Captivating Copper Canyon

Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2011

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Flag of Mexico  , Northern Mexico,
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From Leon we had another long slog north to our final destination in Mexico, the Copper Canyon. Having already been to some stunning places in Mexico the Copper Canyon was another surprise; it was absolutely jaw-droppingly stunning.  After a 5 hour train ride from Chihuahua (or Chi-hoo-ha-hoo-ha as Gordon first pronounced it, much to his embarrassment and where we even saw a Chihuahua) to Creel through enormous apple orchards we spent the first couple of days pootling around on another moped seeing the Valleys of the Frogs (tenuously frog shaped stones), the Mushrooms (less tenuous mushroom shaped rocks) and the Monks (beautiful eerie looking twisted grey stone formations) and racing back to town against the blackest clouds we've ever seen which produced an incredible rainstorm five minutes after we reached safety.

The next day we set off to go hiking near one of the canyons themselves having been told the name of a village where we could hire a guide.  Our slightly bemused bus driver duly dropped us off in the village we’d requested at which point we realised we were never going to find a guide – the 'village’ consisted of 3 farms.  Seeing someone in one of the houses we went over to see if anyone was around and met a 5 year old girl.  Sarah smiled at her, then took off her hat and started to chat.  The little girl took one look at Sarah’s curly red hair, burst into tears and ran off screaming.  Nice one Sarah.  At this point we also realised that in our rush to get off the bus we’d left behind not only a pair of sunglasses but also our suncream, and there was not a cloud in the sky.  We weren’t to be easily deterred from our hike though and so we resorted to Plan C; we found a likely looking path leading off up a hill and in response to the lack of suncream Sarah was forced to don a ludicrous costume of hat, her long black waterproof trousers and a garish Australia towel round her shoulders.  Cue Gordon taking lots of pictures of her as ‘Captain Australia’ for the rest of the day. The path in fact turned out to be a 10km loop along the rim of a incredible deep canyon with views all around us. We stopped for many rock shots, including one where Gordon scrambled up a 10m high rock only to get a bit stuck and not be able to get down for 20 minutes, and had another scenic picnic perched on a rock over a loop in the canyon.

Having miraculously made it back without too much sunburn we then headed on to the small town of Divisadero where we stayed the night with a charming Mexican family who fed us homemade enchiladas and chatted non-stop about the canyon and tourism in the area.  In the morning we set off with them for our first glimpse of the main canyon – and couldn’t believe our eyes.  It was like a green Grand Canyon but with no people around.  We spent an all too short morning walking along the canyon rim taking pictures and scrambling on rocks to enjoy the views before heading back to the station for some "gorditos" (little yellow, red or black pita bread type things made of corn and stuffed with yummy things) before catching the train for the rest of the afternoon down virtually the entire length of the canyon to Los Mochis on the coast.  The train journey down was amazing if long with ever changing views of the canyon and river. The only problem was that to take photos you had to go to the open windows in between cars where there was constant jostling and battling for position with other camera-toting Mexicans who tend to be less polite and circumspect in these situations that us Brits. Los Mochis was less pleasant but we only had a few hours to kill finding our last (again excellent) Mexican street meal before, very excitingly, getting our very last nightbus of the trip up to Nogales on the US border.  We feel like we’ve been on buses for ages and the idea of no more overnight trips was more than a little exciting, particularly when this last journey turned out to be one of the worst when we spent 3 hours in the baking sun in the morning at a drug & weapons checkpoint having all our bags gone through with a fine-toothed comb.  Definitely an element of travelling that we won’t miss!

Having been warned (at great length by our parents in particular) of the dangers of Northern Mexico we rather nervously got off the bus in Nogales and sprinted in a taxi to the border where in a matter of minutes and with very little fuss we found ourselves walking out of Mexico, through the enormous fence, and into the grand old U S of A.  After 6 months of Spanish it felt odd to be leaving South & Central America behind (and we’d miss the Mexican street food!), but we were really looking forward to change of pace, no more public transport, getting our own car, Cinnabons on demand and finally being able to flush toilet paper.  God Bless proper sewage systems!!
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