Delta Dreams

One of the most interesting excursions in Argentina lies right on the doorstep of the capital, in the labyrinthine Delta at the mouth of the Paraná River (itself divided into three principal arms).   A thousand square miles of islands and islets, comprising parts of three provinces, are interlaced by innumerable small rivers and canals, some 1200 miles in all, which flow to the Rio de la Plata.  This is a true water world, unique in Argentina, and indeed in all of Latin America, if not the globe; certainly there is no equivalent in North America.   The lush vegetation, which bursts with a profusion of flowers most of the year, evokes the interior of Brazil, where the river first dredges the sediment that it brings nearly 2000 miles to deposit in the Delta.

The starting point for visits is Tigre, the northernmost town of the greater Buenos Aires complex.  Absent a car, you can get here by train (regular or tourist), bus, or remise from the city; the trains are interesting ways to begin an excursion.

Once arrived in Tigre, head for the Estacion Fluvial on the riverbank between the two train stations.   Boats leave the station for many destinations in the watery world of the Delta – private or public boat is the only way to travel here.  Boats selling groceries ply the waterways, along with regular “water-bus” public services taking people to their homes or delivering mail - and messages for those without phones.  In the blessed absence of traffic noise, the only industrial-age sound you’ll hear is the engine of a launch – and your host can probably tell you what boat it is, from the sound.  The Delta is divided into Sections, the First of about 150 square miles, closest to Tigre and full of weekend homes and clubs; the Second runs to the province of Entre Rios and is partly reserved as a UNESCO Biosphere (thanks to the municipality of San Fernando.   Several inns lying within this less-inhabited area offer visitors an escape from city stress at varying levels of luxury.

We chose an informal family-run inn (which is very popular, early reservations recommended!), Los Pecanes – or, the Pecan Trees, a 90-minute boat ride from Tigre.   The hosts are Richard and Anna Baert; Richard’s family is Belgian-Flemish.  (As befits a Belgian background, impeccable English is spoken with Anglophonic visitors; French is also spoken.)  The inn is a small one, with three bedrooms – all with private bath, ceiling fan and mosquito screens.   It’s surrounded by gardens, an ample green space for walking, and lots of hammocks.   A profusion of hummingbirds attends the feeders around the house – and they’re tame enough to ignore you completely while battling for access to the sugar water.   If just relaxing is not enough, you can take a guided tour in the inn’s boat, go canoeing, fish, play crocket, or take another walk.

Los Pecanes hosts some day-trippers for lunch – but at night, it’s just the guests from the three rooms.  Lunch is the complete barbecue/asado experience.  Dinner will be something quite different – and the house offers its own desserts and jams.  By the end of the second day, the relaxation is complete, and the return trip to Tigre by launch simply extends the sense of wellbeing.  And, if you have the time, stop for a night in Tigre itself (there are several pleasant B&Bs) and explore the fine Naval Museum and the crafts market – Puerto de Frutos – before heading back to Buenos Aires.   From the riverside Paseo Victoria you can watch the rowing clubs launch their boats, and there’s a wide array of restaurants and cafes to choose from.

Outre stop: El Tropezón.  Water Bus Delta Argentino or El Jilguero (go on one, return on the other).  The Tropezon is essentiallly as it was when built in 1928, although some of the 20 rooms have been redone.  The Tropezón was a favorite of Leopoldo Lugones, an Argentine writer of variously left and right tendancies.  Lugones committed suicide here in 1938 by downing a glass of cyanide, leaving no note to resolve the “why” for his admirers.   Fans still come to pay respects – his room is just as he left it, including the fatal glass by the bed (you can’t stay in this one!)   The Tropezón is also still a fine place to spend a summer afternoon with a book on the hotel’s huge porch.  4728-1012. 

An upscale stop in the Delta is La Becasina.  The Lodge here has 15 private cabins, connected by walkways with the main lodge and restaurant.   Arroyo Las Cañas.  Tel 4328 2687 in BA, email. This place has changed management and undergone improvements since our visit.

Tigre:  Restaurant Gato Blanco, 45 minutes from the Estacion Fluvial.  4728-0390.  Riverside houses to rent – 4745-6549.  B&B at the Fundacion M. Garcia, 4749-0140, Av. Liniers, Tigre.  B&B Escauriza, Lavalle 557, on the Tigre River; English and French.    Mackinlay B&B Libertador 17500 (English and French)

Getting to Tigre: Tren de la Costa.  11 stops along 10 miles from the suburb of Olivos.  The Mitre line in Retiro station in Buenos Aires runs regular (airconditioned) train service,  (you can also take this line to Olivos and then change to the Tren de la Costa station, which is just a short walk.  Service on both is very frequent up to midnight.  Bus line 60, which can be picked up along Av. Santa Fe,  will get you there as well, but it’s a slow ride.  

Los Pecanes.  4728-1932 in Buenos Aires.

La Pascuala Delta Lodge.  4700-1332.

El Tropezón.  4728-1012

Water transport: Delta 4731-1236; Jilguero 4749-0987; Pfluger 0389-460507 (in Escobar)

© Copyright 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, Richard W. Tripp, Jr.