Saturday, November 22, 2008


Check out the live camera views
of the Panama Canal


Through the Panama Canal

Continuing on the cruise, we sailed from Cartagena in the middle of the afternoon, heading toward Central America and the mouth of the Panama Canal. The seas were rough that night, and I went up to the top deck at about 9 PM, where I saw the water in the pools sloshing back and forth like a wave pool in a water park. That was too good to pass up -- I got my swimming suit on and swam in the rough waters, being splashed from side to side, as if I were caught in a storm at sea. It was a blast! The pool deck was almost entirely deserted, with most passengers having a late dinner or attending the singing-and-dancing extravaganza show (not my cup of tea).

Next morning we woke up early to find the cruise ship already stopped just inside the Panama Canal waiting in a line of freighters and other cruise ships to go through the first set of locks. In my various novels, I have often described gigantic engineering projects -- the Death Star, the Manhattan Project, constructing huge star ships, terrorists at the Hoover Dam or the Kennedy Space Center -- and I had been looking forward to seeing this marvel. For several days now, the ship TV had been playing a historical special about the creation of the Panama Canal, so we had some idea of what an incredible feat it was.

Rebecca and I stood at the stern deck to watch the giant locks close behind us after the ship went into the first chamber. Her parents were also out there, one deck below, and we waved and took photos. We passed through two enormous locks to be raised up to the level of a large lake, that comprises a significant portion of the canal itself. All day long we sailed across the lake, then back into the narrow canal cut through the Continental Divide.

We sailed past heavy machinery maintaining and dredging the canal. On shore, work crews were always busy, even in the incredible humidity. I edited a short story I had written for a horror anthology and e-mailed it off this morning, and also proofed another stack of pages for ENEMIES & ALLIES. Rebecca and I brainstormed some new plot ideas for Terra Incognita #2, then she went to a spa treatment. In the afternoon we met her parents in the card room to play a few games before dinner. We passed down through three more locks, until we finally reached the Pacific Ocean just at sunset.

With plenty of time on board the ship, we've had a chance to see quite a few recent movies we had missed in the theater -- Michael Clayton, National Treasure 2, Sex and the City, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Atonement. We're about to go see Indiana Jones IV in the big auditorium for the afternoon (Rebecca hasn't seen it yet), and we'll probably catch Mamma Mia tonight -- notice the balanced mix of action and chick flicks.

Tomorrow morning we have tours in Costa Rica. I'm going on a strenuous hike in the rainforest and volcanoes, while Rebecca and her parents take a bus tour. We head to Nicaragua the next day, Guatemala the day after that. We're having a great time and recharging our batteries as fast as we can. 

-- KJA


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