One of the greatest ever-built human works lies at about ten kilometers from Panama City. Started by a French company and ended by the Americans at the beginning of the 20th century, it's more than 200 millions tons of rock which were excavated to build the Panama canal. We may pay tribute to the workers, mainly coming from the West Indies, without whom, the achievement of this Pharaonic project would be remained in the head of some megalomaniac leaders.
The canal counts 2 lanes of 3 giant locks. And to go through, the hull of the ship must respect the Panamax norm that is to say about 300 meters long and 30 meters wide. A size which seemed unreachable when the canal was opened, almost one century ago. But the elements changed and the Panamanian government, who took back the sovereignty over the canal on the 1st of January 2000, plans to invest several billions of dollars in its extension in order to double the capacity of container ships and to make sheep's eyes at the shipowners to cross the country.
Today, a cruise liner gets into the first lock, the Miraflores lock. No less than 2500 people on board and a lot of onlookers appreciate the play of the sluice gates which makes the sea colossus go up and down. A relatively short stop which will cost the modest sum of 275 000 $. A drop of water into an ocean like the land immensity that surrounds the canal.
Keyword - boat trip -
Sunday 14 December 2008
Friday 12 December 2008
Humboldt wasn't mistaken. The calm waters of the Atitlan lake adorned with majestic volcanoes promise an exceptional emotional trip. On its banks, the inspiration-seeking artists find again their muse and the too-hurried travelers freeze for a couple of days to recharge their batteries. I sit down on the dirty pebble beach and look at the wavelets which ripple on the surface of the lake. I make ricochet some stones and my eyes get lost in the distance following the refined outline of the Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro volcanoes. I intensively live my last Guatemalan place because I'm leaving tomorrow to Panama and an only-3-day stop. I had planned to stay longer over there but the northern part of Central American brought me so many sensory treasures that I stayed there and postponed my visit to Panama and Costa Rica for a next trip.
Guatemala is a fantastic country. Despite an obsessive fear roaming around the insecurity of its cities and remote lands, the encounter of its extremely kind and hospitable people leaves a deep mark on me and some indelible prints in my memory.
On the boat that links the coastal villages of the lake, I make the acquaintance of two Guatemalans. This kind of encounter you can't take a picture of, you can't precisely relate but you fully live. What could be better to summarize a marvelous sojourn where the good humour of the verbal exchanges stands out on a fabulously beautiful scenery.
Tuesday 2 December 2008
Despite the narrowness of its area, Belize holds the second longest coral reef in the world after the Australian one. Not far from its coast, the whims of the geology gave birth to and assortment of more or less elongated islands, locally known as « cayes ». From Belize city, the economic capital of the country, I take the shuttle that drops me off at Caye Caulker, one hour away. A small fishermen's village which transformed itself into a holidays destination for backpackers on a budget. The dusty streets cross-rule this hamlet where pile up hotels, restaurants and diving centers.
The snorkeling and scuba diving are one of the main appeals of this island because, on the beaches side, there are nonexistent. Then, I book a 3-tank outing at the Frenchie's divers club for the next day.
Two hours away by boat, the nature has got one of its quirks in store for us; a perfect deep-blue circle that stands out from the surrounding turquoise. A view from above and this curiosity takes all its dimensions. However, not everything happens in the sky because the sunken part of this 100m-wide 130m-deep blue hole acts like a magnet to divers; a wall with an astounding verticality hiding a -40m submarine grotto. Inside the formerly open-air cavity, over-several-meter-high titanic stalagmites formed. In the distance, gray reef sharks seem to be held prisoner in the aquatic trap set by the blue hole. A dive unfortunately too short but rich on the emotional level.
Before getting back, 2 other dives complete the programme, Half Moon Wall and The Aquarium as well as a break on a heavenly island, Half Moon Caye. Turtles, rays, barracudas express themselves within this submarine paradise which vindicate the two-hour trip on a rough sea.
(image empruntée à National Geographic)
And to harmoniously finish my round-the-world trip in diving, I breathe my last puffs of compressed air in the Hol Chan marine reserve. I stay for long minutes lost in admiration for spotted eagle-rays. The kind of fabulous animals which feed my passion and the desire to merge with the aquatic universe.
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