Friday, January 16, 2009

Tigre - An Adventure into the Delta

Tigre: a 50 min train ride from Beunos Aires that seems worlds away. A complicated rainy morning melted away as Josh and I met my family at the McDonalds (a real landmark in Tigre close to the train and the port) after work. The sky cleared and we made our way to the port for locals where our taxi was waiting for us. Here are Mia, Kenny, and Dad on the taxi boat:

and Josh and me happy to be done with work for the day.

When we arrived, Ana and Ralph were waiting for us on their dock. A little bit about the Delta: It is an area really unscarred by tourism, and while many of the islands are just restaurants for tourists and maybe a few for locals with hotels here and there (and an amazing museum that was once an old Casino), the majority of the islands house people who live in Tigre or people's summer homes. Every island has its own set of docks, or just one dock depending on the size, and all of the docks contain a name for the house, some chairs, or a nice fence, and often a dog barking at boats as they pass by. The houses are beautiful, and each one a more interesting color and design than the next. The houses are on stilts for when the water level rises and floods the island, and many look like villas, and others like shacks. One house is even on two different levels having suffered a small land slide on one side, and the woman of the house claims that they must have different size table legs to make the table even enough to eat off of. Ana and Ralph live in the Swiss house, and their house (like I'm sure many houses) has its own unique story. Because they island has been (and I guess still is) home to many wealthy people from Buenos Aires during the summer, the land where they now live used to be the club house where people came to dance and eat. They have built and or renovated much of the land, and their house looks like a modern log cabin surrounded by a wrap around porch, and situated next to their terrace and larger kitchen. The kitchen is the original kitchen of the club and has been renovated, however, it retains the same brick oven where Ralph now makes his homemade bread and the original wooden fronted refrigerator that Ralph put back into use after many years of dormancy. Their house may be an oasis, but it takes serious work to keep running. There is no working plumbing throughout the Delta, and so through a system of cisterns that Ana and Ralph must attend to frequently they have water to shower, wash dishes, and water their plants. Their drinking water comes from the supermarket boat that passes by their house twice a week. If they miss that boat there are other supermarket boats with all kinds of goods that pass by on other days, and even a Costco type boat that only sells in bulk, however I doubt if there is a membership fee. I think the only requirement for shopping is a dock in the Delta. When we arrived (technically a day later than planned and an hour or two delayed from the complications of the morning) we were greeting on the dock and given a tour of the house with an explanation and history for everything. We quickly learned that life on the Delta is not all paradise from the water to the mosquitoes. We also learned how it pays to have talented friends. Every part of their house and land had been fixed up by a friend and or them. One friend came with his wife from Switzerland (Ralph is Swiss) for two months and did all of the electrical wiring in their second house/the big kitchen as seen below with materials he had brought from Switzerland. Other friends make the jam we had with breakfast, other friends have done the translating and work for their website, etc. Below is the six of us enjoying a wonderful breakfast in their big kitchen with the wooden refrigerator in the background. We enjoyed several of Ralph's breads with local jam from the Delta, and tea.
After breakfast we got into Ralph's mostly homemade boat and hit the Delta. We rode around for a few hours admiring houses and wildlife before we stopped for lunch in a very secluded part of the Delta that we never would have been able to go to on our own. This was the second part of the Delta where very few people live, and the scenery looks largely like the picture below: greenery, water plants, lilies, some wildlife, and our boat. A little bit about our hosts:
Ana was a dissatisfied travel agent in Tigre who met her dream man in Ralph, the Swiss ex ship's cook who had sailed around the world and eventually settled in Tigre where he felt at ease with the culture and the language. He is a classically trained cook who put his talents together with Ana's to create Delta~Unplugged, an eco friendly day trip that is the perfect way to get out of Buenos Aires and breath in the air that is contaminated with some willow substance that when breathes causes people to relax and experience a small euphoria. They know their neighbor's intimately and waved high to everyone they passed on the Delta. They have been married for about two years and Ana obviously jumped at the opportunity to leave her unhappy office life for the seclusion and pioneer life of a couple living on the Delta. Ralph cooked us steak and chicken, and served us salads, empanadas, dips, pumpkin torta and rosti while anchored on a quiet section of Delta that in reality was full of noises coming from birds, bugs, and the breeze.

Both of the boys were overhelmed with whatever comes off the willow that encourages lounging and long naps were taken before and after lunch, some in unusual places:
After an hour more on the delta and some cool bird sightings, we slowly headed back to their house for an afternoon snack. I grew worried we wouldn't make it because at times there was less than a meter between the bottom of our boat and the river bed due to the low levels in the river, but we made it back in one piece sleepy and ready for even more food. At this point I hadn't been hungry since breakfast, but who am I to refuse homemade ginger and strawberry ice cream and cake with tea on the terrace of the most interesting couple we have even met. Did I let my lactose intolerance get in the way? No!! I forged on and duitifully ate my ice cream willing to pay the penalties that would come later. After our snack, Ana finally convinced my parents to go to Mendoza by bus (where I write from now) and made all of the necessary arrangements that would pave the way to many more relaxing days in other people's homes. But more of that to come later. Once back at the Hilton in Puerto Madero, we relaxed and had a light dinner (as if we hadn't eaten enough already that day). The men had their cigars:
and we took in the night breeze with a night stroll to the Puente de la Mujer where we parted ways for the evening.


Shelley Rolf said...

your day sounds wonderful. napping on the boat looks very relaxing. we, on the other hand, had more snow here. you picked a very wintry winter to miss. xoxo

Mary Rolf said...

What a wonderful adventure you two are experiencing..along with your many visitors. Hope Zach & Evelyn will be able to visit soon.

Anonymous said...

What a nice place you visited!!
Im at Argentina right now, in one of the apartments in Buenos Aires near "Plaza Serrano". Im leaving in three days, but I wont miss going to Tigre. Looks amazing!