Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Copper Canyon

The Copper Canyon area actually comprises more than 20 canyons covering 25,000 square miles, but there are three main canyon systems that are most visited: Urique, Copper and Terarecua.

Part of the fun of the Copper Canyon is taking El Chepe (Chihuahua Pacific Railway) which runs from Los Mochis near the Sea of Cortez to Chihuahua.  It has 37 bridges and 86 tunnels along the 653km of railway line.  It runs through mostly uninhabited country, starting out near the coast, through irrigated agricultural land, dry desert with cordon cactus forests, and up to pine forests sprinkled with madrona and juniper up to an elevation of 7600 feet. The rail line was started in 1898 and competed in 1961.

There are a few small towns along the railway, but most of the area is very remote with much of the access by dirt road or foot paths. Apparently this is prime marijuana and opium growing country so you don’t want to be hiking around without a guide.

The most fascinating thing, to us, about this area was the Raramuri (Tarahumara) people. Raramuri means “those who run fast”.  Traditionally they hunted by running down and exhausting deer. Today they are known for running long distances swiftly – up to 20 hours at a time.  They have successfully competed in ultramarathons in the US and the Copper Canyon now has it’s own ultramarathon in Urique.

They have managed to preserve their ancient way of life “more successfully than other Native American group”. They have always been peaceful, first settling the plains of central Chihuahua where they built irrigation canals and farmed. When the Spanish arrived during the 17th century many fled to the Copper Canyon sierra region to escape servitude. Their descendants are the inhabitants of the Copper Canyon today. They live on small farms or ranches in simple huts or caves.. The women still wear the traditional colorful skirts and blouses. Both men and women where sandals made from tire treads and strips of leather. They walk everywhere. There are obvious walking paths everywhere you look. For more info about the tarahumaras:

So here are the pictures of our trip:

The Main Plaza in El Fuerte.
One small portion of a mural in the
Government Palace in El Fuerte.
Downtown El Fuerte - a colonial town.
View of the El Fuerte River from the Museum (fort).
This is the El Fuerte Museum - it is a replica of the
 fort that used to be in the same location at the top of the highest hill.
The courtyard outside our room at Hotel Posada Hidalgo.
We were in room 45.

I've never seen so many hummingbirds in one place!
El Chepe train.
Our conductor.
One of the many bridges.

Our arrival in Creel.
Downtown Creel.
We rented a motor scooter for the day to see all
 of the sights around Creel. It was a blast!
San Ignacio Mission.

Raramuri woman in traditional dress.........walking.

Raramuri Cave.

 More Raramuri women walking.

One of hundreds of mushroom rocks in the Valley of the Mushrooms.

Valley of the Frogs.

Another Raramuri woman walking.

Valley of the Monks.
Next stop was Areponapuchi (Posada Barrancas).

Jim on the Rim...........
A beautiful hike
Cabanas Diaz where we stayed in Areponapuchi - it rained!
There is a great trail from Posada to Divisidero with spectacular views.

A tram, zip line and very long suspension bridge were built near Divisidero
almost two years ago - a new "Adventure Park". This is the glass floor of
the restaurant- looking straight down.

The tram.

The tram goes all the way to that flat spot just to the left of the
pointed peak in the middle top of picture.
Armando Diaz - owner of Cabanas Diaz.
He drove us to the Divisidero train station.
These two little girls were helping their mothers
 sell baskets at the Divisidero train station.

A Raramuri woman making a basket to sell at
the Divisadero train station.

Fast food at the Divisadero train station. Notice all the oil drum stoves.

Next stop Cerocahui. This is the Mission in town.
It rained here, also. Notice the horses in the yard.
Getting gas in Cerocahui. No Pemex stations here!
 Alberto picked us up in
Bahuichivo and drove us to his family run hotel in Cerocahui
where we spent two nights. Alberto also gives tours to Urique
at the bottom of the canyon. 
This is Alberto and his son Kevin.This picture was taken
 when we were part way down the canyon.

A typical Raramuri home.

Owner and two sons. They have quite a large piece of land that they farm -
corn and squash and some fruit trees.

This is the road we drove down to get to Urique
 at the bottom of the canyon.
A very large tree in Urique.

Another tree in Urique.

A pig near the river that runs by Urique.
Two little girls on the road about 1/3 of the way back up to Ceracahui.

