GPS systems for navigating; Panama Canal, Panama

With the visibility on Lake Gatun dropping close to zero, it was comforting to know our experienced captain had excellent radar and GPS systems for navigating; Panama Canal, Panama

[A note to our readers:  CLICK on any photograph in any blog post and it will be displayed in a larger size;  expand the borders of your browser window to enlarge the window and enable the photograph to be displayed at full size.]

By mid-afternoon on Lake Gatun the worst of the thunderstorms were behind us; Panama Canal, Panama

By mid-afternoon on Lake Gatun the worst of the thunderstorms were behind us; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Continental Divide and the infamous Culebra Cut, we passed several current significant dredging operations to keep the channel open for the larger ships; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Continental Divide and the infamous Culebra Cut, we passed several current significant dredging operations to keep the channel open for the larger ships; Panama Canal, Panama

Low mountains of the Continental Divide and rain forest jungle as we sailed past the northern entrance of the Culebra Cut; Panama Canal, Panama

Low mountains of the Continental Divide and rain forest jungle as we sailed past the northern entrance of the Culebra Cut; Panama Canal, Panama

A straight, man-made channel that is part of the 7.8 mile (12.6 kilometres) long Culebra Cut; Panama Canal, Panama

A straight, man-made channel that is part of the 7.8 mile (12.6 kilometres) long Culebra Cut; Panama Canal, Panama

The Culebra Cut, formerly called Gaillard Cut, is an artificial valley that cuts through the Continental Divide in Panama.  The cut forms part of the Panama Canal, linking Gatun Lake, and thereby the Atlantic Ocean [and Caribbean Sea], to the Gulf of Panama and hence the Pacific Ocean. It is 12.6 kilometres (7.8 mi) from the Pedro Miguel lock on the Pacific side to the Chagres River arm of Lake Gatun, with a water level 26 metres (85 ft) above sea level.  Construction of the cut was one of the great engineering feats of its time; the immense effort required to complete it was justified by the great significance of the canal to shipping, and in particular the strategic interests of the United States of America.  Culebra is the name for the mountain ridge it cuts through and was also originally applied to the cut itself.  From 1915 to 2000 the cut was named Gaillard Cut after US Major David du Bose Gaillard, who had led the excavation.  After the canal handover to Panama in 2000, the name was changed back to Culebra. — Wikipedia

Approaching the Centennial Bridge and the southern section of the Celubra Cut, the site of numerous catastrophic land slides during (and after) construction; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Centennial Bridge and the southern section of the Celubra Cut, the site of numerous catastrophic land slides during (and after) construction; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Centennial Bridge and, beyond it, the Pacific-locks (three) that will lower us 84 feet (25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Centennial Bridge and, beyond it, the Pacific-locks (three) that will lower us 84 feet (25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

 

Transiting the Panama Canal (part one), Colon, Panama

Sailing past the breakwater at Colon, Panama, in the Caribbean Sea, approaching the Panama Canal, Panama

Sailing past the breakwater at Colon, Panama, in the Caribbean Sea, approaching the Panama Canal, Panama

So called “the eighth wonder of the world”, the Panama Canal is an engineering and construction marvel and a testament to the vision and drive of a number of far sighted leaders who overcame almost insurmountable obstacles to complete it.

Traffic jam!! Ships lined up for entry to the Panama Canal at Colon, Panama, in the Caribbean Sea, approaching the Panama Canal, Panama

Traffic jam!! Ships lined up for entry to the Panama Canal at Colon, Panama, in the Caribbean Sea, approaching the Panama Canal, Panama

The earliest known vision of a transcontinental canal connecting the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean is credited to King Charles V of Spain in the 1500s.  His advisers correctly concluded that such a canal (at that time) could not be successfully dug.  With the scientific and industrial advances of the next several centuries, serious consideration of a canal linking the two oceans began in the mid 1800s.  A private French company, under the leadership of Ferdinand de Lesseps, unsuccessfully spent hundreds of millions of dollars (US) over the period 1880 – 1888 (the company went bankrupt in 1889) attempting to build a SEA LEVEL canal across the isthmus of Panama (from Colon to Panama City).  de Lesseps, while not an engineer, but a charismatic leader and entrepreneur, HAD successfully built the Suez Canal (completed in 1869) for the French.

