Sleeping on a bed that doesn’t rock me to sleep is taking a little bit of getting used to. We are loving the vacation from our boat and sleeping in a real king-size bed. The high-pressure water in the shower is amazing. Unlimited supplies of hot water: incredible. His and her sofas to stretch out on: heaven. If it wasn’t for the fact we go to bed at night so darn tired from the daily activities, I think I might have trouble sleeping on a bed that doesn’t move. Goodness knows how we are ever going to adapt back to land-life again. Staying in this apartment made me realize once again how different life is on a boat. Speaking of packed days, we decide to take a day trip to Tigre. We watch the weather and try to make sure we are doing this on a warm day as we want to take a boat ride. I know, we are crazy. We take a vacation from the boat only to pay for a boat ride. C’est la vie!
Making our way to the central train station, we are armed with cameras and maps. The trains here are clean and run on time. I like trains. Perhaps this is some of the leftover genetic European in me. I hate to say this but I am a little more excited about riding the train than the destination.
Vendors are allowed on trains and we receive spiels on everything from headphones to chocolate. We watch a really old guy, and I mean old, like a hundred years old, as he pitches a small plastic wallet-size magnifying glass. I think the guy looks like a poor and very old version of Adrien Brody having the same type of nose and swept-back hair. Except this Argentinean man has thick grey hair touching the collar of his navy blazer. Holding his product up, he talks about it for almost 10 minutes. I really wish I could understand him since I am seriously wondering how on earth anyone can possibly talk this long about a piece of plastic. I manage to grasp some of the features and benefits. It’s pliable. It fits in a wallet. Look through it and things are bigger. Okay, that took about 5 seconds. How on earth does this guy manage to go on for 10 minutes? He is very animated. He sold three to people near us. What a salesman! He moves further back in the train and starts all over again. I’m thinking about franchising opportunities.Tigre (tiger) is an interesting northern suburb of Buenos Aries. The town sits on the Paraná Delta and is a gateway to people residing on these hundreds of islands formed by the delta of the River Paraná. The Paraná River is a big one. It is the 8th longest river in the world. In South America, it is only second to the Amazon in length. It begins in Brazil, passes through Paraguay, and ends in Argentina just north of Buenos Aries. The delta is home to people wanting a very different lifestyle. I can relate to their desires to do so. In order to see this lifestyle, we need to take a boat ride.
Before buying tickets for the boat we decide to walk about Tigre and take in the sights. Like Buenos Aries, the streets are tree-lined and we can walk in the shade. Our plan is to walk until our feet hurt, grab some lunch and then take a boat ride to rest our aching feet. After the ride, we’ll head back to Buenos Aries on a train. The trains run every 15 minutes so no need to fret about times. We’ll be done when we’re done. We have all the makings of a good plan and a great day. What could go wrong?
Booking the boat ride turned out to be a little bit of an adventure. There are a lot of tours to choose from ranging from an hour to half-day. One side of the river has about twenty booths all selling tours. As luck would have it, the boats for these tours are over the bridge on the other side of the river. We thought a couple of hours touring might be enough for us. We purchase some tickets and decide to grab a quick burger before departure time. I’m embarrassed to say, we ate at Burger King. Here we are in the beef capital of the world where the hamburger fad is thriving and we opt for a Whopper. Yeah, I’m not proud of this.
In Burger King, we are mostly done with our meal. It’s pretty nasty as you’d expect. What were we thinking? We both have about a ¼ of a burger and some fries leftover. A guy approaches and asks if we are done. Both of us say, yes we’re finished. I expect him to take the tray from us. Instead, he then takes the remaining food and quickly leaves. I am a little stunned. And, I didn’t realize he was hungry. We thought he worked there. I feel extra bad some poor soul has to resort to eating table scraps. Once I realize what just happened, I look for him. I want to take him to the counter and buy him whatever he can carry. Alas, he’s gone.
