Buenos Aires, Argentina...Camping with the Porteños
Oct 21, 2005
|The previous Sunday Luis asked if I would be interested in going to an island just outside Buenos Aires. He has a friend on the island who would let us camp there. There are also rainforests, rivers to swim in etc. and lots of peace and quiet. Thought that would be a good opportunity to get to know the Porteños a little better, and to sample a last taste of the South American nature.
Impressively managed to arrive at Luis' car park on time. He'd negotiated with his boss to let him off work early (erm, he was in the office for only two and a half hours that morning), so we could have a little more time on the island. First though, had to drive to Tigre (and picking up a fine for an illegal turn, naughty naughty), with enough time for a spot of lunch AND ice cream before taking the ferry to the island.
Luis said the ferry should only be an hour and a half hours long, but in actuality, we got much much better value for money on our ride. It took more than three hours in total, and I was getting anxious about the return journey. I had to meet someone the next night in Buenos Aires!
The boat was virtually packed full, but soon the passengers left bit by bit. The sun was quite strong, and was constantly heating up my back. So took this opportunity to tan the new skin on my left arm, so hopefully my scar won't stand out quite so much anymore! We were also sailing down the waviest river I have ever known... Whatever vessel going up or down the river would generate huge waves lapping onto the shore. It was quite fun watching the water. But after three hours... got a little distracted!!
We finally arrived onto the island shortly before sunset, and had to walk about ten minutes to Maria's house. Maria is the friend of Luis' friend, who hospitally opens her house to visitors, and enjoys the company as she lives there alone. Ok, not quite, she does have two dogs and two cats! Luis had met her about eight years ago, and goes there regularly to escape the hecticness of the city (working as an accountant is pretty stressful!), prefering much more the peacefullness and calmness of the island.
After a little introductory chat with Maria, we changed into our swimming costume for a dip in the river. Unfortunately we didn't have much natural sunlight left, the water was a little cold, and worse of all - it was dinner time for the numerous mosquitoes hovering above the water. They added their farewell-South America presents for me, on my cheeks, legs and even my bum. Thanks very much guys!!
After that, watched Luis set up the tent for us for the night, and then observed the camp fire being built. He'd brought along lots of meat for a barbeque - also expecting the company of Maria's oldest son, Alberto, who lives about two kilometres upriver. It meant I had a playmate for the evening as well! Alberto's girlfriend Maria brought her two years old daughter Mily along, who was a ball of smiling energy after the initial period of timidness. Then I could get creative with my own veggie dish, cooked with whatever I could scrange - Mily enthusiastically helping me squeeze some lemon juice (organically grown in Maria's garden), and Luis poured in a liberal amount of red wine.
It did feel like going back to basics. Maria's house only very recently had electricity, and drinks filtered rain water. Looking around her house, it reminded me of my grandmother's house in Hong Kong. It was a very old house in an ancient walled village, and before it was demolished to make way for a newer (and uglier) house with more modern amenities. Maria's house had the same smell, texture of the wall, and even how the space was used, and the utensils hung on the wall.
Luis wasn't sure how much Spanish I understood, but I could follow the conversation pretty well, and was pleased to have an opportunity to hear what Argentines talk about! Switched off sometimes, as couldn't relate to the objects of some gossips, and when my mind wandered off. Was also a bad influence on Mily, who insisted on sitting next to me, and learnt to pull some silly faces. Her mother, sitting opposite wasn't quite so impressed though...!
Away from the city, I was tired pretty early. Was probably already tucked up in my sleeping bag shortly after twelve. It was quite a comfortable sleep - thanks to the mattress we stole from the old house, but was always conscious of being in a tent. Luckily the rain didn't come until the morning - hence even less incentive to get out! Gave me a good chance to start "My sister's keeper", which I had in my possession for almost a week already. It was a really good book, and was quite happy to keep reading, until lunch time. They basically ate the leftover barbequed meat, and I made myself a healthier salad. Then we only had about forty-five minutes to wander around the island, before the boat came to pick us up - thankfully more or less on time. With a good book to keep me busy, the journey back didn't feel quite so long, and Luis dropped me off punctually at my hostel shortly before seven...