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The Past Lives on in Tigre Delta

Boat cruise along the Rio de la Plate's Delta

semi-overcast 71 °F

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So if you think you are going on a nature excursion when you sign up for the Tigre Delta boat tour, you might be disappointed. Now instead, if you go simply to see some interesting sights, and a slice then of life worlds apart from downtown Buenos Aires, you will likely enjoy your time. You see almost no wildlife -- at least nonhuman species. However, you see quite a few counterculture types that have kicked back along the delta and carved out a relaxed, interesting lifestyle.
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Whatever you do, though, do NOT sign up for this as an official, guided tour. Make all the arrangements on your own. Show up anytime at the Retiro Train Station in B.A., and buy your return ticket to Tigre (a comfortable hour away) for less than $2. Trains leave every 15 minutes or so. Then select your boat company by walking down to the waterfront -- or visiting the Tourist Information Office just past McDonalds, like I did. Sooooo much cheaper, and more accurately priced. Some tour companies will say they will pick you up at your hotel and you'll end up with half of your time spent in minivans picking up other guests from other hotels scattered throughout the city. Trust me. You can handle doing this one on your own.
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I booked the two hour tour rather than the one hour version simply because this was the main reason I was in town. Plus, the catamarans had an open upper deck rather than a sealed, one deck with no opening windows that I saw in other boats. I spent my entire time on the upper deck, feeling the nice breeze and experiencing it all first hand, rather than in air conditioning behind a window.
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The first part of the cruise is interesting because you see how dilapidated so much of this riverfront can be. There were numerous rusting ship frames and half-sunken vessels lining the waterways out of town. There is money here in Tigre, yes, but it is not evenly distributed. There are obviously poor people, or those who are living hand-to-mouth to get by. And there are wealthy, too, with their immaculate houses along the water, with pools, private beach, elevated dock, and more. In essence, this two hour cruise is a contrast in socio-economic groups that have chosen to congregate in the delta. I saw pieced-together wrecks like something out of a Mad Max movie, and I saw gorgeous, weekend getaways for the super-elite.
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Most of the two dozen or so passengers rode on the upper deck, too, enjoying the fresh air, as well. That included the Argentine couple with the newborn and toddler who took turns shrieking throughout our cruise. But hey, anybody who decides to take their child on a hot, two hour ride that they obviously are too young to enjoy has that right! Forget the kids -- it is all about you! So, as you sit there, smoking, the cigarette fumes bathing your children's faces, no one will think the worse of you. Not even me.
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About an hour and a half into the cruise, I saw my first rain drops of the trip. It never broke out into the thunderstorms that were predicted, but it drizzled steadily for the last half hour. Once the cruise ended, I took that as a cue to hit up the Naval museum while the weather was not cooperating. Compared to the other, relatively tiny, historical museums I'd visit in Argentina, this one was positively sprawling. The beginning part had lots of large models of various ships from human naval history. It continued by focusing on Argentine history, and its navy. There were interesting exhibits on the Falklands War (or Malvinas, as Argentinians call the islands) with Great Britain.
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For me, the coolest part were both the models and the actual weapons and vehicles. Not only did they have a massive collection of anti-aircraft guns, they had torpedoes, machine guns, and even actual aircraft from naval aviation history. Many of these were exhibited outside in the garden annex. While walking around them, I heard the sound of a jeep being revved next door at a garage. Looking at the undercarriage I could see underneath the exhibits, I wondered aloud if it was a U.S.Army "Willey" keep. Sure enough, it was! It was cool to see this living relic of WW II in person. The same was true for all of the other exhibits in the museum. In fact, it was an interesting day overall -- whether seeing relics of the past or how people lived today in the delta of the Rio de la Plata. Just don't pay someone else to take you -- remember to do this one on your own!
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Posted by world_wide_mike 19:38 Archived in Argentina

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