We make our way over the bridge to the other side of the river and to the pier for our boat tour. There is no boat. Did we miss it? Did we get the time wrong? Nope, another tour boat operator tells us the boat is broken and the tour is canceled. Hmm. We purchased our tickets from a guy in a booth over the bridge on the other side of the river. We paid cash. I wonder if we are able to get a refund. I hope this is not going to be a hassle.
Disappointment sets in because I really want to see how the river people live. I’m more disappointed by the fact we may miss an opportunity for a boat ride than I am about having two tickets to a boat not going anywhere. We walk quickly to the booth over the bridge on the other side of the river and see the guy. He notices us coming and begins in broken English to say how sorry he is. Having just found out the boat was broken, he has our money ready by the time we approach the window. Surprisingly, he seems more upset than me. He tells us about other tour boats and suggests a couple to try.
We roam from one tour boat tour booth to another becoming more and more frustrated. It is now 1 pm and most of the boats aren’t leaving until 4 pm. We find a lady who speaks English in a booth. She tells us about a boat leaving at 1:30 pm. She points to it. We tell her the boat is broken and it is not leaving. Both of us explain how we just had tickets to this boat and needed a refund. We were just there, we tell her, over the bridge on the other side of the river. No, she says. They’ve fixed it. We buy two tickets and walk back to the boat over the bridge on the other side of the river.
The boat was in fact fixed. And apparently due to the communication mess up, most people booked on the tour didn’t show up. I assume they are still over the bridge on the other side of the river. The result is about 20 people on a boat made to carry about 200. Oh well! Good for us. We get great seats at the front and begin to venture upriver. A little part of me wonders what was wrong with the boat, did they really fix it, or are we all going to die in some horrific boating accident up the river never to be found again? It dawns on me, nobody knows where we are. Not a soul. If something did happen to us today, this could be like another Amelia Earhart mystery.
As with any delta, the river branches into many smaller channels and forms islands. There are no roads in this area, just small canals. People living here do not have cars. They have boats. Judging from the construction of most homes being elevated on stilts, I assume the area floods frequently. Many of the islands are private; some are included in the huge national park and some have remote eco-resorts. There is a bus system.
The buses are actually beautiful mahogany boats. They whisk passengers up and down the intricate canal system. They have two speeds: full-blast or off. We noticed some of the docks are labeled with the same signage as the public bus stops in the city. The bus/boats don’t just stop at the public docks, they also stop and the hundreds of private docks some of which are quite elaborate. We watch school children hop off the bus boats. It is a regular way of life for them. I imagine the kids wanting kayaks for Christmas, not bicycles. Parents are probably pleased kayaks don’t need assembly. Perhaps at sixteen, they get outboard motors for their kayaks.
Cindy and I had a conversation on the return train. We hope everything is okay with the Puffster. It is a little bit unnerving, leaving our home in a foreign country while we are on the other side of the world. This is the first time I have thought about the boat in a few days. Boats have a habit of self-destructing. All boats will eventually sink. My job and any skippers’ job is to delay the inevitable for as long as possible. We start to hear Cream Puff calling us back and realize our time in Buenos Aries is coming to an end.
Buenos Aries is a place we both think we’ll return to one day. Using it as a base for a few months and exploring the corners and treasures of South American has a lot of appeals. Isn’t it funny how we check something off the bucket list and add a few more items in its place? This was an awesome trip. If you like to travel and enjoy visiting cities, I would highly recommend adding Buenos Aries to your list. It is a little expensive to get here but once in the city, everything is affordable.
Our last couple of days in Buenos Aries, we had some extra time to take in local Recoleta neighborhood sights including another Sunday outdoor market. Known as the Gran Gomero, this rubber tree was planted in 1791 by Martín José Altolaguirre, the owner of the lands at that time. The branches now spread over 50 meters (55 yds in each direction). It provides shade for the two adjacent restaurants and their al fresco dining areas.
Dang! This place was awesome! We’re heading back to Panama now.