Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Copper Canyon, Mexico

There's a whole lot of Mexico that we don't get to see when we just travel along the coast. So, we took a long 4-day trip into the high altitude mountains of Mexico to Copper Canyon. Our son, Ryan, flew down to Mazatlan to join us on this inland adventure. No reservations - just went and did it.

It took a full day of bus travel just to get from Mazatlan to where the train starts in Los Mochis. Most of the way was through massive corn fields as far as the eye could see to the volcanic mountain peaks beyond. So THIS is where all those yummy corn tortillas are born! Mile after mile, hour after hour, we whizzed past cornfields with a sprinkling of tomatoes, peppers, and beans mixed in. I knit socks.

Upon arrival in Los Mochis, we grabbed a taxi at the bus station and asked him for a cheap hotel. Not only did the driver take us to a large, clean hotel ($40 for 3 people), but he also made arrangements to come back at 5am the next morning to take us to the train station. Los Mochis is a large city - typically Mexican with no tourists. We walked along the busy streets and people watched.

At 5am taxi-guy showed up and we took off to the train station and stood in line to buy tickets. Finally, at 7am, we boarded the train and settled in for the full day's ride. Because it was Easter/Spring break the 1st class (gringo) train was fully booked. No problemo - we took the "El Chepe" 2nd class (economica) train which is first come-first served.

This train route was hewed from the Sierra Madre mountains at the turn of the century so that Texas could have a Pacific seaport. The Panama canal came only a few years after this line was completed, but freight and people still travel on the train. Along the route, we saw quite a few freight rail cars down over the edge. Yikes! Yes, we managed to stay on the rails! Along the route between Los Mochis and Creel (our destination) there are 86 tunnels and 39 bridges, some quite high up! We stopped at several very tiny villages and even some places where there was nothing except a passenger to get on or off.

Finally, in the late afternoon we arrived up in Creel - about 7000 feet in altitude. The temps sure were cold! We quickly found a hotel/hostel in town that rented us a room in the owner's private home - $60 total for 3 people which included dinner and breakfast.

The conversations and company at the meals were marvelous! We chatted with backpacking students from all over the world. Many were there to hike down into some of the canyons - I sure wish I could have gone with them. But, we only stayed one night and boarded the return train the next day at noon.

Along the train route are Tarahumara Indians who are easily recognized by their colorful clothing. They make and sell pine-needle and other baskets as well as colorful woven belts and tote bags. Yes, I did by a basket and a belt from this adorable little Tarahumara girl in Creel - wouldn't you have done the same?

The train makes a quick 15-minute stop in Divisiadero to view canyons from an overlook, shop for baskets, and buy some yummmmmmmy food. Burritos and fat gorditas were cooked to perfection on top of 55-gallon steel drums. I liked the blue corn gorditas with beef, cheese, and potato. We grabbed our plastic foam trays of food and got back on the train to continue the trip down the mountains. Of course, I had to buy a few more baskets.

For a change of pace, we decided to spend the night in the town of El Fuerte rather continuing on the train to Los Mochis. We easily got a beat-up Chevy stationwagon taxi with a cowboy hat wearing driver. He took us to the same hotel/hostel (Hotel Guerra) where the other passengers were already had reservations.

Great choice!! The little hotel was located right in the center of this historic town in a hundred year old building. The room was nice, cheap ($45) and breakfast was included, served in the open aired patio. I managed to snap a photo of Jonesy and Ryan relaxing over their breakfasts of coffee, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, refried beans and whole wheat toast. Old relics - cattle brands, horse bits, etc. hung along the walls.

We set out to explore the Fort that this city was named after. Not only did we find it, but we also stumbled across the beautiful town square lined with palm trees. The fort, built in 1601, is long gone, but they erected a replica on the same hilltop site. The views were marvelous. Ryan and Jonesy got chewed up by some biting flies though - really itchy! So we found the local bus to take us to Los Mochis where we found another bus to take us back to Mazatlan.

As luck would have it we arrived in Mazatlan at night - just in time for the wild Easter Week partying in the Golden Zone of hotels. Agh! Traffic was at a stand still - and there were almost naked girls dancing in the back of pick up trucks or wriggling (that's how I descrbe it) down the street holding beer cans. Not gringos - Mexican teenagers. Finally we found a Pulminara - an open aired VW based taxi and got a ride back to the marina. Ahhhh....back on the home-sweet-boat.

I love reading about this and seeing your photos! Am afraid that train ride would freak me out a bit.
what a wonderful trip. You took great pictures. Who knew there was so much to see in Mexico.
I look foward to your posts. You are living my husbands dream. He wants to sell everything and "sail" We are Americans currently living in Israel - he retired after 35 yrs with a major company and this is his 2nd career.
Your posts are so informative and personal I feel like I know you. Thank you for sharing.
I love your trip, wandering and seeing so many sites.. TY for sharing.
Sounds like you had fun... The pictures are beautiful! I bet it was nice visiting with your son:-) Did he bring you yarn?
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