There have been many different times during our travels where we either had to travel by water to reach our destination or we chose to take a tour on the water. Generally speaking, travel by water is not our first choice, but looking back it is amazing how often we end up in a boat. In fact, at least recently, almost every trip we’ve taken has ended up with some sort of water excursion. Here are a few of the different water adventures that we’ve enjoyed, but it is certainly just a sampling. Do you enjoy traveling by boat or taking cruises?
The Locks of the Panama Canal
Any visit to Panama City should certainly include visiting the locks at the Panama Canal. The new locks opened in 2016 and is definitely a source of national pride for the country as this was the first project run by Panama in the canal. Although you don’t have to understand the history of the Panama Canal to appreciate how impressive the locks are from an engineering perspective. It is obviously much more than a source of pride for the country as every ship that passes through the canal pays fees that can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and potentially even up to a million dollars.
The new locks are able to accommodate even larger ships as well as allow ships to get through the locks even faster, both of which means more revenue for the country. The new and old locks sit side by side and both are always in use as ships queue up to wait their turn to get through the locks. Tug boats steer them into the locks, which either raise or lower the water depending upon the direction they are going in order to allow them to continue on their journey. Depending upon the time of year, the new locks have the ability to reserve the water and reuse it for each time that the water is raised and lowered in order to keep the dam levels in Gutan Lake at an appropriate level.
The original design for the canal by the French engineers was to just build a sea level canal without the use of locks. The original construction of the canal failed for a lot of reasons including yellow fever and the sheer difficulty of the task. When the US took over construction, they originally considered continuing to do a sea level canal, but eventually concluded that the locks would be a better solution. The Panama Canal was first completed in 1913, however it was overshadowed by the start of World War I. It remained an important military strategic advantage for the United States through the end of World War II.
When visiting the locks, be sure to either go to the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Viejo beforehand or at least listen to the 20 minute video at the canal locks themselves. A visit to the locks will only take you about an hour, but be sure to stay long enough to at least watch one ship enter or leave the locks so that you can see them in action. We went as part of a longer tour, which is a great way to see the locks and then end up out on the canal itself. We were also treated to something special as our guide arranged it for us to walk across the old locks, which isn’t normally allowed. We weren’t allowed to stop or take pictures as we hustled across the lock. We also drove back across the locks, which is fascinating as well, but that road will not be used in the future when the new bridge is finished.
The Banks of the Nile
Cruising down the Nile River from Luxor to Aswan when we were in Egypt was a wonderful experience. Obviously there were the temples that we visited along the way, but just cruising on the Nile was relaxing and wonderful. It was a great way to beat the heat and most of the cruise ships have a pool on the upper deck to help you cool off. The shoreline is covered with tropical trees and plants, but the desert is clearly visible not far in the distance. It is amazing how narrow the actual vegetation actually is and how hard life must be for those people who live along the banks.
As the ship cruised down the Nile, children would run to the shore and wave at the passengers excitedly. Other times, we saw children swimming and splashing near the shore, doing their best to get out of the heat as well. Occasionally we would see some boats with fisherman, but the ship usually sailed in the afternoon and was docked in the morning, so we weren’t on the water when most fisherman would be out. Although we saw plenty of feluccas in Cairo, most of the boats, other than other cruise ships, were much simpler.
Seeing the Temple of Kom Ombo in the afternoon after we left Edfu, was truly incredible. We could see the temple columns off in the distance as we rounded one of the river bends and it loomed larger the closer that we came to the dock. Other than the many sunsets that we saw, the temple was probably the most fascinating sight that we saw. We spent four days and three nights on the cruise and every day brought different and yet similar views of the shoreline.
For anyone visiting Egypt, we would recommend taking a cruise down the Nile River. The cruises go both directions, either from Luxor to Aswan or from Aswan to Luxor. It is possible to do the tour by land, but we feel that if you have the time, going by ship is far better. We were fortunate that our tour company booked us on one of the nicer cruise ships and we enjoyed our time onboard very much.