Downtown Cerocahui.

A sign at the Bahuichivo station. We took the train from
here back to El Fuerte where we left our car.
On our way from El Fuerte to San Carlos we decided to take
a detour to Alamos. It was a nice little colonial town like
El Fuerte. We were thinking we would spend the night, but decided
to just head back to San Carlos and Loomba-Loomba on the water
It was just TOO HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We are getting close to having Loomba-Loomba ready to be hauled out for the summer and are anxious to get home to the great PNW for a few months. 
We're not sure what route we are taking, but we are hoping to get in some camping on the way.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mexico Ferry Travel: Getting from Guaymas to Baja and Back

Since our car was in Puerto Escondido in Baja and we and Loomba-Loomba were in San Carlos on the mainland, we decided to make an adventure out of getting the car over to the mainland and do a Copper Canyon trip on the way back to Guaymas. This involved two different ferry trips, a bus, lots of driving, and a train.

Ferry travel is not cheap or easy in Mexico.  We arrived at the 8PM ferry  (Guaymas – Santa Rosalia) on Saturday May 27th at 6PM, as required.  There had been some pretty strong northerlies for a few days and the ferry isn’t very big so we asked if it was definitely going to sail. They said yes so our friend, Ray, who had given us a ride from San Carlos, left.  At 7:45 they decided the weather was too bad to go – next ferry would be Monday (maybe). We took a taxi back to the boat and decided to wait until Tuesday the 29th.

This time we had Ray ( who speaks fluent Spanish) call and make a reservation in a cabin for us for Tuesday.  We arrived at 6PM. They had our reservation and we had a whole cabin to ourselves. The ferry left late, but it was a calm ride and we slept most of the way.  

Loading the ferry in Guaymas.
Our Cabin.
When we arrived at 7:30 am in Santa Rosalia we thought we were probably too late for the bus to Puerto Escondio, but the bus was late so we were on our way to PE about 20 minutes after the ferry landed. 
Santa Rosalia.
We arrived at the PE stop about noon and hiked the mile from the highway to PE (it was 100 degrees). We picked up the car  and headed to La Paz. With a lunch stop in Constitution we arrived at Casa Buena in La Paz (a great, reasonably priced place to stay) about 5:15 on the 30th. Time for a dip in the pool and dinner at Rancho Viejo.
Lunch stop in Constitution
Driving into La Paz
Pool at Casa Buena
Community Room at Casa Buena.
Garden at Casa Buena.
Our balcony at Casa Buena.
     The next day  (31st) we needed to take care of getting our ferry tickets and a Temporary Import Permit for the car (not needed in Baja or the state of Sonora, but we were taking the ferry to Topolabompo in the state of Sinaloa).  The ferry dock is in Pichilingue – about 30 minutes from La Paz.  Our plan was to take the Saturday  (June 2) ferry because it was a night ferry which would put us into Topolobompo in the morning and then we would drive to El Fuerte where we would catch the Copper Canyon train.  As it turned out the schedule changed on June 2nd and there would no longer be a night ferry.  We bought the tickets anyway and got the TIP all in one place – it was quite easy. 

Now we had a few days to hang out in La Paz, visit friends who were still there, and relax. It was a fun 3 days.
New Jacques Cousteau sculpture on the La Paz Malecon.

We got to the ferry at 10:30AM and it was supposed to leave at 1PM. It didn’t leave until 3PM and we arrived in Topolabompo about 11:30PM. By the time we found a hotel in Los Mochis it was 12:30. We drove to El Fuerte the next morning.
The Baja ferries are bigger than the Washington State Ferries.

Surrounded by trucks.
The long hall on the ferry.

Outside deck with trucks below.

Driving on this ferry was quite an experience – nothing like the WSF system. It is mostly big trucks and hardly any cars. The trucks are very close together and they squeeze the cars in the gaps (picture parallel parking).  To get to the upper deck and back to the car you literally have to crawl under the trucks and over the chains that are holding them in place.  Once we got upstairs it was quite nice. We were assigned seats in an air-conditioned salon where movies were continually playing – most were dubbed AND subtitled in Spanish (good way to improve our Spanish). There were nice outside decks and a restaurant.  It was actually quite pleasant.

So that’s our ferry adventure. Next blog entry will be our Copper Canyon adventure