Lake Nicaragua – History, Honeymoon and the Panama Canal

August 29, 2011 No Comments

Ometepe Island Watercolor by Kate Rose Johnson

My fascination with the Panama Canal began sometime in 7th grade social studies with Mr. Farley.  Mr. Farley didn’t have his own teeth any longer, was hunched over and short of breath.  There was a slackness about his frame that immediately caused sympathy to see.  At least from me,  I suspect other 7th graders didn’t notice.  He was smart and got it, and got me, I suppose before I got myself.  He inspired me by giving me free reign to explore what projects I wanted.

A project in geography burst into an ambitious to-scale version of the Panama Canal.  Soon I was obsessed by history – the shear scale of the project, the human toll and the economics of it.  I had my dad help me to cut and then jigsaw a piece of plywood into shape, after hours and hours of paper maiche and paint, my 3D Panama canal was an exact replica of the real thing.

Everyone talks about the canal but so few people know of the history: the people who contributed to its construction and the battles over where to build.  Which leads me to Ometepe Island on Lake Nicaragua where the canal was originally going to be built.  I’m here on an adventurous honeymoon.  A few months ago, I’d dreamed of going to a beach and staying there on the sand for an entire week, just relaxing after the wedding.  But then suddenly, we changed our minds and decided that we wanted a bit of an adventure for our honeymoon.  We’ve taken an old ferry out to this twin peak volcano island where time seems to stand still.

The economy of the island is based on the farming of plantains and we see boatloads of them leaving the island.  As we settle into our hostel cabin, I laugh noticing that our door locks with a simple padlock.    I stare out into the driving afternoon rain and love that I’m far away from anywhere normal, especially anywhere expected for a honeymoon.  I’m also happy for that 7th grader inside me, who spent hours reading about the history of this area, of this lake and how it has the only fresh water sharks in the world, and how it was passed up for a canal because of the volcanoes and political instability.  There’s part of me that’s happy that this lake and land are unspoiled from a canal.

I’m glad I got to see part of the history behind the Panama Canal, but now I am really eager to see the Panama Canal itself!  If I do go, I think it must be by ship to see the entire length and for an anniversary.  Perhaps I’ll stay at the Veneto Panama hotel.


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