Copper Canyon

Corn… acres and acres as far as the eye can see for hours from Los Mochis, the south-western terminus of the Copper Canyon (Barranca Del Cobre) train. A short over-night stay, a bleary-eyed 5:30AM taxi ride, we bought tickets for the 7AM train to the canyon; along with a healthy crowd of colorfully dressed (right down to the tire-scrap sandals), luggage laden, indigenous folks who were easily violating the “no boxes, no large bags, no more than 50 kilos” restrictions.

Handing out seat assignments, the conductor seemed to seat tourists on the right (best views) and indigenous on the left. Eyeing the stream of luggage, he did finally balked at the 80lb bag of potatoes an indigenous family stuffed between the cars…
The A/C didn’t work and the windows didn’t open, but for 1/2 the price of 1st class, we still got the same spectacular views: corn for the 1st 4 hours – did I mention corn? (Mexicans eat 1200 million tacos a day) – and the beautiful canyon. At Divisadero, the convergence of three canyons occurs. The train stopped for 10 minutes to stunning views – resulting in most of us on the right running to the rim (the train seemed to tilt left at this point), take pictures and video then run back. The Copper Canyon’s area is 4 times larger and in parts, deeper, than the Grand Canyon.

In the small mountain town of Creel (where teens still “cruise the strip”… can you call 400 yards a “strip”?), we were able to secure a room at Casa Margarita: nice hostel; breakfast (although we recommend passing on the variations of gruel) and dinner included each day. Being the dry season, they’d shut off the pump, which they’d “turn-on” when asked: “Ricardo! Wake-up – Pump! Pump!”.

Booking a tour with the hostel, we got an opportunity to see a cave dwelling family, Tarahumara (the last of the indigenous people) settlements, fascinating rock formations and the beautiful (even in the dry season) Cusarare Falls. Check out the neat photo snapped at the falls. We didn’t see the effect of the water and the light until we looked at the picture later. And talk about dry. The dirt is like grey talcum powder – now we know why there are so many shoe-shiners in Mexico.

Words of wisdom: Rocowata hot springs seems close to bike, until your heart pounds out of your chest at the 2500 meters altitude. Our first 3km was straight up hill (talk about sucking wind!) and the last 3km was a rocky, narrow, severely switch-backed, canyon-side road. Not sure why they felt the need for directional arrows – you either followed the road or took the express route down – better known as gravity. The road is so rocky, you need to walk or descend by 4X4 (don’t even think about bikes – we tried and then ditched them behind a rock retaining wall half way down). We soaked in the hot springs for over an hour: amazing ourselves with the willpower to get out of the pools to face the ascent to the rim of the canyon. We retrieved the bikes on the way up to the rim, repaired a flat tire on Cynthia’s bike, and made our way back to town.

Our time in Creel was a refreshing look at small town Mexico, reinforced when we returned to the hostel on our last night greeted by a staff member, trying to extricate a pig by the ears from the front of the hotel.

See some great shots of the remote region of the Copper Canyon in our gallery.

Next stop Chihuahua and on to the USA via El Paso, Texas.

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