Having sailed past Colon, Panama, the entrance to the Panama Canal's first locks are now visible on the right hand side, past the red channel buoys (with the foundations of a new bridge to span the channels visible in the foreground), Panama

Having sailed past Colon, Panama, the entrance to the Panama Canal’s first locks are now visible on the right hand side, past the red channel buoys (with the foundations of a new bridge to span the channels visible in the foreground), Panama

Panama at that point was a province of Colombia, itself much smaller than decades earlier — as both Venezuela and Ecuador had declared independence from Colombia. With the blatant assistance of the United States (US Navy warships sailed into the harbor — just ahead of the revolt — as a measure of support), a group of revolutionaries in Panama successfully declared independence from Colombia on 3 November 1903.  Immediately after that, to no one’s surprise, Panama signed a very lop-sided treaty with the United States of America, giving away a 10-mile wide “canal zone” to the U.S. which was to have permanent sovereignty over the zone — during their construction of a canal and thereafter.

A remnant of the French company's diggings in Panama in the 1880s -- a now unused channel, visible from the American-dug channel, just before the Caribbean entrance to the Gatun locks; Panama Canal, Panama

A remnant of the French company’s diggings in Panama in the 1880s — a now unused channel, visible from the American-dug channel, just before the Caribbean entrance to the Gatun locks; Panama Canal, Panama

The Americans, spurred on by President Theodore Roosevelt (who had winked and nodded approval of the Panamanian revolution), decided to build the transcontinental canal in Panama, rather than in Nicaragua (after Congress was scared off from Nicaragua by the fear of volcanoes and earthquakes destroying an American-built canal if they had built there).  With advances in surveying, mechanical equipment, metal working, mechanical design, railroads and concrete, the Americans correctly redesigned the canal to be a LOCK CANAL.  Perhaps the biggest flaw in the French design was ignoring the fact that the Chagres River, which was to cross their sea level canal in several places across the isthmus, floods in the winter rains, rising as much as 46 feet (14 meters) in a couple of days.  The Americans designed and built a dam on the Chagres River near Colon, just before the Chagres River empties into the Caribbean Sea.  Over the course of 1913 and 1914, the resulting man-made lake — Lake Gatun — then solved the problem of transiting the country (with the digging of miles and miles of channels!) and eliminated the problem of the Chagres River flooding.

Our exciting first, telescopic view of the three Gatun locks of the Panama Canal, which will lift us up 84 feet to the man-made Lake Gatun, Panama

Our exciting first, telescopic view of the three Gatun locks of the Panama Canal, which will lift us up 84 feet to the man-made Lake Gatun, Panama

There are two sets of locks on the Panama Canal.  The three contiguous, serial locks on the Caribbean side are the Gatun locks.  They raise (or lower) ships 84 feet (25.6 meters) from the Caribbean Sea to Lake Gatun (in the morning) and handle reverse direction traffic each afternoon.  On the Pacific Ocean side the set of locks is actually a single and a double lock.

Sailing into position to enter the first of the three Gatun locks of the Panama Canal on the starboard (right-hand) side; the lock's water level is at sea level in this view, Panama

Sailing into position to enter the first of the three Gatun locks of the Panama Canal on the starboard (right-hand) side; the lock’s water level is at sea level in this view, Panama

Completed in 1914, the entire American designed and constructed Panama Canal has remained in continuous operation (interrupted only by war) to the present time with virtually all of the same, original facilities (dams, locks, gates, etc.); the few exceptions include computerized controls and a second generation of canal “mules” (electric locomotives that pull the ships into position and through and out of the locks).

The vehicular bridge being retracted, prior to the first lock's gates swinging open for us to enter; Panama Canal, Panama

The vehicular bridge being retracted, prior to the first lock’s gates swinging open for us to enter; Panama Canal, Panama

This series of photographs takes us through the Gatun locks.  Parts two and three of these blog posts will transit Lake Gatun and then descend through the Pacific Ocean side locks.

