12/18/12 73 °F
Well, it's been five days now since my last blog and here's a recap of what I've been up to:
After our day in Panama, we had three straight days in a row at sea. The first one was spent transiting the Panama Canal (did anyone catch us on the canal cam??). That was a very cool experience. We entered the first set of locks at about 6:30 am, which is also when a narrator joined us on the ship to give us a play-by-play of what was happening. The locks are used to lower the ship down to a different water level. The ship moves into this concrete box-like structure and the water starts to slowly be let out so the ship begins to sink down. The very first set of locks brought us down 85 feet! The other two sets were each about 30 feet. So we started in the Atlantic Ocean, went through the three sets of locks and ended up in the Pacific! There are just a couple key details that I'm leaving out that make up the process, but you can Google it to learn more (and because there are many other sources that are much more educated on it than I am!). But it really was a very cool and memorable experience.
The next two days were business as usual for days at sea - for me, this typically means eating breakfast, going to Spanish for Beginners class, then catching a few lectures and/or workshops on topics like travel writing, politics and the Constitution, photography, civil rights, etc. Then it's lunchtime, followed by potentially another talk or a yoga class or maybe a game of bingo. Eventually it's dinner time, which we usually opt to have in the Garden Lounge and at the buffet. There is a seated, waiter-service dinner but so far we've reserved that for only the Captain's Dinner and will do it again on Christmas Eve and NYE. After dinner, there's usually some kind of entertainment in the form of a comedian, a magician, a singer, a guitar player, a piano player or maybe a movie night. Then its drinks at the piano bar or at the lounge, where they have a DJ who plays music. They do try hard to keep us busy and we try hard not to complain about the repetition - but the three days in a row on the ship did make us just a little bit stir crazy! I'm having a hard time remembering how we did it for even longer stints on Semester at Sea!
But yesterday we finally made port again in Guayaquil, Ecuador. They scared us a bit with travel advisories and cautionary tales about how this was going to be the most dangerous port we were visiting, so we were slightly nervous about this one. But we ended up having a great day. A group of six of us piled into one taxi (yes, literally, we piled in) and headed into the downtown part of the city, where our first stop was the Iguana Park. Can you guess what you see at the Iguana Park? Yep, lots of iguanas, who call the place home and just roam about freely, walking where they want, sleeping where they want, and doing their, ahem, business where they want, regardless of whichever poor tourist may happen to be crossing beneath the tree they are presently perched in (we did not befall this misfortune personally, but we did witness a couple others who were not as lucky). You really can get pretty up close and personal with the iguanas, so it was kind of cool.
From there, we went to find the Malecon, which is a river walk that runs along the water and takes you to to an area called Las Penas, which is a 444-stair climb that you can take to a great lookout point high above the city. I had been feeling under the weather the past few days (I've caught a cold on the last couple of trips I've taken - it's becoming a really annoying pattern!) so I was dubious about the feat, but I managed to pull it off! And the payoff was great. Guayaquil ended up exceeding our expectations and we had a great day, capped off by a visit to one of the most famous shops to sell authentic Panama hats (yep, these are actually made in Ecuador, not Panama - another thing for you to Google!).
Today was another fairly uneventful day at sea and tomorrow we reach Peru, where we'll be for three days. I'm looking forward to exploring Lima, which I've heard great things about. I'll fill you in on my next post!