We had booked a non-cruise ship shore excursion, which is considered risky by most, and believe me I was concerned. The name of the tour group is My Friend Mario, or Almiza Tours. We were given very detailed directions on where to meet the tour guide with a warning that other folks may try to say they our tour guide, but in reality, they may not be. When we walked off the ship we headed straight to the meeting point, and we were accosted by several other tour operators along the way. But we found our Tour Guide right at the bottom of the escalator just as promised. Apparently this was Mario # 3, and we were to be with Mario # 2 (there are at least 4 Marios that work for this company). He said we had to wait since they were waiting for others to come off the cruise ship as well, and directed us to the gift shops nearby to wait.
We got into the car and Mario started driving first to a gas station to fill up. Colon is a very run down and in fact very scary city. Very dirty and just felt very uncomfortable, and this from an ex-New Yorker. Luckily our tour had nothing to do with Colon... Soon enough we were on our way. First Mario started heading to the Gatun locks, but decided against it as all the cruise ship buses were heading that way, so change of plan and we headed straight to Panama City.
|Church at the main square in San Felipe|
|Modern Panama City from Ancon Hill|
|Panama City from Ancon Hill|
Our next stop was going to the top of Ancon hill, which was part of the old American military base. We got a beautiful view of Panama City and the Canal. I then checked to see fi a cache was nearby, and yes there was about 250 ft from where I was. So while my wife walked around the hill with Mario, I quickly side-tracked to find the cache. It was a quick find. Caches hides here have to be weather proofed due to all the rain they get. The cache was double bagged, as well as the log...
After Ancon hill, Mario took us to the Miraflores Locks visitor center. We spent a good hour at the center. Mario got us brochures that the cruise ship groups were giving out, which was cool. We watched sail boats as well as a large freighter go thru the locks.
It was starting to get dark, so we headed back to Colon. Again seeing Colon, I have no interest and touring that city, but Panama City was wonderful! We got back in plenty time to do some shopping at the port. We paid Mario for the tour (Which was less then half the cost of the Cruise ship tour to Panama City), plus a pretty hefty tip for the great job he did. I would recommend My Friend Mario tour anytime!
On board ship we ate in the main dining room and saw the evening entertainment, Glenn Smith, pianist/entertainer who was fun to watch...
Next stop: Transit the Panama Canal!!
|Sail boats going thru MiraFlores Locks|
|Old Streetcar tracks in San Felipe|