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Published: September 30th 2017
Beautiful spot in the town of Tigre.
Geo: -34.5843, -58.5251
Up at 5:45 AM for the early train to the Tigre Delta. For a tour, you'd think it'd be a little more luxurious, in terms of sleeping in, but this is as rough as my backpacking trips! Breakfast was skipped, and we piled into a bunch of taxis bound for the train station.
Ranjit made an interesting observation - he told Wade and I that last night he had been casually gazing out their room's window (which happens to be on the opposite of the courtyard from ours, one floor up), and commented on Wade's habit of brushing his teeth in his underwear. "I feel sorry for you ...", he told me! I dunno ... this whole "Cult of Wade" thing is getting out of hand ... we suspected that Ranjit was stealthily lurking behind his curtains, camera in hand, waiting to catch a glimpse of Wade, au naturel ...
A number of us are finding this tour interesting, because we expected the tour to have more set schedules and itineraries, but we seemingly never know where we are going, or how we are getting there. Most of us understood that today's plan was to catch an early train to the
Wade commented that once every 4 years or so, he is forced to eat McDonald's - today happened to be that day!
Tigre Delta, where breakfast would be awaiting us. Then we would take a boat back to Buenos Aires. This wasn't quite the case ...
We had just missed the first commuter train, but managed to get on the second one, though no seats were available so most of us stood, though a few grabbed spots on the floor, or leaned on a window ledge. Ben groused a bit about it, but I thought nothing of it, as I'm used to these things, being a backpacker. It wasn't until later that I realized he had a point - though not billed as a luxurious tour, it wouldn't have been difficult or expensive to book another shuttle bus to take us back and forth today. And given that every other excursion had been the same way, you would've expected it to be this way today. A few tour members had also recently been ill, and definitely would've appreciated a bus with seats.
It took us about 45 minutes to reach the end of line, where we needed to transfer to a boat. Having missed the first train, we missed the connecting boat, so instead Martin contracted a small boat operator to take us
It was a lazy ride up the river - having split up into two boats, there was plenty of room to stretch out and nap, but Ranjit and Danie beat me to the punch and sprawled out over the benches. I did my best to nap in an upright position ...
the rest of the way. Having time to kill, a number of people hit up the McDonald's - I wasn't that desperate, so I waited ... which I later regretted ...
Starving, I was looking forward to a big breakfast spread like we'd been having at the hotels, but unfortunately we arrived at the farm house to find only some dry cake and coffee served outside. I suppose we can't really complain, because the hotel breakfasts had been geared towards the international travelers, and cake and coffee was a more typical Argentinean breakfast.
Though today's experience was billed as being a day at a farmhouse or ranch, it was really neither, but still enjoyable, nonetheless. The activities started with a cooking class, where three types of chimichurri were made. One was more tomato-based, one mostly parsley, and the final one was more of a standard chimichurri. It was quite difficult to finely dice the ingredients with the dull knives we were provided. We were also shown how to make arroz con leche (rice pudding), and flan. Like at the mountain retreat, it wasn't much of a cooking class, more of a way to involve the people and have them feel
Ben, making a goofy face. I think the dorkiness of this photo will never be topped!
some ownership over the massive meal we would soon be enjoying.
Some of us did a hike, led by one of the owners of the place - there wasn't much to see, but we were given a bit of history on the land, and information about the foliage. It was a pretty overgrown trail and as a result, mosquitoes were feasting on us. The lady was quite knowledgeable, but I really wish that she wouldn't have paused so often in places that had the most mosquitoes!
The guide had brought along some oranges for us, but they all rolled out of her bag into a swampy area. Though everyone raved about how good they were, I passed, as I usually don't like eating my oranges accompanied with water-borne parasites ... plus, I didn't think that getting my hands sticky with orange juice would help the mosquito situation. But nobody got sick after eating the oranges, so it seems like I was the one who lost out.
Back for lunch, where it seemingly took an eternity to wash my hands, as the water came out of the tap only a few drops at a time. The water also came straight out of the
Uh ... I guess you should never say never!
river, so it was quite muddy ... maybe I would've been better NOT washing my hands?
The tomato chimichurri was great with bread, a bit like bruschetta or salsa. Lunch consisted of beef ribs, beef, chicken, sausage ... all very good. The only vegetable accompaniment was a simple, boring salad - typical of South America, so far.
Since the tour was winding down, Rachel suggested we go around the table and list off our favourite moments. There were too many to list, but the day at the mountain retreat near Mendoza was probably the most popular one. Meeting all these great people on the tour was also frequently mentioned. Personally-speaking, I had two favourites - the first was also at the mountain retreat, but was a specific moment, when before stepping into the bathroom, Rachel famously said "I'm not washing my hands!" My other fave moment was Wade's signature rolling of the eyes, something which happened numerous times daily, and also something which I adopted myself. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
Danie made a hilarious comment in reference to the dog at the farmhouse - it had taken a liking to Rachel and was getting a little
The farm house/ranch.
too frisky with her. "9 months from now, Rachel gives birth!", she quipped. It's almost up there with the "I'm not washing my hands!" moment!
I think this farmhouse also offers accommodations to people, and would be a nice place to relax and do absolutely nothing for a few days. After some chillaxin', we all hopped onto the boat shuttle service, which took forever to get back to town, as it seemingly stopped at every little dock along the way.
