Today’s mission was to catch an AA meeting over at the Ancon group by the promontory that overlooks the city. We were moving at a more leisurely pace this morning, taking advantage of the excellent breakfast that is included with the room. Jorge, our waiter, took great care of us. He’s from Columbia and told us to come back tomorrow “same time, same channel”. The internet indicated a Saturday meeting at 11:00, so we caught a cab and headed off to find the group. When we finally found the location, there was no meeting going on.
The hall was on the old Ancon military base where the administration building for the canal is located. It has since been converted to civilian housing and offices. We walked around the beautiful grounds surrounding the Goethal Memorial. A woman in traditional folklorico dress was doing a photo shoot as a group of kids were working on their karate moves near the stairs. We decided that a hike up the hill to the viewpoint at Ancon Hill would be a good idea since we were already here.
I think we ended up taking the long way around. We took a wrong turn into the elite S.W.A.T. headquarters and were immediately stopped by armed guards and sent on towards our destination. We ended up back on the highway leading into Chorillo. After picking up a tote bag for our stuff at the artesan market, we walked down the hill. As we were rounding the corner where all of the anti-American murals adorned the retaining walls, a car pulled to a stop and warned us to put away our camera while walking through this neighborhood. We walked a little more attentively the rest of the way up to the gate to the reserve then started the upward climb to Ancon Hill.
PJ set a brisk pace and we were soon working up a lather as we marched up the steep road interspersed with sections of steep stairs. Along the hike, portions of views of the city would peek through the trees. There were a few other people out for the Saturday, families mostly and locals coming to see the vista.
Sweat was dripping from my brow by the time we reached the top. There were tall communication towers at the crest and lightening strikes were coming alarmingly close. The thunder was booming. One kid covered his ears and ran back down the stairs. Probably the smartest one of us all. As we circled the hilltop, we got views of Casco Antiguo, the canal and the downtown high rise area. We tarried awhile then as the rain began to fall more steadily, we returned to the administration area by a different trail that allowed us to avoid the sketchy neighborhood we arrived through.
Passing through the old Army base that is now housing for the well to do, we saw a few agoutis then along the paved road, PJ jumped back as she nearly stepped on a boa constrictor crossing the street. We waved off a few fast approaching cars and I herded the serpent back to the bushes with a stick to keep him safe. We found ourselves back at the memorial then exited the area and grabbed a bite to eat before catching a cab home to the Intercontinental.
We showered up and did a bit of lounging. PJ really wanted to have a look at the oldest area of the city, Old Panama. When Henry Morgan attacked Panama this was the heart of the city that burned to the ground. Our taxi driver Benjamin drove us to the entrance but they had closed at 3:30. He knew a lot about the history. Fifteen years ago, he had picked up a Colombian businessman who told him all of the history of his own city as he drove the man through the area. He vowed then to learn the city’s history, so he took it upon himself to study and learn as much as he could. He was friendly and engaging and explained what he could as he slowed to choruses of honking horns to point out various sites to us.
He left us off at the bookstore on the way home and we thanked him for his kindness. PJ is getting serious about Central American history, so we combed the English language section of the mall bookseller. We came out with a few good reads and taxied home for another relaxing night at the hotel.