San Blas what to do

The weekend before

Hi all,

I’m James – nice to meet you! I’ve set up this (wonderfully informed and naturally exciting!) blog to try and take down the next few months of living in Central America.

To get the ball rolling here are 3 interesting facts on Panama!

1. Some people say that the name comes from an indigenous phrase meaning ‘many butterflies’ as the first european colonists arrived in August at the height of butterfly season. However since this comes attached to the phrase ‘Local legend says’ we can probably disregard it.

So where does that name come from?  The most common explanation is that Panama comes from the name of a local village which had huge fish stocks. Through complicated miscommunication by Spanish naval officers the name begin to stick and the rest is history. Unless of course you are a contemporary Panamanian (yes, that IS the correct term for a native of the delightful isthmus) in which case the direct translation of  ‘abundance of fish, trees and butterflies’ is more appropriate. Definitely a bit more exciting than Birmingham.

2. Over 21,000 frenchmen lost their lives in the unsuccessful first attempt at carving out the Panama Canal. Another 5600 American engineers and workers were sacrificed during the completion. Most of these casualties stemmed from diseases that are now preventable.

3.ANOTHER Panama Canal fact. The average toll for using the canal is a staggering $54,000. The highest fee was for the Disney Magic (a vast cruise ship) which cost the vast sum of $331,200 dollars. That’s a lot for a paddle down the river. However if you want to save some money you can always swim – Richard Halliburton was charged $0.36 for the cost of his cubic displacement through the locks.

Needless to say I am psyched about going now. Not just for the canal but also as this is a country which bridges continents, has the second largest rainforest in the northern hemisphere, a substantial standing group of the US armed forces around the canal and the smallest population of  a latin American country squeezed into the tiny tube of land between Costa Rica and Columbia.

Should be fun.

An engineer gauges the gap!


2 thoughts on “The weekend before

  1. Hi James,

    We met briefly over Skype when David was talking to you from Aus.

    I plan to follow your Central American adventures and wish you luck!

    You get my respect as you have gone several paragraphs without mentioning hats, I know I for one would have fallen at the first hurdle. Well one sir.


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