Friday, January 13, 2012
Pilar and Tigre
Saturday we left the city of Buenos Aires (Capital Federal) for the suburb of Pilar, about 25 miles from the city center. We had met Pablo and Cesar on Ihla de Santa Catarina in Brazil and have stayed in contact via email since then. Naturally, we got lost a couple of times finding their home and eventually asked someone who told us to follow them. Their house is away from the town center in an area surrounded by fields and with houses nestled behind shrub lined fences. As we went in and gladly accepted the offer of cold beer, the pool glistening in the sun beckoned us. Winston, of course made himself instantly at home, exploring the garden and playing in the thick, luxurious grass. Pablo and Cesar help with the animal adoption society so besides their own two Samoyeds and three mixed breed dogs, they also have a mom with her 4 puppies, five have already found homes. Winston has plenty of new friends. We spent the afternoon around the pool and later Pablo cooked a delicious dinner of chicken milanesa, potatoes and salad. We chatted until late in the night catching up with each others activities. On Sunday, Pablo, Cesar and their friend Estella planned a great trip to Tigre and the Delta. Situated about 20 miles from Capital Federal, the town is on the Rio Parana. The 14,000 square kilometer delta has hundreds of small islands, inlets, streams and backwaters forming a sub-tropical paradise. Founded in 1820, Tigre actually sits on an island created by several rivers, the Rios Parana, Lujan and Sarmiento. Its name is derived from the jaguars that for many years were hunted but are now virtually extinct. Now, besides the Naval Museum, the area is home to numerous riverside pubs and restaurants, antique and souvenir shops, a casino and Parque de la Costa, a huge amusement park. However, many people including us visit the region for its natural beauty and environment. All trips to the delta start in Tigre. For the people who live in the delta and some tourists, the most popular mode of transportation are the vintage, mahogany commuter launches called “Interislena”, which travel through the web of inter-connecting rivers and streams. If you want to simply tour the delta there are many private companies offering tours in catamaran or small motorboats. However, to really get the feel and experience of the delta lifestyle take the commuter boats. Floating along, it is like visiting time past mixing with present. There are traditional English style rowing clubs, elegant mansions mingle with more humble homes, small posadas compete with upscale hotel/spas and whilst you can eat at the numerous restaurants there are also simple picnic sites and small beaches for swimming or sunbathing. One of the more interesting of the homes is actually a museum. Declared a National Monument in 1966, Sarmiento House was home to the 7th president of Argentina, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. President from 1868 to 1874, Sarmiento was an intelligent, enlightened man who modernizing the railways and establishing a postal system. His greatest achievement however was establishing a comprehensive education program that included the education of women and children. He is thought of by many, as being Argentines’ first “teacher”. Our stop was on the Sarmiento River at a small parilla for lunch. After disembarking at what was basically a small pier on stilts with steps, we encountered the footpath that led to the restaurant. But first, we followed the trail inland, crossed a wooden bridge and entered the backwaters where we could see, hear and smell the delta. Private homes were built along the trails and footpaths, some colorful, some ornate, some on stilts, most with jetties but all very unique. We recognized hydrangeas and orchid plants and hibiscus trees laden with scarlet blossoms and observed the many species of birds that made the area their home. It truly was a feast for the eyes. Back at the restaurant, we sat outside so we could watch the river activities and the many launches stopping at piers to allow people on and off. We saw the grocery shop sail by waiting for the delta residents to call out. And, the food was excellent. To get back to Tigre, we simply waited at our “boat stop” for a launch to come by and waved it over. Maneuvering up to the jetty, a rope was slung over the rungs on the stairs and we jumped in. Then it was the hour or so trip back to the town while watching the river float by, lots of people rowing, on jet skis, or in small pleasure boats, swimming or lazing in deck chairs by the riverbanks. All in the serene laid back lifestyle of life on the water. It seemed a million miles from the crowds and traffic of the capital. Before heading back home to a multitude of waiting, exuberant dogs and puppies, we stopped at Estella’s home for a beer and appetizers. As we sat in her garden surrounded by trees and shrubs, we talked about our day. It seemed perfect in every way and once again Tom and I thanked God for the people we have met in our travels and the friends we make along the way.