For several years I’ve felt the itch to go to Gamboa and take a few pictures of the Gamboa Bridge and the Gamboa Rainforest Resort at the Panama Canal. Since the Canal Zone had been turned over to the Republic of Panama on midday of December 1999, I hadn’t returned there. I cherished the memories of both sites and couldn’t resist the temptation of finding out what had happened to those two places since the turnover. For one reason or another, the visit had been postponed for more than eleven years.
Yesterday, Sunday, January 22, 2012 I woke up early and set my compass to the Panama Canal. Finally I was determined to take those pictures no matter what. Had breakfast about 6:00 a.m. and started the engine of my car half an hour later. Driving to Gamboa was a breeze, since traffic was almost nonexistent. When I got to Gamboa Bridge, I pulled over to a lookout of the Chagres River, parked the car, fetched my Birthday camera and walked over to the famous single track bridge that crosses the Chagres River exactly at the point where it flows into Gatun Lake.
The day was perfect for picture-taking. The sky above was pale blue, the trees were twinkling with a zillion shades of green, the shining sun was out, and there was a persistent soft breeze blowing from the North-West. The scene was perfect for my pictures. I strolled over to the bridge and took several shots of the structure and to a Panama Canal tug stationed just outside Culebra Cut floating above the deep blue waters of the canal.
When I had enough pictures taken, I walked back to my car, using the Panama Canal Railroad as my route. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but abruptly I lost my balance after stepping on the pebbles of loose gravel and like Humpty Dumpty, fell to the ground. My glasses went down, as I tried to cushion the fall using my left arm and my right knee. The pain was excruciating. For a while I just lay there, thinking if I was dead or alive. I turned on my back and looked at the blue sky above. I was paralyzed with fear and would not move an inch. No kidding–for a brief moment I didn’t know if I was part of this world or not. It’s scary to think that in a blink of an eye, you can cut the frail thread that connects you to a thing called Life.
Then gradually I started moving my limbs in slow motion, trying to determine if I was still in one piece. Fortunately I was intact, except for an acute pain on my left arm and a bruised right knee. I got up and limped painfully to my car where my wife was waiting in a state of shock. She thought I had fallen off a precipice and was dead. When I got up, she told me she had seen a ghost.
She aided me to the car and gave me some water to calm my nerves. I was badly beaten up. The pain on my left arm was too hurtful to put in printed words. My pants were all torn up at the height of my right knee. I looked like a perfect wreck. Still I was determined to drive over to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort and finalize my picture-taking project.
Driving very slowly, we got there, had a buffet breakfast with a price tag of $22.38 and rested for about two hours enjoying the view of the hotel and its accommodations. The vista of the lake and the rainforest was absolutely awesome. Even though I was hurting badly, the visit to the hotel was a rich experience. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”
We got back home at approximately eleven o’clock in the morning. I could hardly walk and there was a new pain on the left part of my chest. I could hardly breathe. We called out family doctor and he prescribed an antibiotic called Fucidin cream to avoid any infections on my knee, and Vol Taren Emulgel to alleviate the pain on my chest and left arm. He said to intake Arcoxia 120 miligrams pills after breakfast if the pain persisted.
I’m writing this blog post at exactly 12:42 a.m. barely touching the keyboard with my left hand. It hurts a lot, but the show must go on and Lingua Franca has to continue. All photographers have felt the pain in one time or another for their passion. If I plan to become a photographer, I must pay the price. Today I earned my Purple Heart. That’s Okay, I’m willing to pay the price. Next time I’ll avoid the railroad, or crawl instead of walking, and do anything to get the shots.
Below is a picture of my punctured black pants. Their useful days are over now. It’s a rag, a strong reminder that there is no such thing as a free lunch, a walk in the park or easy as pie. After completing this post, I plan to go back to bed and finish the evening the best I can. The pain is still inside my body. Ouch!
Snapshot of my torn and soiled black pants, a silent victim of my accident at Gamboa Bridge on Sunday morning, January 22, 2012. The garment is now worthless. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
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