Once in town, a bunch of us walked ahead of the group towards the train station, only to be called back by Martin. He ended up leading us away from the train station, and we all wondered where the heck we were going - sometimes we are completely in the dark on this tour! We finally found out that we would be taking the scenic train back. Unfortunately, the only scenery I saw on the way back was the inside of my eyelids - I barely slept last night, and was ready to pass out.
We hopped off the train and ended up walking ... and walking ... where were we going? Turns out the scenic train only runs part
Bonanza was the name.
of the way back to Buenos Aires, and we had to get to the commuter train station to return the rest of the way. Iain commented "Another one of Martin's wild goose chases!" In the dark once again, as none of us knew how far we had to walk. Back onto another crowded commuter train (it was nearing rush hour), and we finally arrived in Buenos Aires.
At the train station, Martin asked if we wanted to walk, since the hotel was only a 10-15 minute walk away. If looks could kill ... after walking for 15 minutes from the scenic train station to the commuter one, then standing for another 35 minutes on the last train, I don't think anybody wanted to walk!
Now, I need to get off topic for a moment - something has been bothering me since this past summer's trip to Europe, and this will reveal intimate details of my life that probably nobody wants to hear, but I must vent! I need to stop buying undies outside of North America - I suspect North American clothing manufacturers have slowly been increasing the sizes of clothing, while still labeling them the same, to accommodate growing
Breakfast at the farm house - Wade sarcastically asked Martin "Is the real breakfast inside?" You've gotta love Wade's honesty! I laughed and pondered how great a McDonald's Egg McMuffin would taste at that moment ...
waistlines without letting people in on the secret. I always buy medium-sized undies back home, and they always fit. I bought a few pairs of medium-sized undies in the Netherlands last summer - too tight. I also bought a few new pairs in Buenos Aires yesterday - also too tight. Especially uncomfortable in a hot and humid place like this! It goes beyond that - I've always worn large shirts for twenty-some years, but now I find I'm buying a lot of medium shirts, which seem to fit perfectly. It's lies, all lies!!! I can now continue with the blog entry ...
After a shower and quick siesta back at the hotel, it was time for our last dinner together as a group 😞 Martin had made a reservation at Sipan, a contemporary Peruvian restaurant. Apparently, Peruvian food is commonly mixed with culinary elements from China and Japan, and also has a Creole influence. Having trouble deciding, Martin suggested we leave ourselves in the Chef's hands, and have a selection of various Peruvian-style sushi and appetizers, and some of the entrees.
Wade selected a Chandon sparkling rose - a first for me, it was quite nice, and the rose's effervescence was
Loungin' was one of today's main activities.
a nice complement to many of the spicier dishes, and also served to cleanse the palate between the numerous dishes.
Though things definitely started off great, the meal nose-dived at the end. I still think it was a good experience, but could've been improved had the chef done a better job of contrasting the tastes and textures, and given us more of a chance to try everything that Peruvian cuisine has to offer. To me, that's the whole point of a tasting menu, which was essentially what we were given. The staff could've also solicited feedback to see what we liked, and also gauged whether or not we were ready to move on to something different. But in all fairness, we also could've been more proactive in giving our opinions.
Part of me does wonder if the restaurant was also trying to pad the bill, since the food was seemingly coming out as fast as they could make it. If I ever returned to Buenos Aires, I would consider giving this place another try, because I'd be able to make an informed decision as to which dishes to try, and be better able to construct a meal that involves more
Some giant beans.
aspects of Peruvian cuisine.
Ranjit uttered some profound words, when he explained that he was skipping dessert, instead holding out for some gelato. "Domo arigato, Mr. Gelato" ... I don't know that great philosophers such as Confucius or Socrates have ever uttered words with such deep meaning before ... upon hearing the beauty of Ranjit's message, I shed a tear of infinite sorrow that flowed like a river of despair, directly into the empty abyss of my heart, leaving me a hollow shell of a man, with only the pain of a thousand unrealized sunrises inside ... luckily, the empty abyss of my heart was filled slightly, by ordering a chocolate mousse, that was accented with pisco.
Interesting moment at dinner - the owner came out and asked if we enjoyed the meal, and said something along the lines of "Generally, when we have a big group like this, there is no charge for the person who organized the meal." It's fairly common knowledge that many tour leaders are not well-paid by tour companies, and that they receive kickbacks from restaurants and local tour companies that run excursions. It's one of those things that people know about but don't acknowledge, because
Prepped and ready for the cooking class.
it all happens behind the scenes. Was this an outright admission by the owner, of a kickback?
Given how dishes came out in a non-stop manner, and they were all served family style, it was impossible to say if Martin wasn't charged for his portion. Did they just subtract the price of a couple of dishes? Or did they still charge us for Martin's share, essentially double-dipping? I freely admit that I have a pessimistic nature and am always looking for angles ... maybe it was nothing, but something didn't seem right about the whole thing ...
Back to the hotel - Ranjit, Scott, Rachel, and I ended taking a short walk to find Ranjit and Scott some gelato. We were not overly successful, as they were only able to get some pre-packaged ice cream from a convenience store. At that point, I don't think they really cared, since it was well past midnight.
On our walk down Florida street, we came across two guys trying to break into a sex shop. They were banging on the steel barrier that most storefronts in that area have, and we didn't stick around long to watch, since we didn't want any trouble of
I think she was making the arroz con leche.
our own. As we walked away, we all thought "Why bother? There's no way they will get in!" A few seconds later, we heard the sound of shattered glass - these guys were obviously quite desperate to get in there! When a man wants it, he wants it ...
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