We crammed into the marina’s free 22-person shuttle bus, taking every available seat and then some on the first of its two daily round trips to a shopping center in a safe part of town. Most of the people on the bus were doing their grocery shopping at the nice, big grocery store. We were leaving soon, so we had no need for that. Instead, the driver dropped us off at a big hardware store a few blocks away. We picked up tools and painting supplies that we'll need when we return to Panama. We were glad to not be paying marina prices for a change.
Apart from there being a guy in fatigues with a loaded shotgun and a pistol posted every hundred feet or so, the shopping center was just like any other first world shopping center. It was nice to get stocked up, but the real highlight of the trip for us was that is was our first chance to actually get a look at the Panama Canal. In fact, we ended up waiting twenty minutes or so at the Gatun locks for the little one-way swing bridge at the bottom to close so we could cross. Two big cruise ships were locking up from the Atlantic. Their decks and every balcony were filled with passengers watching the process as the little railway engines ran along the tops of lock walls to get into position for the next lock.
We also discovered that Shelter Bay seems like it’s in a compound because it is. About five miles from the marina, we came across a barbed wire fence and a military guardhouse at the entrance to the national park and wildlife reserve within which the marina resides.
It was nice to get out, but it turned out it was nice to get back to the quiet and relative safety of the marina afterwards.