In my last post, I mentioned being slightly disappointed about our time in Punta Delgada with the all-female herd of elephant seals.
The biggest disappointment of my trip to Patagonia, however, would have to be awarded to the Argentinean croissant.
What made this so painful was how all these cafés had been hyped about offering it on their menus. “Medialunas!” Their sandwich boards would exclaim. They were such a popular menu item that they were often sold out. We had to try three different cafés before we got our croissant.
That was one fucked-up croissant. I know you’re thinking I’m being dramatic but notice how only the ends had been picked off? One side was Mélissa’s doing, the other was mine. We could go no further. It had a very Pillsbury quality to it and a strangely sweet, plaster-like glaze.
Maybe it was just this one café, but every croissant we saw in Argentina looked suspicious. We never touched an Argentinean croissant again.
It was also around this time when I discovered an Argentinean custom that I wasn’t fond of: merchants withholding small change. I would have been cool with this had it worked both ways.
Suppose una manzana cost $54 pesos and I only have a $50 peso bill… Would the grocer let me have it for $50? No. Yet, had it been $46 pesos and the grocer unable to produce change, I would have been expected to eat the cost before eating la manzana.
Deeply upsetting. Almost as upsetting as this:
This is also fucked-up. It’s an apple-flavoured Powerade. The apple is my favourite fruit, but I find apple juice vile. Argentineans have amplified the vile with electrolytes! I bet it pairs horribly with their glue croissant.
I love discovering differences like this when I travel. I was tickled to learn that beer was served at McDonald’s in Paris. KFC was extremely popular in Beijing, where they even had dedicated delivery cyclists, who were also the only cyclists to wear helmets. Japan and their 6000 Kit Kat flavours. Canadian provinces also have their quirks, like milk in bags. Although I’ve now lived in three different provinces, none of where bagged milk is the norm.
Argentineans suckle their yogurt from plastic bags.
Before leaving Puerto Pirámides, when checking out of our room, the Airbnb host asked us if we had seen the Lobería Punta Pirámide, which is the local sea lion colony. We hadn’t, but it was on our way out. Mélissa’s limited Spanish had her understand our host’s directions to involve a turn onto a footpath.
“I am pretty sure this is not the right path. I urge you to reconsider.”
Melissa was quick to agree, “…Yeah, you’re right.”
The actual turn was another kilometre up the hill. We went uphill, downhill, around the corner, snaked around some mounds before arriving at the parking area.
We smelled them before we even saw them.
“Like a wet dog?!” asked Yann when I told him about the odour. Funnily enough, when Mélissa mentioned that the sea lions were barking, my question was, “Like dogs?!”
No, they aren’t like dogs in scent or sound. It was a musky smell they were emitting. It was noticeable, yet not overpowering, although we were pretty far away.
It wasn’t my first time seeing a sea lion colony as I had seen the one in Florence, Oregon as a kid. But this appeared to be the first time I smelled one.
Unlike with the elephant seals, we had come at the perfect time to see the sea lions. They compensated for their distant cousins’ shortcomings. The males were present and there were pups! We watched them play, eat, and swim. There were fights! Also, NC-17 scenes.
It was our last day with the rental car, so we visited another colony just past Puerto Madryn: Loberia de Punta Loma.
More of the same:
This place had more tourists than the colony in Puerto Pirámides, but most tourists only stay for a few minutes. We were there for well over an hour.
The sun in Argentina is especially strong where the ozone layer has been depleted. With this in mind, I had brought along a sunscreen spray that would allow me to stay outside up to 50 times longer before I’d start to burn. That is if I had applied it to all areas of exposed skin.
I made a rookie mistake and forgot the back of my neck. It was cooked to the point that I caved and splurged $600 pesos ($21 CAD/$16 USD) for deluxe after sun cream.
When we first picked up the rental car, it took 45 minutes for Mélissa and the rental guy to inspect the body for pre-existing damage. We hadn’t caused any superficial damage over the three days we had the car, but hours of being driven over gravel left it filthy.
“We can’t return it like this,” Mélissa objected.
We tackled the dirty rear window with baby wipes. The result looked as if a baby’s butt exploded all over the glass. We quickly rectified this by stopping at a gas station to squeegee it clean.
It took one minute for the rental lady in Puerto Madryn to give the car the OK–much ado about nothing.
The second most disappointing meal of our trip happened in Puerto Madryn. The Block was a vegetarian restaurant, so it was assumed that they’d specialize in flavourful vegetarian dishes.
We ordered the quinoa salad, and Mélissa requested the beer selection. Our server, an older lady, had to get her son to tell us the two different beer choices. Two kinds of beer and she needed her son to take over?
With a server like her, our meals were going to take a while. Not only did we have the time to play a game, but also we invented the rules.
The name of the game was “De papas a pinguinos”. According to our rules, we had to come up with a way to connect the objects shown on the cards.
Card 1: old man.
Card 2: pastel polo shirt.
“Things you’ll find at a Walmart.”
Card 1: the sun.
Card 2: croissant.
“Things I don’t want to put in my mouth.”
We realized we were both losers when we were finally served. The quinoa salad we ordered contained plain couscous, corn, grated carrots, and diced tomatoes. There was no quinoa whatsoever. It was all a scam, yet it was still better than an Argentinean croissant.
For this post, I will offer one last Argentinean quirk:
Keys looked like this. For the other things mentioned, it’s a matter of preference. Some people prefer shitty croissants over the flaky, buttery ones we’re accustomed to in Montréal. But Argentinean locks are objectively inferior. One could peep through them! Inserting a key into the lock was akin to plugging in a USB cable:
Wrong side up. Still wrong side up. Ok, the first wrong side was the good side after all.
The next entry will be about our close encounter of the pinniped kind and smuggling micro-weapons on our Aerolíneas Argentinas flight.