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Guest Article: The Tigre Delta, Buenos Aires

by Denise Medrano
(Denise is a tour guide in BA. If you want an organized tour, write her at

My friend Jess has just moved to town and she needs new furniture so I suggested that we go shopping in the riverside town, Tigre. Tigre is about an hour from downtown BA, a place where many portenyos go to buy cheap pine furniture from the small furniture workshops scattered around the town or wander around the fruit and flower market set on a small street leading down to the river. On the weekends the place is packed but since we went on a Thursday it was pretty much us, the occassional boater and pigeons.

Getting there is usually a straightforward proposition - go to Retiro, the train station, buy a ticket and get on the train. Unfortunately, today there had been an accident somewhere along the train line, so we were in for a long wait or we could do what most sensible tourists would do and take a taxi. Then I remembered the Tren de la Costa. A couple of years ago, before the economic crisis, the government decided to restore a long forgotten railway system that runs along the river to the Delta. It was redesigned for tourist purposes and the trains were inaugurated to run from the suburbs of BA to the Parque de la Costa on the riverside in Tigre. We took a cab to the nearest Tren de la Costa station, Olivos, and jumped on. All 12 stations have been restored to their original Victorian era design, complete with turrets painted a dark forest green and wrought iron fences. Fortunately the train is not some steam engine driven antique but a very modern European constructed tram consisting of 2 to 4 cars. Each station has it's own cafes attached where you can get on and off the train in case you start going thru caffeine withdrawals during the 30 minute ride. The train ends at the Parque de la Costa, the only real American style amusement park in South America, or so all the ads claim in the train station. It's not much but they do have a solid-looking rollercoaster, a ferrous wheel, and a casino! Every amusement park should have a casino attached to it. Hey, it works in Vegas. The casino is a tacky, stuccoed, sand colored building reminiscent of the old Sands casino before they blew it up to make way for the Bellagio.

Tigre is situated near the mouth of the Parana river delta which fans out into a maze of islands before dumping into the Rio de la Plata. There are three main water arteries from Tigre - Rio Sarmiento, Rio El Capitan and Rio San Antonio, with small waterways running between the islands. The islands are so close together that it's difficult to tell where one ends and the next begins. On the islands are various watersports clubs, camping sites, and restaurants.

On the embankment in Tigre are various boat tours and water buses, called lanchas, that take locals and tourists out to the delta or to the islands. Sitting on the lancha, motoring out onto the delta of the Rio de La Plata, I couldn't help but reflect on what a warm, beautiful day it was, not a cloud in the sky, the sun sparkling off the surface of the chocolate brown river and the little summer houses, with names like Maui and Tahiti, sprinkled along the riverbank.

The layout of the waterway is such that even though the riverbank is lined with tall reeds, the majority of the inhabited islands have elevated immaculate green lawns, about 10 feet above the waterline, with the occasional palm tree poking over the water with the backyards of the houses simply dissolving into forests of trees the further you retreat from the river. Each house has its own personal pier jutting out into the river to catch the lancha. The islands are not only a weekend destinations for portenyos but there's also a community of permanent residents there, complete with police station island, medical clinic island and elementary school island. How cool would that be to take a motor boat to school everyday?

We disembarked from the lancha at a place called Tres Bocas, where the three main waterways meet, and stopped at the first restaurant we came to for lunch, La Riviera. La Riviera has a wooden deck built over the water, like many of the other restaurants, set with a maze of plastic tables and umbrellas as well as a covered patio on the island itself. Since we were the only people there we had the pick of the place. Even though we were on a river, we were still in Argentina, so of course the menu consisted of various entrees of grilled beef, grilled chicken and pasta. The only seafood I saw available were the old standbys, smoked salmon and rabas (fried squid), not even a trout. The food however, was pretty good. Jess has come to discover fairly quickly that although the beef here is good, they don't do much with it besides throw it on the grill. This place was a bit more adventurous then your average parrilla and I was able to order beef en croute with mushrooms and shallots, very fancy for a little riverside cafe and a bottle of vino blanco (no, I didn't drink it all but a small glass was 4 pesos and a bottle was 6 pesos so I thought I might as well supersize it). I didn't have very high expectations but the food was quite good, the meat wasn't overcooked and the sauce was tasty. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the sun soaked deck watching the rowers, the boaters, the river passing by, and me giving a crash course in Argentine history to Jess - all in all a very nice way to spend the day.

We'll have to save the shopping for next week....

Getting there: From Retiro to Tigre direct one way - $AR 0.75 centavos (US $0.25 cents)

Retiro to Olivos one way- $AR 0.50 centavos

Tren de la Costa, Olivos to Tigre - $AR 6.00 roundtrip (US $2.00)

Taxi from Retiro to Tigre, one way - $AR 50.00, (US $17.00), if you want to skip the train ride.

Lancha (river bus) roundtrip $AR 10.00

Lunch for two with wine about $AR 55.00



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