Close up detail of the first lock's hollow, metal gate and the retracting mechanism (on top, right) -- still in use since 1914; Panama Canal, Panama

Close up detail of the first lock’s hollow, metal gate and the retracting mechanism (on top, right) — still in use since 1914; Panama Canal, Panama

Our ship enters the first lock, pulled by four

Our ship enters the first lock, pulled by four “Panama Canal mules” (electric locomotives), two fore and two aft, each mule with a pair of wire cables anchored on the ship; Panama Canal, Panama

One of the four

One of the four “Panama Canal mules” (electric locomotives), each with two wire cables anchored on the ship, that pulled us into, through, and out of the locks; Panama Canal, Panama

We were particularly excited to spend the day sailing through the canal (9 hours from lock entry on the Caribbean Sea side to lock exit on the Pacific Ocean side, and 11 hours total from the Caribbean Sea breakwater to the Bridge of the Americas at Balboa at the Pacific Ocean) after slogging through David McCollough’s excellent history of the canal, The Path Between the Seas.  The book introduces the reader to a wide cast of incredible characters, including Frenchman Phillippe Bunau-Varilla; the leader of the successful war against yellow fever and malaria, American doctor William Gorgas; and two American Chief Engineers – John Stevens and Colonel George Goethals, besides Ferdinand de Lesseps and President Roosevelt.  Some of the stories prove that life can be stranger than fiction!

Aft view from our ship while in the lower (first) Gatun lock, as the water level rises with the gates closed; Colon is visible on the horizon; Panama Canal, Panama

Aft view from our ship while in the lower (first) Gatun lock, as the water level rises with the gates closed; Colon is visible on the horizon; Panama Canal, Panama

 

Panoramic view as our ship enters the middle Gatun lock; Panama Canal, Panama

Panoramic view as our ship enters the middle Gatun lock; Panama Canal, Panama

[A note to our readers:  CLICK on any photograph in any blog post and it will be displayed in a larger size;  expand the borders of your browser window to enlarge the window and enable the photograph to be displayed at full size.]

Land-based visitors' viewing platforms at the control building at the Gatun locks; Panama Canal, Panama

Land-based visitors’ viewing platforms at the control building at the Gatun locks; Panama Canal, Panama

Our ship waiting for the water to rise after we had entered the middle Gatun lock; Lake Gatun is visible beyond the locks; Panama Canal, Panama

Our ship waiting for the water to rise after we had entered the middle Gatun lock; Lake Gatun is visible beyond the locks; Panama Canal, Panama

Entering the upper (third) Gatun lock; Lake Gatun is visible beyond the locks; Panama Canal, Panama

Entering the upper (third) Gatun lock; Lake Gatun is visible beyond the locks; Panama Canal, Panama

A final view of Colon (on the horizon) -- looking aft from our ship after the water has risen in the middle lock and we begin entering the upper Gatun lock; Panama Canal, Panama

A final view of Colon (on the horizon) — looking aft from our ship after the water has risen in the middle lock and we begin entering the upper Gatun lock; Panama Canal, Panama

The view of Lake Gatun from our ship after entering the upper Gatun lock, while waiting for the water to rise so we can exit the locks and then sail across the lake; Panama Canal, Panama

The view of Lake Gatun from our ship after entering the upper Gatun lock, while waiting for the water to rise so we can exit the locks and then sail across the lake; Panama Canal, Panama

Colombian artist Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 1, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 1, Cartagena, Colombia

The second part of our art walk in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia [for part 1, see our previous blog post], began at the NH Galeria where we had the opportunity to get an introduction to about a dozen contemporary Colombian artists whose work was on display (and for sale) at the gallery.  The gallery staff was very helpful and shared many good insights. 

With our Colombian-born fellow traveler, who served as hostess for the afternoon, along with a local tourist guide, we drove across town to the historical neighborhood of Getsemaní where Colombian-born artist Ruby Rumié lives.  [Note: we had been introduced to some of her work at the NH Galeria.]  Getsemaní is quite a contrast with the upper-class Cartagena neighborhood that Ruby grew up in comfortably.  She chose to live and work in the midst of a “real” working class neighborhood of Cartagena.  When we exited the van, the first thing we saw was graffiti covering the wall of the residences facing the street.

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 2, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 2, Cartagena, Colombia

Graffiti are writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted illicitly on a wall or other surface, often in a public place.  Graffiti range from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, and they have existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire.  In modern times, paint (particularly spray paint) and marker pens have become the most commonly used graffiti materials.  In most countries, marking or painting property without the property owner’s consent is considered defacement and vandalism, which is a punishable crime. — Wikipedia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 3, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 3, Cartagena, Colombia

We spent the next 45 minutes meandering along the streets of her neighborhood, soaking up the wall art and meeting and greeting a lot of her neighbors of the street, in public squares, in front of the local church, etc.  The area was quite photogenic!

