Review by journalist Pablo Etchevers ( Welcome Argentina)
The “Barba” was expecting us from a very early hour. It could be said that no sooner had the first sunbeams touched the water of the San Fernando marina, than everything was ready. The Barba, in fact, is no other than a beautiful boat that is used both for fishing and for sailing. But the minute one meets its owner, Santiago Bengolea, it seems as if both the boat and the skipper got mingled in only one person.
After getting everything on board, we left the Canestrari marina, sailing the Lujan river, which works as the natural border between the continent and the islands, only accessed by means of some craft. Sailing it means watching its quaint waterfront, some purely English style rowing clubs, countless marinas and large mansions from the Belle Époque, such as the Tigre Hotel, which today works as the House of Culture.
Thus, we slowly left the busy channels and rivers of the first section of the delta, such as the Vinculación, Urión and the Honda channel, until our eyes spotted the vastness of the Paraná River, which we would cross in order to get deep into the quietness of the Aguaje del Durazno, a beautiful creek of calm waters that flow inside a labyrinth and push us towards the low areas of the River Plate. This place belongs to the second stretch or central section of the delta.
Once there, we made our first stop to try to fish some bogas, but we did not get lucky. However, a cold meat and cheese board, accompanied by some elegant wine served as the perfect excuse to anticipate what would be our lunch…
The important thing is that as tourists sail along, they get to know every meter of water they have traveled. How and when, what kind of flora and fauna, what native Indians used to dwell the islands before the white men arrived, why there are so many varieties of fish, and other issues are some of the visitors’ interests. And Santiago has such a deep and impeccable knowledge of the area that his experience leaves tourists more than satisfied
The boat slows down and Santiago points at the shore and tells us how the islands were once formed and how they continue to be formed. He explains to the tourists that the floods caused by the Paraná River drag a large amount of sediments and that, once they are held by the rush on the shores, they begin to form the ridges that give origin to new islands as they fill up.
“The delta locks a lot of questions and answers in its heart, and that is the real attraction of these rides. Some are evidenced during the outing and others will surely be kept for another trip. Maybe that is the reason why the boat speed must be adapted to what we are looking at – there is no point in rushing. The delta is going to show you its life in every creek you sail. We do not have to go in search for something in particular. The nice part is to stop and wait for nature to show us her rules and codes herself. And this happens here all the time. The delta will always surprise you” this passionate local adds.
Noon found us inside the Estudiante Channel, a unique creek that perfectly summarizes the magic of the delta.
Its soft current, its water hyacinths adrift, its azaleas and wild ferns in each one of its floods and the peace of its calmness interrupted only by the falling of the leaves from the trees made everything very special. The singing of various birds would interrupt the reigning silence every now and then.
There, as we waited for some dorado or surubí offspring to strike, the Barba began to light a fire in a portable grill that was hanging from one of the boat
ends and let a sample of a typical Argentinian asado be seen in it.
Within a couple of minutes, its statements about the delta being in charge of showing us its own performance became true.
An old craft loaded up with timber appeared out of nowhere and put an end to the quietness of the creek. Shortly afterwards, the groceries boat turned up and we stopped it, just like one calls a taxi, in order to buy a couple of kilos of “pecanes” -the famous and tasty nuts typical of the islands, introduced there in the early 1900s. We waved at a little rowing boat with kids coming back from school as two island people who were transporting tacuara cane and wicker in their canoes would check some fishing traps that had been placed there the previous night in search for some large wolf fish.
The greeting among the members of each craft is part of the navigation codes in the delta. And this goes beyond their sailing a canoe, a kayak, a boat or a multimillionaire craft or yacht. It seems as if at times, social differences would disappear in pursuit of a landscape which has its own codes, imposed by nature.
As for the asado… We were speechless….
Even though sailing is a beautiful way of appreciating nature, many tourists enjoy walking through the islands. And they can do it, as the possibility of landing is constant on almost every one of them.
Our destination was the Los Pecanes inn, located in the second stretch of the delta. Once there, its owners, Ana and Richard, gave us a panorama of what used to be the delta golden days, when the islands would supply the city of Buenos Aires with fruit, when the fishing club members would grow in number and when almost a hundred thousand people were settled in the three of its areas.
Today, even if the figure does not surpass twenty-five thousand dwellers -as well as populating the islands every weekend in the year- tourist growth has caused some families to see this place as a real estate investment destination.
Thus, accompanied by the tireless Ana, we started to walk different paths that led us to the heart of a typical delta island. Nests of all kinds of birds, wasps and bees, hydrangeas, creepers and wild ferns, small lagoons and rivers with beavers included, as well as humming-birds, were some of the attractions our eyes could watch in every step we made.
Tea-time caught us sitting opposite the river in the shade of the “pecanes” which have given this place its name. With Ana’s jealously kept recipes, this matchless nut has turned her into a true legend of the gastronomy of the islands. And tasting some of her home-baked cakes is enough…
The light slowly began to anticipate the arrival of dusk. Therefore, our farewell got us back to sailing the river. The lunar table would forecast a precious full moon that would show us a different delta, with stars and satellites and all.
