It’s a normal human impulse to have yearnings; to suffer under the belief that if certain things happen then a wish will have been fulfilled and the rest of life can be spent basking in the glories of something that was truly great.
“Be careful of what you wish for,” quoth my Granny, “For it might just come true.” Maybe she didn’t cite all those maxims but it seems appropriate to attribute them to her. She was a smart and realistic cookie. Anyway, it seems to me that she said that, and who is to quibble?
So, today I want to consider basically just one of the things that happened in my life that made it all just a little more worthwhile. That doesn’t mean that everything else in my personal history has paled in comparison. No-no-no. Falling in love has been everything it is meant to be in song and fable; making love has been even more than that on not a few occasions; living abroad for a year was superlative and broadening; travelling to Hawaii has never grown old; travelling to the genuine South Pacific even more so, and so on and so on. Lots of good stuff has happened.
But there was one sojourn that allowed me to fulfil a dream I’d had since I was a kid and that happened a year-and-a-half ago when I finally went through the Panama Canal. From the time I was a kid I was intrigued by the idea of passing from the Pacific to the Atlantic (Caribbean) and entering a new realm of the world after a traverse of only 77 kilometres. I also liked the idea of being in a place that marked the dividing line between North and South America. Indeed there is the recent Bridge of the Americas that crosses the canal to emphasize the point. And just south of that bridge the traveller enters the famed ‘Darien Gap’ that the Pan American Highway has yet to be completed through.
As we gathered at the Pacific entrance on the approach the the first locks and Miraflores, we joined many other ships sitting in wait. In the distance we could see the skyline of Panama City with its exotic highrises which leave an impression of Dubai so huge and modern are they. And then through to the first locks at Miraflores, opened in 1914 and still as watertight as they were over a century ago. Anyway, I was enraptured by the whole process and intrigued watching the little locomotives that tugged us and the huge Chinese freighter in the next lock to the destination.
The Panama Canal was no tiny feat as workers toiled and strained and died traversing a yellow fever infested jungle. In all for the American aspect of the venture, some 5,600 workers died (4,500 of them being West Indian, hence black; the much smaller remaining dead being white guys, go figure). Once you are through the initial locks you have a sideshow seat for the remainder of the journey. It’s quite pretty; jungly; and abounds in wildlife from egrets to coati mundis to crocodiles. In the middle you pass into Gatun Lake and this flooded section of the isthmus looks like ideal boating countries with little islets pinpointed throughout.
At the end it is out through the Gatun Locks and you enter the Caribbean, and then it’s over. It had been so anticipated by me I had hopes the trip would take longer. One of the little ironies of the canal is that the Caribbean exit lies actually to the west of the Pacific entry point.
Anyway, I have done the canal once and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Every expectation was met but sometimes a revisit of a good thing can be in order. Oh, and if you have ever toyed with making the trip I strongly advise it.