Ben and I left the farm in Loma Bola last Friday. With our packs stuffed to the brim for the first time that month, bulging on our backs like turtles, we walked the 3 km of dirt road into La Paz. Goodbye, Sierras! Goodbye, 6 am wake up time! Goodbye Obama and Biden the tick-ridden presidential dog duo! Goodbye, dirt-cheap living.
The bus took us into Merlo and also took my lunch out of me. Hot, windy, bumpy, nausea inducing ride welcomed me back to life of the traveller. Merlo, once I regained my composure, was a pleasant place despite being kitsch and touristy. Nestled against the southern part of the Sierras. Merlo is a sort of Argentina Reno, NV. Wild-west themed casinos, restaurants, craft and artesian gift shops, overpriced hotels and Wealthy Retirees chain smoked in parks.
There is a gem or two in Merlo, and I believe that every place has an interesting tidbit if you are open to enjoy it. One of those gems was the ´Pizza in a Cone´ resturant. This hole in the wall joint required Ben and I to try it, and it was delicious. They served pizza, in a cone. The pizza crust was rolled into a cone shape with a crispy butter outside. The inside was filled, like a waffle ice cream cone, with mariana sauce, cheese and toppings. It was hands down the best pizza in Argentina yet.
San Luis, the capital of the providence, was next on the agenda. It´s important to note at this point that the ¨Rough Guide to Argentina¨ does not cover anything within the entire providence of San Luis, Argentina, save how to get through it and onto more interesting places. San Luis, as we discovered, was more than worth our time, and a far more enjoyable city than a few of the Guidebooks´reccomendations so far. (I will expand on my grievances against the Rough Guide in a future Post towards the end of our trip, but for now if you are travelling to Argentina I would only recommend it for the accurate maps and nothing else).
So, San Luis. Located amongst the hills of yet another chain of Sierras, this city has a similar story to Coeur d´Alene, Idaho. Both cities received investments by wealthy individuals to boost tourism. San Luis´ wealthy benefactor built two themed casinos, one of which features an entire block re created as NYC. He also helped fund the construction of a city tourist center and colorful, user friendly signs all about the city. These features made it very easy to navigate the city, the most tourist friendly city in Argentina so far!
The food in the city was very good as well (we won´t count our visit to the Chinese all you can eat buffet, if you´ve been to one in the US you know exactly what it´s like in Argentina). There was an exceptional bakery nestled amidst a strip of night clubs. Here Ben and I found some of the first whole wheat bread we´ve had since leaving the states. We also had what must have been the best orange zest scones of our lives: where the orange flavor was an accent to the well constructed scone, not an overpowering flavor.
At this point in the trip, Ben and I also discovered the secret to enjoying Argentina´s cities: living nocturnally like the Argentines do. We were out past 9 pm one night and were very amused by what we found. A jaunt through the central plaza led us to view an adorable clown duo and their act. They put on the show for numerous families and catered it to both adults and children, a good time was had by all.
Next to the plaza that night was the sound of beating drums and chanting, omitting from a mall. Following our ears, Ben and I discovered a group of adolescents and young people jumping, drumming, chanting and singing while watching a soccer game. We watched for about 20 minutes, during which the fans never stopped their game ritual. I challenge you to find as much energy as that in an American Football viewing.
Tired of drumming and teenage B.O. we continued our nocturnal corps of discovery to another unexpected scene: the most glamorous, extensive club lane I´ve ever seen. 3 solid blocks, both sides, were filled with swanky, neon lit, modern, trendy, themed clean-cut night clubs. I´ve never seen anything like it – 3 whole blocks catered to the young adult party crowd. They were impressive and intoxicating to experience as a pedestrian.
So, Rough Guide, what´s not to love about San Luis? Maybe I´ll submit my own chapter on this well deserving, tourist friendly lively town that was, for whatever reason, omitted and deemed too far out-of-the-way to mention. Stepping outside the bounds of our tourist book was a rewarding experience, one we will repeat again!