When I heard about Cerro Ancón, I knew I wanted to climb it. It is a patch of nature close to Panama City, and I was curious to see it for myself. When my Panamanian friend hears about my plan, she gets all excited about the idea and we decide to go together. We drive through Friday morning traffic to the foot of the hill in the early morning. We find a spot to park on the north side of Cerro Ancón, get our stuff, and start hiking. The temperature is perfect. The hill rises straight in front of us, and we soon find the right trail. My friend tells me a bit about the history while we walk up. This area was US territory as part of the Panama Canal Zone until it was handed back to Panama in 1977. We see several old buildings, which once housed staff working for the Canal.
As soon as we pass a checkpoint, we know that the road is ours. Traffic is no longer allowed to drive, so the only way up is to hike. We make frequent stops, to see tropical flowers from close up, to read the text on a signboard, to try and spot a bird, to look through the trees and see part of the city below. Even under the thick tree cover, the temperature is still very friendly for hikers. In fact, we see quite a few cyclists and runners working their way up the asphalt road. We hear many animals, but in the dense forest, it is next to impossible to actually spot any one of them. We do manage to see capybaras though. But judging from the sounds we hear, there must be more, and bigger, animals that manage to remain unseen. To reach the highest point of Ancon Hill, we climb stairs, reach an area with some buildings, and walk towards the Panamanian flag that flies high above us from the highest point of the hill at 199 metres.
But we cannot reach the flag. The top of the hill is closed off by a fence. Just before it, we see a statue of Amelia Denis de Icaza. In fact, the road leading to Ancon Hill is named after her. It turns out she is a famous Panamanian poet, who wrote a poem about Ancon Hill and its importance for Panamanians back in 1906. The poem was rooted in her sadness about the fact that the hill was in hands of the US at the time. She would not live to see the hill return to Panamanian hands in 1977, but is still revered as a champion of Panamanian nationalism. In fact, the flag we see on top of Ancon Hill was raised immediately when the hill became Panamanian again. Next to the statue, we see a viewpoint from where we can see the old city of Panama. After playing a little with a dog, we walk to another viewpoint where we get a beautiful view of the first part of Panama Canal with Miraflores Locks. A big ship is sailing up the canal. Close to it, we see hundreds of containers stacked up. It is time to hike down again. By the time we reach the foot of the hill again, the temperature is noticeably higher and it is more humid - we have hiked up at the right time of the day.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Cerro Ancón (Panama). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Cerro Ancón. Read more about this site.