When I left you yesterday Prima Mejor and myself were in a cab on our way to Ancon Hill.
When in PTY you might notice a large flag fluttering on top of a very large hill in the Balboa area. This hill is not far from the Canal Administration Building and the Port of Balboa and is visible from many areas in the city. The large flag has been in place 24 hours a day since 1977 when the Torrijos-Carter treaty was signed and when Panama regained control of the hill and territory in the former Canal Zone.
Ancon Hill is rich in history but it also has many interesting animals and plants. The hill is the highest point in the city at 654 feet or 199 meters above sea level, and is worth the trip to the top. For much of the twentieth century the hill was under the jurisdiction of the United States and its citizens as part of the Panama Canal Zone and there are still some houses from that time that were a part of the town of Balboa. Some of the houses are quite grand but there are also small apartment buildings clinging to the hill and at least one is now a small hotel/hostal.
Most of the hill is a natural area because there has been little development. The hill’s rain-forest is home to different animal species and is a protected reserve and national heritage area that encompasses an area of 48.25 hectares. The park is open 365 days a year from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. There is no charge to get through the gates and to the top. If you’re lucky and keep your eyes open you may even see some pretty birds, monkeys or sloths. When we went it was the middle of the afternoon so the critters were being quiet except for a few birds that remained hidden in the trees.
Getting to Ancon Hill is easy, there is a small road for vehicles and controlled by security part way up. At that point the road is only wide enough for one lane of traffic and the security detail radios back and forth to allow for cars to take turns going up and down. We went up in the taxi but the hill is also used by visitors who decide to walk and because we went on a Sunday there were many people out exercising. I’ve been told that it can take anywhere from an hour or two to climb up and come back down. The hill is quite twisty and steep; especially if you’re not used to walking in the heat and humidity. If you’d prefer to do the walk and are taking a taxi to the bottom to begin the trek, it’s probably best to arrange for the driver to wait for you to come back down or go up and have him meet you at the top. Another option is to make a day of it and bring a picnic. You could walk down to Balboa later in the afternoon to find a taxi back to where you are staying. I think it would be best to go early in the morning before it’s too humid and hot and take plenty of water.
Once at the parking lot near the top there are several lookout areas further up the stairs where one can see different parts of the city.
From the Port of Balboa, The Bridge of Americas and the Canal to Casco Viejo and the towering skyscrapers that border the Bay of Panama, it’s all laid out in front of you depending on which way you turn.
On the day we went the rain clouds had cleared away by the time we got to the top and it was really quite beautiful and a great way to see how the city was laid out. I’d definitely like to return to Ancon Hill with visitors or SU…from the campo.