Yesterday, for the first time in months, I bought some eggs that didn’t have tiny feathers pasted to their shells. This struck me as unnatural, and I had a brief moment of nostalgia for Bolivia. Yet as I breathed in the sultry afternoon air of Salta, Argentina, a city of half a million that seems at once bustling and laid back, the moment was quickly obliterated.
Great. Just when I though things couldn’t get any weirder. We spent over a month in a country where you can buy mummified llama fetuses on every street corner (used in traditional ceremonies), where Spanish is a second language after Aymara or Quechua, where women wear bowler hats and huge skirts and wear their hair in thick braids, where it’s impossible to get more than 100 meters-worth of directions at a time and a surprising number of people don’t know the name of the town they live in, where people drive beside the road in search of a smoother ride. Yes, Bolivia is weird.
But Argentina? What is this place doing here? Its existence is so totally incongruous with everything we’ve experienced since crossing from California into Mexico over a year ago. It’s like that dream you have where you find that secret door in your house that magically leads to a whole new set of rooms–you’ve all had that dream, right?
Here is a brief list of what is blowing our minds these days:
- Argentines are beautiful people. They dress well, have good posture, are confident, in shape and on the whole have genetics on their side.
- Argentine gas stations have free WiFi.
- Argentine gas stations serve up mean espressos (which are always accompanied with soda water).
- Argentine restrooms contain the following items that one will almost never encounter in Peru or Bolivia: running water, soap, hand towels, toilet seats and toilets that aren’t just concrete holes.
- Big downtown stores are closed from 12 PM to 5 PM every day for la siesta.
- People take vacations.
- The streets and malls are packed at 10:30 at night on weekdays.
- Highways are clearly signed.
- People no longer honk at us as though we were livestock wandering in the road; they toot, smile and wave.
- Beef is ridiculously good and relatively inexpensive.
- Even small grocery stores feature a tremendous selection of excellent (domestic) wines. The highest-priced bottles run around $10 US, with the average being about $4.
- We’ve crossed into yet another time zone, which means we’re 2 hours ahead of Montreal and 6 hours ahead of Anchorage, our point of departure.
We’re finally back on the road after waiting several days for customs to release Lucie’s new camera. A huge thanks to Salta’s Volunteer Firefighters for putting up with us. We’re now riding through Cafayate on our way to Mendoza. Look forward to some real photos in upcoming posts (as opposed to my quick draw shots with my dinky point-and-shoot Kodak) as Lucie gets back to work as Team Pedaling South’s official photographer after more than two weeks off.