October 2nd though 9th
When Cindy and I returned from our trip up to LA and Santa Rosa, we were looking forward to our long awaited inland tour of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. This is the Grand Canyon of Mexico, but 5 times bigger. Several rivers and most of the canyon complex is deeper than the Grand Canyon of Colorado.
Part of the experience is the 6 hour bus ride from Mazatlan to Los Mochis and then taking the famous “Chihuahua Pacific Railroad” from sea level to 8000 feet. This is considered one of the most spectacular train rides in the Western Hemisphere. It took 90 years to complete the tracks from Los Mochis in the west (on the Sea of Cortez), to Chihuahua City, capitol of the state of Chihuahua.
We left Los Mochis where the daytime temperatures were in the 90-100 degree range to arrive at Creel (the top of the mountain) where the night time temperatures were in the mid 40’s. Needless to say, after the “Sea” in the summer, this was quite a shock to our systems. After only one night in a hotel that had no electricity and a fire place for warmth, we took a spectacular and quite harrowing ride down to the silver mining town of Batopilas. We sat on top of an SUV with race car style seats, strapped in and looked down into gorges over 1000 feet below us. This was a one lane, unimproved dirt road and the ride took 8 hours! We had some spectacular views and some disappointments.
Our driver, Pedro was a terrific guide and we did our best “Spanglish” with no real communication problems. Once we arrived in Batopilas, we found an active town of about 1000 people with 100 Mexican Federal troops, M-16’s and flak jackets. Drug wars go on in these areas and unfortunately there had been some recent killings of town folk by the bad guys. The town itself was nice, we stayed in a restored hotel but were the only guests. We went for a day trip to the “Lost Cathedral” of Satevo, built in the 1700’s.
We lucked upon a horseback group leaving for a 13 day trip to re-enact the old mining days and celebrate the 300th anniversary of people living and bringing silver out of the Batopilas area. After two nights, we’d had enough and frankly, didn’t understand the big attraction of the area other than the beautiful scenic drive. The bumps and bruises down and up the dirt road made this a “no recommendation” unless you had a very specific reason to want to go there.
After a 10 hour trip UP the same road, we arrived at what was to be our “luxury hotel”, the “Posada Mirador”. The accommodations were 3 star, the food was horrible and the views were spectacular. Unfortunately, the staff was used to “cattle caravan tours” coming and going on a daily basis. This didn’t help many of the “old timers” attitude toward the tourists. We had been told they had internet access and even satellite TV here. The only internet was at the front desk, the only TV at the bar. We watched the last US presidential debate from the bar at the Posada Mirador. We did some hiking and did get to see the very interesting Tarahumara Indians. These people have had many books written about them. Here, I’ll be brief. They are short of stature and LONG on endurance. They represented Mexico in the 1968 Olympics and did “middle of the pack”. Why such a poor showing? They complained they had to wear shoes and the distance was TOO SHORT! They have since entered and easily won 100 mile running races.
The Tarahumara live in caves, caverns and wooden houses. They are renowned for drinking huge quantities of “corn beer” and are very private and shy people. They are also the Indians that made “Peyote” famous. We visited a Tarahumara cave dwelling or two, but alas, they have become part of the “tourist world”.
We would only recommend a trip up here for SERIOUS BACKPACKERS. For those folks, this is heaven. The canyon we did not see and is reputed to be the most spectacular is “Sinforosa”. Sheer cliffs going straight down for half a mile! If we had to do it over again, we would have stayed only at the Posada Mirador, not traveled anywhere as much as we did which was exhausting and done day trips or hikes from the hotel.
We left to go back to El Fuerte and stay the night on the train. The train was 7 hours late!
Welcome to Mexico! A track had come loose with a heavy freight train coming up from Chihuahua. By the way, we saw exactly ONE Chihuahua in all of Chihuahua. : )
We arrived at El Fuerte exhausted from our long travel day. This is the city in Mexico reputed to be the home of the legendary “Zorro”. They even have a show and a statue commemorating the one who took from the rich and gave to the poor.
We left El Fuerte by public bus to go back to Los Mochis to catch the long haul bus back to Mazatlan. Here we were robbed. Our luggage was separated from us and we lost approximately $2000.00 of stuff including 85% of my photos. Fortunately, no camera gear was lost, but it left a bad taste in our mouths to a trip we had so looked forward to as our “vacation”. In retrospect, we would only recommend this trip to train buffs and backpackers. Also, we moved way too much and were not counseled correctly about how much traveling was involved with our itinerary. We should have known better, but live and learn. Most of the photos we posted on the website were from our little Canon point and shoot and whatever photos were on my Nikon at the end of the trip. Stay tuned, we know it’s going to get better.
Scott and Cindy