A Brief Tour of Tigre (that means Tiger)


We’ve already mentioned that on this trip we tried to be a bit more spontaneous than usual (and by usual I mean not spontaneous at all — we definitely travel by spreadsheet). So we had several ideas for day trips from Buenos Aires, but we hadn’t decided which ones to do, even up to the moment of departure that morning. It was a choice between Arecco and Tigre – the former is south of the city and a big town for gauchos (cowboys), the latter is north of the city and is described as being “a cross between the river markets of Thailand and the Jersey Shore”. Thursday morning dawned, and we decided to head north. The weather wasn’t all that great – it was threatening to rain – but we couldn’t ignore such an intriguing description of Tigre!

We took a train from near our hotel out to the suburbs, and then connected to the Tren de la Costa up to Tigre. It was built in the early 1990s as an attempt to attract big weekend crowds from the city; it was built on an old rail line that was upgraded to light rail. Unfortunately it’s been a bit of a flop, and it’s obvious that the trains and stations haven’t received much TLC since their opening. The views aren’t great – but some of the towns you pass through are cute. We were tempted to get off in San Isidro to look at the cathedral, but ultimately we pressed on to get the most of our time in Tigre.

At the station of the Tren de la Costa.

At the station to catch the Tren de la Costa.

We arrived in Tigre at about 1pm – which I admit was a pretty late start for a “day trip” – but as previously mentioned, taking it easy was one of our priorities. đŸ™‚

Let me explain a bit about what Tigre is, because it’s hard to picture the region (although I’m sure our photographs will help). Tigre is a town/region that sits on the delta of the ParanĂ¡ River. In fact, lots of streams and tributaries come together here – so it’s a bit of a maze of waterways. There is very little stable land, other than what has been artificially constructed amidst the marsh. Once you get out of Tigre town-proper, there are no roads – everyone travels by boat. instead of streets, you have small rivers or canals, and every house has a dock instead of a driveway.

An example of the "streets" ... all water!

An example of the “streets” … all water!

In some ways it reminded us of the bayous of the Gulf Region, like the Mississippi delta in Louisiana (even though we’ve never been there), crossed with the Florida swamps, crossed with the fancy houses of Miami. I think because Tigre is so unusual, we kept trying to find some correlation with other places we had visited or heard of, which is a common mistake that travelers make, I admit. In reality, there is no place quite like Tigre.

Some of the houses in Tigre were colorfully decorated, like this bright green example. There was no coherent architectural style, although all seemed to have some sort of flood protection built in (usually being on stilts).

Some of the houses in Tigre were colorfully decorated, like this bright green example. There was no coherent architectural style, although all seemed to have some sort of flood protection built in (usually being on stilts). The buildings also had names rather than numbers – this was was called Floppy!

My biggest regret of the day is that we started out so late. Because we were flying to Mendoza that evening, we only had about 4 hours in Tigre – and it takes about 3.5 hours to do a circuit of the inner parts of the delta. The more interesting and exotic bits can only be seen on a full-day safari.

There were many abandoned boats in the river - like this one. They've been left to rust and sink....

There were many abandoned boats in the river – like this one. They’ve been left to rust and sink….Parts of the river looked like a proper boat ghost town. I worry about the environmental impacts.

If we were ever to return, I would definitely consider going for several days and renting a place far out – where you have to take everything with you and you don’t see another person for days on end.

This is an example of an unique house in Tigre. I'm not quite sure what to call that architectural style, but you won't miss it!

This is an example of an unique house in Tigre. I’m not quite sure what to call that architectural style (maybe alien adobe?), but you won’t miss it!

We wondered how construction worked in Tigre - with no roads to get the cranes in, how does one build a new house? And just then, we saw this: a crane on a boat. Ingenious.

We wondered how construction worked in Tigre – with no roads to get the cranes in, how does one build a new house? And just then, we saw this: a crane on a boat. Ingenious.

Tigre is a popular weekend getaway destination for Portenos (people from Buenos Aires) – and lots of people own summer homes here, where they come for weeks at a time to get out of the city. Since we were there in late autumn (May), many of the houses had been closed up for the season. But you could still definitely see what a lively community it must be. Apparently many of the kids who grow up in Tigre learn to drive boats long before the learn to drive a car!

A family waiting on their dock for the taxi/ferry to come. It makes a circuit through the delta every few hours - so not everyone has to own their own boat, although I think all the permanent residents do.

A family waiting on their dock for the taxi/ferry to come. It makes a circuit through the delta every few hours – so not everyone has to own their own boat, although I think all the permanent residents do.

This house had a fairly neat railroad track, so they could pull their boat up out of the water and into their boatshed.

This house had a fairly neat railroad track leading down into the water, so they could pull their boat up and into their boatshed. It looked quite funny to see rail track descending into the river!

We did spend some time on the water. We found a tourist company that offered tours on a fairly large catamaran. Unfortunately the tours were only in Spanish, so we missed most of the commentary, but we did get a brief glimpse of what life is like in Tigre. The one thing we did catch, several times, was the translation of the name. The tour company seemed fascinated that tigre is translated to English as tiger (even though we were assured several times that there are no tigers in the area.)

This is one of the few local stores, where you can get food and water. It was a bit hard to tell, but I don't think any of the homes had potable water, so they have to bring in everything for consumption. I don't know what they do with the sewage though...

This is one of the  local store boats, where you can get food and water. It was a bit hard to tell, but I don’t think any of the homes had potable water, so they have to bring in everything for consumption. I assume the boat sails around the delta, selling its wares to people. You can see lots of soda, bottles of water, and several propane tanks.

Relaxing on our boat tour! It was a fairly big catamaran, but there were only about 7 passengers on board.

Relaxing on our boat tour! It was a fairly big catamaran, but there were only about 7 passengers on board.

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Posted on 06/06/2013, in travel, Travel to South America and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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