16 March, 2018: A stone's throw from Shelter Bay Marina is the Chagres National Park. We had heard that at the end of the road going through it, a good 10km along, was an old fort that might be fun to explore with the kids. Time to get the bikes out! We also heard that there were drinks vendors at the fort, a fact that we held onto during the bike ride, when the litre bottle of water we had brought with us was polished off in the first couple of kilometres. My goodness, what with the heat and the hills it was thirsty work. Still, cycling through the jungle was fun. Monkeys chattering all around us, always just out of sight, beautiful blue butterflies darting around and lianas grazing the floor. At one point we stopped to take a photo and heard a creak, as though a tree were about to fall. We pressed on quickly, and on our way back found a large bough had fallen across the road. I was fascinated as we cycled over the River Chagres to find that Colombus had named it "Rio de los Lagartos" (River of the Lizards) originally, after the caiman with which it was crawling.
San Lorenzo Fort was built at the end of the sixteenth century, commissioned by Phillip II of Spain and what a view it commands. The first fort had been made of wood, which was totally unsuitable given the humid climate and quickly deteriorated, helped along by "that pirate Francis Drake" who set fire to it in 1596. It was rebuilt, wood again, and a hundred years another English pirate, Henry Morgan, burned it to the ground when he was done sacking Panama. It was all a bit embarrassing really. Finally the fort was rebuilt using stone, and still endures. The view from the top looking out across the bay was fantastic, and doesn't look as though it has changed at all over the centuries. We were, quite simply, transported.
Music credit: The Sailors' Lament, by Audionautix