Chihuahua is quite a large town but the centre is quite small and easy to walk around. The main plaza had several statues and the largest one in the centre was being decorated with the colours of the Mexican flag in readiness for Independence day on Sept 16th. We had a look around the Federal Palace which was a very ornate building but it has now been turned into a shopping/business arcade. The Governers Palace next door was much more interesting. Still used as a regional centre for government it has an impressive central open courtyard and the walls are decorated with huge colourful murals depicting Mexican revolutionary heroes (of which there are hundreds!!)
. On one of the upper levels there was a large ornate wooden door which was ajar and on looking inside it was the regional government chamber so we sneaked in to get a photo. We then took a look around the local market and discovered 'gorditas' which are a tasty snack of a small fried tortilla pocket with mashed potato, lettuce, tomato & hot salsa inside. Only 2pesos each (about 10pence) so we soon finished a good few of those. After a walk around the town Paul and stopped at the heladeria for an ice cream - Paul ended up with more than he bargained for with a massive strawberry cone - it was delicious though.. (I had a mango fruit lolly). We awoke early the next day to head onto Creel which is famous for the copper canyon or the Barranca del Cobre.. Upon arriving at Creel we thought we were the only tourists there apart from a couple we saw on the bus. We got a good deal on a lovely hotel room 300 pesos a night including meals in a luxury room (That's about 15 pounds). We checked out activities in the local area at the tourist information office and ended up meeting Vinnie and Kylie - an Australian couple that we enjoyed sharing the week with in and around Creel. We looked around at various tours to places around Batopilas and in the end we decided to hire a truck with Vinnie and Kylie for the Thursday and Friday to go down into the Copper Canyon and stay at Batopilas right at the bottom of the canyon. On the Wednesday we all went for a walk to see the Valley of the Mushrooms, the Valley of the Frogs and the local mission - a small church in the valley. We walked back with Vinnie as our navigator and ended up on a path that kept disappearing, we had been walking for nearly four hours and just when we were thinking we were at least 2 hours walk from the village of Creel we managed to find a large white arrow and a well marked path, 20 minutes later we were back in Creel enjoying a few beers in the sunshine of our Courtyard. The drive on Thursday into the canyon was spectacular, much prettier than the Grand Canyon (this was helped by the fact that it was coming towards the end of the rainy season so it was really green)
. The steep sides of the canyon made for great hairpin bends although the road itself was not too steep. The local burros (donkeys), horses, goats, pigs and cows also share the road so you have to take good care (unless of course you wanted a fantastic spit roast!!). We stopped at the Cusarare Waterfalls which were pretty and the sheer drop of the waterfall was astounding - a bit like a miniature Niagara Falls. There wasn't that much water but it was still beautiful to see. After the waterfall we continued on our journey and met the 65km unpaved track down to Batopilas, which was breathtaking for several reasons - you were quite close to the edge, it was bumpy but the views were gorgeous, really green forests of oak trees and cacti, bright blue skies and beautiful white clouds. The canyon is so much deeper and longer than the grand canyon and spectacular. We stopped for our picnic lunch (one of the selling points of hiring the truck) of ham cheese and salad sandwiches, red wine, beer and popcorn pineapple (which was really cauliflower but Kylie thought it was pineapple, hence the name popcorn pineapple - it was funny at the time anyway!!). After a long lunch of 2hours we set of further into the canyon. It was getting really hot and we spied a perfect swimming spot in the river so we dove in and enjoyed and hour in the river sunbathing and chatting on the rocks. We felt really privileged because we were the only tourists there...We continued on into Batopilas to see the small but sleepy village. Batopilas is really pretty and the locals sit in the square enjoying the relaxing atmosphere
. One of things Paul and I really like about Mexico is the fact that it's so laid back and friendly, it makes you realise how manic life is in England sometimes. We stayed in a clean but cheap place just off the main plaza (about 7.50 pounds a night) and enjoyed a few beers and a game of Hearts (which was getting quite competitive) with Kylie and Vinnie. We arose early the next day to visit the lost mission about 8km from Batopilas on an even bumpier unpaved road.. The bright white fascia of the church with it's reddy brown bricks at the sides and back really stood out against the background of the lush green canyon and bright blue sky with some small white clouds clinging to the top of the canyon sides. At the lost mission you felt like you were in the middle of nowhere, it was so peaceful, no tourists apart from us... After seeing the mission we headed back along the bumpy road back to Batopilas for picnic supplies and breakfast - we have eaten eggs cooked in various ways for breakfast for at least a week now... We stopped at our swimming hole in the river again although the current was much stronger as it had been raining the previous night. Our picnic spot was nearer to Creel than yesterday but we stopped in a lay by with beautiful views and enjoyed Tuna, Mayo and Avocado Wraps with beers.. Back on the properly paved road, Kylie and I took on the role of driving despite much being made fun of. We had the last laugh at the petrol station as the attendants thought it was hilarious that 2 girls had been driving with the boys in the back.
. When we returned to Creel, the owner of the 3 amigos was so pleased to see us and the truck in one piece as someone had managed to drive one off the side the other day, although no one was injured it could have been a lot worse than it was and the truck would be out of action for 3 weeks. We were quite happy that we had driven sensibly. We decided to stay in the dormitory on our return to Creel as it was only 8 pound for us both including breakfast and evening meal. After saying farewell to Kylie and Vinnie we caught the train to Los Mochis stocking up with picnic supplies before we left. The train journey was spectacular and Paul and I both agreed that our Grandad's would have loved it. It was pretty much the same kind of scenery as we had seen on our journey to Batopilas but because it was cloudier and had been raining there were more waterfalls to see and the mist clung to the sides and tops of the canyon gorges making you feel like you were in the middle of the gorillas in the mist set!!! We ended up in Los Mochis 12 hours after setting off and caught the overnight bus down the coast line to Mazatlan a seaside town on the pacific side of Mexico.
After we crossed the border we caught a bus 6hrs south through the desert and past mountains to a town called Chihuahua. We didn't arrive until late so we spent a night in a hotel near the bus station and then caught a cheap taxi into the town centre the following day.