And it is true: the delta night also deserves our eyes to come to a halt in its colors, our smell to get lost in its odors and our ears to be marveled at the silence of its music or at the wind of some southeastern wind. But that is a different story that I may tell you one day...
Recommendations: “Río Abajo” by Lobodon Garra, “El tempe Argentino” by Marcos Sastre, “Viaje al país de los matreros” by Fray Mocho and “Sudeste” by Haroldo Conti are some of the books that you cannot miss reading before approaching this marvelous site called delta.
8,30 /9.00 am. Pick up at your Hotel . ( More than 4 pax not included)
10,00 am Departure from San Fernando Harbour to Rio de la Plata estuary.
Buenos Aires city from the river .Welcome drinks.
We will navigate for 90 minutes through the San Antonio and Honda rivers to the "Reserva de la Biosfera" crossing the Parana de las Palmas .
13.00 pm. Nautical Barbecue / Lunch in Hostelrys.
6.30 pm We start the trip back to harbour .
8.00 / 8.30 pm. Back in your hotel
Week ends & 2 / 6 nights stays- Expeditions for groups up to 7 pax. U$S 1500 / day ( all included )- Only with reservations & 50 % deposits in advance.
No age range , only for nature lovers. Children will be supervised by their parents .
Lunch and beverages are included in day tours.
"Epecuen" 60 foot -Classic yatch. Basic per day U$S 1000 . 12 Pax
"Bruma" 55 foot - Chata - Classic river boat- Basic per day U$S 700. 15 Pax
"Carolina" Deluxe 48 foot yatch . Basic per day U$S 1500 . 10 Pax
“The real wild beast” (Guarani Language) in the Delta and Parana River
Nothing seems to stop the Yaguareté, not even heavy currents of the Iguazú and Paraná River. It easily adapts to Pampas’s o Jungle, to deserted regions or low and muddy lands.
Argentina’s history and literature refers to the Yaguarete also known as American Jaguar or Tiger, nowadays almost extinct ; as a serious threat to settlers, travelers and hunters even in urban surroundings and during the early days when Argentina was being discovered , conquered and colonized. Probably a lack of knowledge regarding this feline character made early inhabitants associate it with the Puma that is a much more aggressive feline, especially when someone entered his own territory. This together with the extraordinary capability of humans to destroy natural life have been key facts for its close to extinction situation; let’s review a little of history……….
Portuguese Antonio Rodrigues, was a professional soldier that joined Adelantado Pedro de Mendoza in his voyage to the River Plate that lead to the first and catastrophic Buenos Aires foundation in 1536, he writes …….
“when we found the coasts in the River Plate ,we wanted to land to choose a place where we could start building a city, the first six that landed were killed by Jaguars”…..(.Welcome to Argentina).
Rodrigues becomes one of the first reporters on B.A., participates in the battle of Corpus Christi, during the foundation of Asunción (Paraguay) and in the election of Capital Irala (replacing Pedro de Mendoza) that took place in San Fernando harbor in 1549.
Years later, in Brazil Rodrigues join the Jesuits and participate in Sao Paulo’s foundation.
A letter he sent to his brothers Jesuits in Coimbra (Portugal) in 1553 is a historic “pearl” that can be found in a few history books.
Alcide d Órbigny almost three hundred years later , in 1827 sails the estuary of the River Plate and Paraná river arriving to Corrientes where he stays for one year including visits to Iberá Marshes. He lands in many occasions, hunting for food and starting a collection nowadays partially exhibited in Paris Natural Science Museum where he was a distinguished member.
He refers, while exploring this aggressive natural paradise full of mosquitoes, never-ending exuberant vegetation, exotic birds and animals; the dangers and fears due to Yaguaretes, between others.
In various occasions describes close encounters with “the beast” that has attacked and killed horses, cattle, and residents, even in villages. Probably this episodes, a mix of reality and myth happened when the feline looking for food in his own territory attacked due to its natural instinct of preservation. Was hunted with the aid of dogs that surrounded the animal providing a chance for the hunter to kill it. Yaguaretes beautiful leather was used by Guarany Indians to dress, its fat as medicine. Considerably quantities of leather skins were exported to Europe by early inhabitants.
Tigre city owns it name to a story related to the feline that lived in trees close to the small village of Tigre in those early days named Las Conchas / and close to actual Reconquista river ( Las Cochas river) ,and that during the nights roared creating panic between residents…….
Naturalist Charles Darwin lives testimony about the dangers that felines represented in
areas close to rivers.
Since 1830 approximately we loose all chances to find this beautiful feline in areas close to Buenos Aires and specifically in the Delta of the Paraná River. Although close to extinction Yaguaretes are still inhabitants of Argentinean northern provinces. Let´s help to keep them alive in their habitat, not only in Zoo’s.