Saturday, June 7, 2008
Working and Working Out in Ciudad Neilly
Our plan was to catch the 2pm bus back down the mountain to Ciudad Neilly. We walked in the afternoon heat to the sleepy bus station and found it closed for lunch. Took a taxi back to the town square and I went into the air conditioned internet cafe. They have nice computers with large flat screen monitors. $1 per hour seems to be the standard fee for internet access in all these small Costa Rican towns.
At 1:30 I met up with Tracy and we asked a taxi to take us back to the bus station. "Where are you going?" he wanted to know. "Ciudad Neilly." "I'm going there," he said. "I'll take you both for 3,000 colones."
3,000 colones is only $6 or so. True, the bus would only cost 600 colones apiece, but the bus is slow, crowded, and takes a very indirect route.
Just at that moment a tall American woman approached us. She was only the second gringo I had seen in three days. "Can I help you guys with something?" "Do you live here?" I asked. "Yes," she said, "in Sabalito. We come here now and then to shop."
The American woman told us we must be mistaken, no taxi would take us all the way to Ciudad Neilly for 3,000 colones. "It must be 30,000," she said. I verified the price again with the driver and the woman said, "Well, it's an incredible deal." I would have liked to talk to her further and find out what she and her husband were doing in this remote place - most likely they were farming, or perhaps running a hotel - but the taxi was leaving right away.
The trip that had taken 2.5 hours in the bus took only 1 hour in the taxi, though of course the taxi was going downhill. It rained much of the way and the road was draped in mist and fog. I ate almonds and an apple and listened to Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) songs on my iPod. The driver let us off at the Hotel Andrea, the largest and nicest hotel in Neilly, and we paid him the 3,000 colones. I almost expected some sort of problem, since the American woman had been so incredulous that we could get a ride at that price, but no, the driver said, "Thank you and have a good day."
The Hotel Andrea is comfortable and attractive, and not a bad deal at $40. I went out to find an internet cafe and located one only a few blocks from the hotel, across from the large Loaiza grocery store. Air conditioned, good computers, not crowded. I worked for three hours (again $1 per hour for access), then back to the hotel.
I asked the concierge about finding a gym in Neilly. She was very young looking and I later found out that she'll be 18 in a week, and is working at the hotel in summer, and going to university soon to study journalism. She told me of a gym 2 kilometers down the highway. I decided to look around on my own, and lo and behold, I found a small neighborhood gym catercorner from the Loaiza grocery, just around the corner from the hotel.
The gym consisted of one small room crowded with equipment and almost 20 people exercising, more of them women than men. I paid $2 to use the facility, and proceeded to work out very hard. No one was using the leg press machine or the lat pulldown, so I went back and forth between those two, working them heavy, breathing hard. I must have looked like I knew what I was doing because one fellow approached me and wanted to know if the pulldown is for the chest. "No," I told him. "La espalda." The back.
The walls were mirrored and occasionally I saw that people were watching me, probably because I was a stranger and a foreigner to boot. A gym that small, they probably all know each other. The gym was not air conditioned and soon I was dripping sweat. I did some heavy shoulder presses with dumbbells - there were several sets of dumbbells but no one using them, maybe because many people don't know what to do with them or believe that machines are better (they're not) - then washed up in the tiny bathroom, thanked the clerk, and went across the street to the grocery store.
Again, people watching me, but maybe now because I was drenched in sweat. Maybe they thought, "Look at this sweaty gringo, he can't take the humidity." In reality I don't even feel the humidity anymore, since Panama is the same.
Tracy had the AC on high back at the room, and was already asleep, tucked under the heavy blankets. I've had to adjust to our different sleeping patterns, as he is usually out by 8pm and up at 5am. I quickly changed out of my sweaty clothes, prayed Ishaa (the night prayer), watched a little tennis on TV with the volume on low - Tracy could sleep through a bombing run anyway - then hit the hay at only 10pm, very early for me.
Neilly doesn't have the charm of San Vito, and it's much hotter, but it's a nice town. The people are friendly and curious, and best of all Neilly is a good gateway for trips into the mountains and the parque Amistad, or down to the beaches at Zancudo or Golfito, or across the Golfo Dulce to Puerto Jimenez and Corcovado national park. The food at the Hotel Andrea is not great but the rooms are nice and I am comfortable recommending it.