Thursday, May 27, 2010

Copper Canyon Trip

We have recently returned from our first inland trip and it was a huge success.  Over eight days, we traveled by trains, buses, cars and horses, as well as a couple of pick up trucks.  We did a lot of hiking, touring and learning, and we had loads of fun.

While many take their boat up to Topolobambo to begin the trip, it would have required us to motor for 2 days over 240 miles with the wind on our nose, so instead we decided to leave our boat in Mazatlan and took a 6 hour bus ride from Mazatlan to Los Mochis, the start of the train ride.  Bus travel in Mexico is really quite nice, with tons of leg room, reclining seats, air conditioning that is often a little too conditioned, and movies (who cares if they are not family rated and have loads of violence and swear words and inappropriate subject matters?).  The movies ran non-stop for the full 6 hours at high volume - just another example of how quiet is not a Mexican word.

After spending the night in Los Mochis, we took a 7 a.m. train all the way to Creel, high up in the Copper Canyon system.  Harrison has already blogged about the 10 hour train ride and the spectacular scenery we went through.  “Copper Canyon” actually refers to only one of the several canyons in the canyon system, many of which are deeper than the Grand Canyon. This is an experience I highly recommend.  We traveled on the ‘economica’ train as opposed to the ‘primera’ as it was less than half the price and certainly more interesting.

We spent the next two nights in Creel for 300 pesos per night (about $25), which included breakfast and dinner!  It’s great having Michael on your side when you need a negotiator…  Memories of backpacking. The water got turned off between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. - no one told us, but we figured it out when Michael turned the taps on and found no water, forgetting to turn them off.  It became our 6 a.m. wake up call when we awoke to water pouring out of the taps on full blast.

testWhile in Creel, we toured the area which included a hike down to Cusarare falls, seeing rock formations in the shape of an elephant, a frog and some mushrooms, visiting the Tarahumara landholdings including a cave (see Danielle’s post), a hike to some hot springs IMG_8142(with a very challenging hike back up), and a well-done museum teaching about the Tarahumara people.

From Creel, we made our wayIMG_2081 back with stops in Divisadero, Posada Barancas/Arepo, and Bahuichivo/Ceracahui. The highlight for all of us was horsebackriding in Arepo in the morning light with incredible views of the canyons.  Words cannot describe the awe we felt.  Simply breathtaking.

We took a tour down to Urique, a town on the canyon floor, which turned out to be the dustiest and driest place we had ever been, on perhaps the scariest road we have ever been (snaking down in often only one lane).  IMG_2163Mix that up with extreme heat and we can honestly say it was not terribly enjoyable.  Imagine being in a snowstorm where your car gets covered quickly with snow… then switch the snow in your image to dust.  There was at least an inch of dust on all vehicles, and it came into the car as well.  Our luggage, our clothes and our skin was covered with dust. Days later I was still coughing up the dirt. The SUV we rode in had recently been broken into, so the control panel on the ceiling of the car was hanging down, held only be a couple of wires.  For the two hour ride down into the canyon and the two hour ride back up, Michael, who was sitting in the front seat, held onto the panel in fear that it would swing and knock the driver out as he drove along the snake path on the steep mountainside.

We ended the trip in El Fuerte, a colonial town with many buildings dating back to the 1700’s.  Many of the restaurants and hotels are now in some of the old haciendas with a wonderful history and fascinating stories behind them (for example, the owner of one of the haciendas had affairs with two of his maids, killed them off, and hid their bodies inside the walls, together with his stash of gold and silver). We really enjoyed exploring this town, its fort, and hiking along the gorgeous river to see some 1500 year old petroglyphs.  IMG_8416 IMG_8423
The couple who took admission were perhaps from the same era. Our hotel, the Rio Vista, did have a view of the river (hence the name Rio (river) Vista (view)), and was a very cute hotel for only 500 pesos per night (about $45) – my kids said it was the nicest hotel they’d ever stayed at.  It’s great when they have short memories. We were the only guests at the hotel, if you don’t count the scrawny mama cat and her brand new litter of kittens (which my kids thoroughly enjoyed playing with).

While at the Rio Vista, Danielle was holding onto a rail made out of a log in order to pull herself onto a ledge, and the log fell on top of her arm.  We have since had it x-rayed and visited an orthopedist and it is apparently only tendonitis.  We’ll keep you posted.  The bloggable moment, however, came when I almost passed out as I watched Danielle get a cortisone shot in her wrist.  They had to lay me down on the exam table until I recovered.  Can you see the capital ‘L’ on my forehead??

IMG_1906 Possibly one of the best parts of the trip was traveling with some new friends from s/v Rocinante, Vicki and Larry.  We traveled the entire way with them and our kids also just adored them.  One night, Larry entertained us with his guitar as we all sang along – he has spent several years of his life in a band.  Vicki is adventurous, funny and loves to swim, as do our kids, so she was happy to get into the frigid waters whenever I didn’t feel like it (which was always). We shared a lot of laughs and great memories together.

See additional photos in Harrison’s Copper Canyon Railway post and in Danielle’s Tarahumara post, as well as in the Picasa photo album posted on the right hand sand of this blog.

Now we are back in Mazatlan and will eventually make our way across the Sea of Cortez, back to La Paz and up north into the Sea of Cortez for the summer.  In the meantime, we’ll enjoy Mazatlan for a few more days.

-Signing off from Singlar Marina in Mazatlan,


  1. Very cool! We met you and your family in Tenacatita Bay while visiting the Ponds on Qualchan. You have done so much in the last few months, it is amazing!
    I am heading down to La Paz June 5-9 to hang with Todd again, hopefully we will hit a couple islands before he heads back home!
    Let me know if you make it over there in that time frame, and if I can bring anything down for you from Los Estados Unidos!

    Jim Delurgio

  2. Barb, I am totally exhausted, but in total awe, after reading about your adventures! Your pictures are magnificent so I can only imagine what the real thing felt like.
    I hope Danielle's arm is feeling better and that you are all relaxing a bit "at home" on your boat. I'm looking forward to your next episode.
    Love and kisses to all...