Showing posts with label Copper canyon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Copper canyon. Show all posts

Monday, October 12, 2009

Copper Canyon

We are back in Mazatlan after 6 days exploring the Copper Canyon area riding the famous Chepe train. This train runs from the Pacific coast inland through some incredible canyon scenery to the city of Chihuahua. We rode the rails for only a small portion of the length, stopping for three nights at Cerocahui (a village near the Bahuichivo stop), one night in Posada Barrancas, and one in the historic town of El Fuerte. We took an overnight bus from Mazatlan (TAP - 320 pesos each) to Los Mochis and another bus to El Fuerte, boarding the train at that station.

Map of the entire route. Note the elevation profile - Posada Barrancas, our final stop is close to the highest point at Divisdero but not even half way to Chihuahua.

Boarding at El Fuerte. Note the security guard with automatic weapon. Rani whose photo I took in the spring with a similarly armed soldier wanted her picture taken with the man in black. He declined. This is the first class train.

We took the economico (2nd class) train, which stops more often but has reclining seats (some of them, anyway) and air conditioning (some of the time). It costs less than half of the first class train and is used by middle class Mexicans and budget travellers.

The land between El Fuerte and the beginnings of the canyons is quite flat and fertile. We are now entering the canyons.

There are frequent views of rivers and this stunning stretch of water that I think is a lake or maybe just a widening of the river.

The train crosses many bridges and passes through dozens of tunnels.

We are now up in the canyons. Rani took these pictures while hanging out of the door way. A helpful Mexican businessman pointed out the sights to her on the route.

The train does a loop at this point to gain elevation within a single valley. There is a huge waterfall at the end of the valley. We have just passed over the bridge you see far below and will pass under the mountain to our left.

Alberto and Francia met us at the station. We had considered staying at their hotel as well as at one of two other budget inns in the town of Cerocahui. Alberto was persuasive and gave us a fair rate for our stay in his very comfortable and new inn (300 pesos per night or about 30 Canadian dollars). Here is a brief video of their establishment:

This is Cerocahui, a small agricultural town with a mission (ex-Jesuit) and school. It is located in a lovely valley, surrounded by mountains and rivers.

The mission in the morning light, photographed from the town square.

The town was full of wildlife - dogs, roosters, chickens, horses, and the occassional burro. At night, the dogs would start a chorus, sometimes keeping it up for an hour or so. Our rooster alarms would usually go off a couple of times in the night when a car's lights interrupted their sleep and start in in earnest well before dawn.

The next morning, Alberto and Francia invited us to join them on a trip to their rancho, a cattle ranching operation down a long 4 wheel drive road and into another valley. The fields are full of yellow wild flowers after the rains of the summer have passed. Here is a small video of our ramble at the ranch:

Cows and a bull or two.

Clothesline used by the Raramuri indian family that works the rancho.

We came across some other wildlife on our walk. This little guy is about 10 cms long (see next pic).

Centipede with hand for scale. The farmhand who accompanied us got a good shriek out of Rani when he flicked this critter at her using a stick.

We also came across a hefty spider, about 7-8 cms across. We think this is a type of tarantula:  Brachypelma vagans is commonly called the "Mexican redrump" or "Mexican black velvet". It is a burrowing species found in Mexico and other parts of Central America.

Rani recovering from centipede shock. Actually she is enjoying a quiet moment at the waterfall we hiked to that afternoon. We went for a refreshing swim although the water was ice cream headache cold.

Later that evening we took a van tour from Alberto to the rim of the Urique canyon. People who have seen the grand canyon, told us this was even more impressive.

On the road to Urique (a town in the bottom of the canyon).

Perched on a rock outcrop at the Gallegos lookoff. The road winds down 1000's of feet below us and the drop off at our back is at least 500 feet.

We hiked the next day in the valley of the lions. The so called lions are a stunning ridge of red rock with a layer of white on top. The pinnacles do look like animals or birds from different angles. The village of Cerocahui is below.

Red and white lions.

Hiking in the valley below - note the wild flowers. The fields are deceptive here because they are covered in small rocks making stumbling easier than walking.

We had to ford this stream to get back to the village.

The next day we took the train to Posada Barrancas. At each stop, Raramuri women and children approached the train selling baskets and apples.

We also learned what the third class trains look like.

At Posada Barrancas we stayed at Cabanas Diaz with Sr. Diaz and his family. We slept in a small cabana with its own stone hearth and enjoyed a blazing fire that took the chill off the night.

A group of four Finnish exchange students also stayed in these cabanas and took a horse tour of the valley the next morning. We were allowed to tag along, but soon got frustrated with the horses' slow pace.

The views from this hike were incredible. The canyon rim is a short walk from where we stayed and there is even a hotel (Mirador) on the rim itself if you don't care to work for your view.

Raramuri family heading to the hotel on the rim to sell baskets.

We bought a half dozen baskets made of fragant pine needles and pine wood from this woman. Most Raramuri are shy and turned away from us if they saw our camera. They rarely looked at us even when discussing prices for their wares.

Rani watches two young Raramuri weaving with pine needles.

We left the rim and returned to the train station that day, arriving in El Fuerte late at night.

We wandered around El Fuerte the next morning then took the bus to Los Mochis and the TAP bus to Mazatlan.
We hope to leave Mazatlan this week and sail across toward La Paz or Los Muertos assuming Tropical Storm Patricia leaves the area before then.