Gridlock and Burning Building

Even by Panama’s standards of crazy traffic, yesterday was crazy! It took us (me and the three children) two and a half hours to travel from our house on the outskirts to our friend’s Punta Paitilla apartment. We could have driven from Glasgow to Newcastle in the time it took us to travel approximately 5 miles. Talk about frustrating, exhausting etc. Fortunately the youngest kiddie fell asleep after the first hour and a quarter.

The delays seemed to be caused by a burning building on Avenida Balboa, the sea front road that leads into the city. I took some pics of the edifice with my phone:


It really is a beautiful building, still under construction. The smoke was billowing from the basement. Although the building is not completed, the BICSA bank has a branch, presumably non-operational, in the lower stories.


This was THE most frustrating journey, as even after passing the burning building, there was gridlock everywhere, no way out. The last mile took one complete hour. And if you’re wondering why I didn’t get out and walk – three children, one of which asleep – cars parked everywhere along all the sidewalks etc. So, we had no choice but to sit it out, inching forward – literally.

Eventually we reached our friend’s apartment, only for the elevator to judder to a halt at floor 34, three stories short of our destination! I managed to hide my panic from the children, and after a minute the elevator started going back down, stopping at floor 33. Now, there had been a nice friendly man in with us on the way up, and I noticed he got out on this floor, so I took a chance and rang his doorbell. Sure enough he was super friendly and used his key card to send the elevator up to our floor. Thank you señor!!! And, did I mention that my phone had died – just when i really was depending on it? Oh yes, this was quite the journey!

So we finally arrived at my dear friend’s apartment and collapsed in a heap! Luckily they are our best best friends in Panama and they looked after us all with lunch, time in the pool and dinner too, so we didn’t have to brave the traffic again until nighttime, when it had finally dispersed. Phew!

Here is a pic of the building smoking away, as seen from my friend’s balcony!


Anyway by the time we left to go home, the fire seemed to be under control!

Supposedly, even after yesterday’s chaos, they are closing this street today to erect a giant screen showing a soccer match between Panama and Honduras. This is one of the main routes through Panama City, and it is gridlock every Friday, so I don’t know where the authorities think all these cars are going to go….

Crazy traffic, crazy place, but I wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world even so!


2 thoughts on “Gridlock and Burning Building

    1. Thanks Jeff! Glad you like it! This was an interesting article, thanks. I did not know that road to Saan Blas was only a couple of years old. Part of it is practically impassable now – there has been a landslide which swept one side of it down a steep hillside, and the rest of it is very precarious. I would only drive it if you have another car of friends behind you, and a winch, in case something goes wrong. They may have fixed the road by now, as I am talking a few months ago now.
      Great to hear from you. 🙂

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