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 4, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 4, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 5, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 5, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 6, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 6, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 7, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 7, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 8, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 8, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 9, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 9, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 10, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 10, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 11, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 11, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 12, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 12, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 13, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 13, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 14, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 14, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 15, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 15, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood -- 16, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié’s neighborhood — 16, Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié met us at the door to her studio and was a terrific hostess and “teacher”, sharing insights about her life, her methodology, her projects and her future plans.  This was an amazing opportunity to see and understand her art and the thinking, planning and social goals for her projects.  We were sad to have to depart before all our questions were answered — we had a very lively and informative discussion — but were thrilled to receive a copy of her latest book which documents several of her recent projects.

“Ruby Rumié’s work includes painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation. She develops projects based on injustice and psychology, and the impact of modern life in the daily lives of common people. Rumié focuses her research on the locals of Getsemaní, a historical neighborhood of Cartagena de Indias, where she lives. Getsemaní is where she finds her conceptual material, analyzing the impact of gentrification and progress, and suggesting a new role for the artist: that in which there is not only an aesthetic and poetic revelation, but also a search of how to manage social and psychological problems through creation.

“Rumié began using the technique of hyperrealism painting to present portraits of the inhabitants of Cartagena. She later incorporated social and territorial heritage, questioning the compromise of the artist with society. 

“She implements various tools in her projects such as cartography, census and archival techniques, half way between the final and aesthetic creation, as well as community work and sociological research. Following this path, she recently created the project Hálito Divino (Divine Breath), in which she focused on giving a social and creative voice to women who suffered from domestic violence.

“Ruby Rumié was born in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia in 1958. She lives and works between Cartagena and Santiago, Chile. She studied painting, drawing and sculpture at the School of Fine Arts of Cartagena de Indias, the David Manzur Academy in Bogotá and has participated in several workshops with artists such as Maria Teresa Hincapié, Eugenio Dittborn, Fabián Rendón and Jean Pierre Accoult.  She has held exhibitions in Bogotá, Barranquilla, and Cartagena, Colombia; Santiago, Valparíso and Temuco, Chile; Miami, New York, and Washington D.C., USA; Rouen and Paris, France. She recently participated in the international section of the First International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia” — NH Galeria, El Centro, Cartagena de Indias

Colombian artist Ruby Rumié in her studio, Cartagena, Colombia

Colombian artist Ruby Rumié in her studio, Cartagena, Colombia

Pictured below is one of her works of art, on display at the NH Galeria in the Old City of Cartagena de Indias.

Ruby Rumié Domo 2, 2013, dome with 320 figures of 3.5 cm each in semi-matte gold plated Zamad (courtesy of NH Galeria), Cartagena, Colombia

Ruby Rumié Domo 2, 2013, dome with 320 figures of 3.5 cm each in semi-matte gold plated Zamad (courtesy of NH Galeria), Cartagena, Colombia

Shop local — Arts and Crafts in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Colorful storefront in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Colorful storefront in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Our ship is fortunate to have residents from 19 countries around the world.  Residents local to the country of a port call are often very helpful in providing advice on touring, dining, and exploring locally.  One of our residents, a Colombian native, was very helpful in arranging an art walk tour in Cartagena during our stay there.  Our first stop was in El Centro (Old City) where we walked along the ramparts.

Street scene in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Street scene in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

The neighborhood was quite colorful.

Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

We all fell in love with many of the local arts and crafts artifacts at Artesanias de Colombia — some of which are now decorating our apartments (and, in many cases, our heads).  These items were all designed and hand made in Colombia, not China!

Hand painted local birds and totems at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Hand painted local birds and totems at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Handmade Colombian hats at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Handmade Colombian hats at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Hand woven beaded mask at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Hand woven beaded mask at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Trying on one of many hat styles at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Trying on one of many hat styles at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Hand woven basket at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Hand woven basket at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Hand carved and painted wooden sculptrues at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Hand carved and painted wooden sculptrues at Artesanias de Colombia in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

The next day we returned to the neighborhood and had a delicious luncheon at La Vitrola (Victrola in English — they had an old Victrola record player in the lobby, after which the restaurant was named).  The restaurant features contemporary Cuban cuisine, with fish, seafood and French-Caribbean flair.  It was decorated with Old Havana photographs, whirring ceiling fans and swaying palm fronds.  Several of us enjoyed some excellent local seafood dishes and highly recommend a visit.

Restaurant and Bar La Vitrola (Victrola) in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia

Restaurant and Bar La Vitrola (Victrola) in El Centro (Old City) Cartagena, Colombia