We are at the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal waiting to transit on Friday and with time on our hands we thought we would cycle over and look at the Gatun locks that we will be passing through this week. They have the huge, really nice, informative Agua Clara Visitor Center there as well.
But WE WERE NOT ALLOWED IN because of the heinous and unforgivable crime of riding there on pushbikes and not burning fossil fuels or polluting the environment!
It all started off nicely with a 14 km ride through the jungle to the Gatun locks. They are really impressive but hidden behind high fences topped with razor wire. We asked a security guard how to get to the visitor center and he explained we should head about four kilometer down river, cross over the four lane, eighty meter high Atlantic suspension bridge and then cycle another five kilometers back up river.
No problem. More jungle. More kilometers. More training.
We reached the beautifully laid out visitor center and asked where to park our bikes. Maybe we should have just asked where we could leave our machine guns or stash our cocaine? The reaction could not have been worse. The guy at the gate called the “security lady” who was wearing a side arm and was seriously annoyed that we were on bikes. Apparently it is absolutely, totally illegal to cycle to the visitor center. No way would we ever be allowed entry.
We could have come on a motorbike, a gas guzzling Hummer or on the back of the dirtiest oil burning pickup but NO WAY were we allowed to arrive by bike. Apparently there was a sign informing us of this at the bottom of the hill.
A tour guide tried to reason with the storm trooper but by now she had called up back-up and three sets of armed, evil eyes were glowering at us looking like extras from some film about a 20 century Junta. Is this how eco-terrorists feel when they protest against global warming.
We were obviously not going to be allowed to discover all the great ways that the Panama Canal has helped the local wildlife and the environment in general so we cycled back to the boat. We did find the promised sign but it still looks like it refers to a farm track rather than the beautifully surfaced (but totally forbidden) road.
I am just glad she never found out we arrived on a sailing boat using the wind and not via a kerosene burning aeroplane. She would probably of locked us to the railings and beaten us. We were lucky to escape from the Agua Clara Visitor Center.
We cycled 52km and saved 30USD by being refused entry. 🙂