A SUNNY DAY SAILING TIGRE DELTA
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
323Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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Journey: Buenos Aires to Tigre 40kms
Weather: Sunny; cool morning warming to around 28 degrees by midday.
Our taxi collected us at 6am and at this time of the morning the traffic on Ave 9 de July was light and we reached the busy and marvellous Retiro train station, built we believe under British influence in the early 1900s. Homeless people and street vendors crowded the entrance lanes and, following detailed instructions given by our hosts for the day, we easily bought tickets and located our train to Tigre.
The train quickly filled with workers and we had to stand for part of the hour's journey; we noticed the slum area behind the station as we pulled out, creatively constructed to several stories with building waste and junk. The so called shanty town stretched for a few kilometres and we remembered that a newspaper had reported that 40% of people in BA were poor.
We witnessed the only incidence of drunken/drugged behaviour in our time in the country, when 4 young people got on and fell all over the place, disrupted the quietness of the carriage and made everyone uncomfortable. Generally Argentinians are light drinkers and despite their love of socialising late into the night, they seem to enjoy the scene without drinking to get drunk like we have a tendency to do in Australia.
We found our public boat in Tigre, after a quick look-around the town which was neat but not too exciting and after 30 minutes on the river, arrived at "La casa del Suisso" the home of Ana and Ralph.
We had found their adventure on Trip Adviser when we were looking for day trips to the Tigre Delta; www.deltaunplugged.com and like all the others who had reviewed the trip we were so very impressed.
The delta is a muddy marsh of the Parana River, spreading an incredible 14,000 square kilometers and is made up of countless waterways and lush green islands. People choose to live and holiday in this peaceful place, 35 kms from the busy city life of BA.
Ana is Argentinian and Ralph is Swiss born and well- travelled as a ship’s chef; together they make a delightful team. Their dogs barked an encouraging welcome and Ana and Ralph greeted us and two other girls as we left the boat with huge smiles and big hugs- it felt like coming home!
After a tour and a bit of history of their home we all sat down to Ralph’s homemade breads and coffee etc. Ana’s engaging personality and interesting stories set the mood and we all became friends.
Into Ralph’s boat with all necessities for a day on the water we set off onto the shallow waterways to the sound of the noisy dogs! We heard the story of the changing delta, filled with water from South American rivers and muddy with silt that changes the islands and forme new ones. The lush green of the forests and gardens that lined the way on this warm and sunny day, was a sharp contrast to the water.
We enjoyed the architecture and styles of the house and shacks along the way and appreciated Ana’s knowledge of the flora and fauna. They both pointed out the many birds that we encountered and they were happy to give us history, geography, biology lessons as requested.
After a couple of hours we pulled into a shady bay and Ralph dropped anchor and prepared a spread that was close to unbelievable within our small boat. Little snacks, salads, local treats and barbecued meats with a choice of wines, beers or sodas!!! Rachel and Rebecca, from New York and London, joined us in loud praise and appreciation and we all said we had made the right choice when we took this tour.
As hosts, they were knowledgeable and attentive and obviously very tuned in to the people whom they spent the day with. They work Mon-Fri with no more than 6 passengers – we were 4 and we thought later that they would be working 24/7 managing the reservations, the food and the little business but they love it and this really shines through.
Ana took photographs throughout the day and emailed them to us 2 days later and her powerful camera did a better job of distant birds than mine.
After lunch we reached the wide river, Parana and saw cargo ships waiting for a higher tide to get going.
Back at the house for a review of the day, homemade ice-cream and cake, we all readied ourselves for the “Mate” ceremony.
Mate, pronounced “martay” is a tea of finely chopped leaves,’ yerba mate’, harvested from a tree called 'ilex paraguayensis’; the ritual involved reminds you of the Japanese tea ceremony and sharing the tea with friends, family etc. is a vital aspect of the ritual.
Argentina is the largest producer and consumer of mate, but is popular in other South American countries, and we saw people walking the streets, sitting in parks with their mate cup, a dried decorated gourd, a silver straw and a flask of hot water. We read that Argentinians consume 4 times as much mate as coffee!!
Whole books are devoted to the history and practices of mate, and Ana did a fantastic job of informing us of the complicated details, before filling the cup with leaves and then passing it clockwise around the group. Drinking the tea through the silver straw the four of us commented on its bitter but not unpleasant taste and traditionally you should drink all the liquid before passing it on for the server to refill with water.
We felt privileged to have been part of this ritual and apparently an invitation to partake is not on the normal tourist agenda.
As we sat around, chatting we watched the tiny humming birds hovering over the honey feeder and Ana pointed out the purple flowers planted to encourage the birds.
This was a very special day and the hospitality and generosity of the couple was real and very much appreciated by the four of us, strangers just 9 hours ago and friends now in this lovely place in Argentina. The joys of connecting with the locals!!
An easy 90 minutes trip- taxi boat, train, taxi back home to San Telmo, we found a local “parilla”-wood/coal fired grill- recommended by Angela for a quick and delicious barbecue sandwich and beer.
The parillas are everywhere –little street holes-in-the –wall, outdoor cafes, busy family restaurants and 5 star dining; the menu is beef, cut in every way and barbecued to your liking. Beef is king here and is delicious, seasoned only with salt and served with chimichuri and other tasty side dishes; we always added a salad and a bottle of Argentinian Malbec, a very fine red wine! A restaurant meal could be as cheap as $10 or as much as $30 and the wine around $10 a bottle.
We were impressed with our meal and with the day!