Copper Canyon and Surrounds

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
Trip End Feb 18, 2007

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Flag of Mexico  ,
Monday, May 29, 2006

Leaving Baja California, we catch a ferry over to the Mexican mainland, to take the famous Copper Canyon train ride, which links the Pacific Coast with Mexico's central mountain plateau. We've guessed that the ferry journey should take about 6 hours. Yes, it seems difficult to get a straight answer here. We asked 5 different ferry employees how long it should take, and got various answers from 4-8 hours, so we've taken 6 as being the average.

Despite the great scenery whilst leaving Baja California, and the fantastic sunset a few hours into the sail, it would have been quite a boring ride, if it were not for the fact that we got chatting to a nice American couple along the way. They also happened to be crossing the sea, to embark upon the same railroad adventure.

We finally arrive to the Mexican mainland, and to the town of Los Mochis, the starting point for the train. But rather than rush, and start the journey the next morning, we decide to spend a day visiting Alamos, a nearby beautiful colonial town, which is untouched by tourism, well untouched until we got there:-). The following day we make our way to the station, to start our journey.

There aren't many train services in Mexico, but when they do have one, they don't have timetables, as we soon learn, they have ideal schedules. This means, so we are told, that ideally the train would operate to the times on the leaflet, but in reality they are always late, sometimes by a few hours. Still, the Copper Canyon line is an amazing piece of engineering achievement.

The journey started off fairly ordinary, but the scenery gradually became more impressive as the train started its climb up to the main mountain plateau of central Mexico. In just a couple of hundred kilometres, the train climbs almost 2,500 metres, hugging the edges of mountains, passing through dozens of tunnels, and crossing many deep canyons and rivers.

As we reach the edge of the mountain plateau, we have arrived in an area inhabited by the Tarahumara Indians. A tribe who still live a very basic life style in cave dwellings. We didn't realise that people still live in caves outside of Wales! :)
We spot some of the Tarahumara, selling their handmade goods at some of the train stops. They seem to be a really colourful people.

Just before the train arrives in our destination, Creel, the train stops in Divisadero, from where there are great views over Copper Canyon.

We arrive in the small dusty town of Creel, and stay in a delightful backpackers with food included, and where everybody sits down to eat dinner together.

That evening, a small backpacker contingent head out to sample the local nightlife. We couldn't work out at first why the bars here have fireplaces. That was until the sun went down, and we realised that at this high altitude, as soon as it gets dark, the temperature plummets.

In the bar, Marc is introduced to a typical Mexican drink, a Michelada. This is a beer served with lime juice, assorted spices, chili pepper, ice and a salted rim.
Sounds nice doesn't it? Well Marc thought so, Patricia thought it was bloody awful!

We got talking to a Spanish backpacker who has been in Mexico for several months. A rare find, as she's only the third Spanish backpacker that we've met since we started our trip. Anyway, she tells us that the Mexicans don't like to say that they don't know something. Therefore, if you ask them something, instead of saying that they don't know, they invent an answer. Judging by our 2 weeks here so far, we can see where she is coming from. It can be very annoying, especially when you're asking directions to a hotel or a bus station, weighed down with all your luggage, and peoples misinformation, can mean that you spend ages walking around in circles.

We all agreed that the best way around this cultural phenomenon, is to ask about 10 Mexicans the same question, and then take a consensus to hopefully get the right answer :)

The next day, we walk off our hangovers, with a steep descent into one of the side canyons, which leads into the grand Copper Canyon. We didn't have the energy for the real one. Still, it was great scenery, and waiting for us at the bottom were some natural pools to bathe in. Just great.

The next day, we get back on the train, and continue to the end of the line at the Coyboy town of Chihuahua. That's almost it for our Copper Canyon adventure, except will somebody please explain to us why we keep seeing blond, blue eyed local people, speaking a dialect of old German to each other.

Ah, we've found the answer. Apparently, the area around Chihuahua is home to the Mennonite sect, who came here from Germany, after firstly trying to live in Russia and Canada, and who were made welcome here in post-revolutionary Mexico, in return for their farming skills.

See, everything has an explanation!
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