Copper Canyon

We left La Paz after a week of provisioning and catching up with friends and headed off to Topolobampo across the Sea of Cortez.  Unfortunately, the winds were not with us on our crossing, as we had 20 knots of wind right on the nose with 6-8 foot swells.  The boat handled it just fine, but the bashing into the swell made for a bumpy and uncomfortable ride.

We arrived in Topolobampo the next morning after a mostly sleepless night and pulled into the small marina.  Topolobampo doesn’t have much tourist traffic, as it is mostly a commercial port on the mainland but it did have some charm. After resting up a bit, we headed into town to check out the town and grab a bite to eat.

Our friends on Adios made the trip over as well, so we met them in marina and worked out our plan for the next day.  We arranged to have a taxi pick us up the next morning at 5:00 am to take us into Los Mochis where we boarded the El Chepe train to take us into the mountains to see the famous Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon)!

The train ride took us 8 hours, but the views along the way were spectacular.  The train passes over 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels rising 7,900 feet above sea level. 

When we arrived at the train station in Los Mochis, we didn’t realize that the only train running that day was the first class train so we got the nicer train.  It wasn’t too crowded and we were able to hang out in the dining car and have a great breakfast.

The train stopped in Divisadero where there is an awesome overlook to get some great photos of the canyon.  Copper Canyon is actually a group of six canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental in the State of Chihuahua.  The canyon system is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon, but looks nothing like the Grand Canyon.  The top of the canyon system is a pine forest, and the greenery really changes the visual effect.

After Divisadero, we boarded the train again for Creel, which was our final stop.  Creel is a small mountain town that really has the feel of a small ski resort town.  To go from hot, humid Topolobampo on the coast to cool Creel surrounded by pine trees was almost a shock to the system.  The next morning we woke up to frost on the roofs!

We met our guide Jesus at the train station who took us on the first part of our tour that afternoon.  The area around Creel is home to the Tarahumara people, who are the indigenous people of the area.  The have park land equivalent to the Indian reservations in the US and live simple lives farming and selling artisansal crafts to the tourists.

We entered one of the Tarahumara parks and were able to tour the Valley of the Monks, which had completely unique and fascinating rock formations.  We got to see some other parts of the Tarahumara way of life including a church that was an early mission in the area.  Unfortunately, we got a flat tire in the park, but the guys helped Jesus get it changed before it got too dark.

We stayed in a small but nice hotel in Creel (seriously only cost us $30) and got up the next morning to see more of the sights.  We got to see some more beautiful canyon views and meet Catalina, a local Tarahumara woman who lives in a small home built into the side of a cave.  She was very welcoming and proud of her home.  She made sure we each got a picture with her!

We drove back to Divisadero and got to spend more time at the rim of the canyon walking along some impressive walkways and bridges.  There is a zip line and cable car at the top, but unfortunately they were not working when we were there.

Mike & Jesus goofing around on the rim of the canyon…

We planned to catch the train that afternoon from Divisadero back to Los Mochis, but we hit a bit of a snag.  There was no place to buy tickets at the train station!  Weird.  So, we assumed that we must just buy the tickets from the conductor.  When the train arrived and let everyone out to check out the views, we asked the conductor where we buy tickets.  That’s when he told us we couldn’t buy them here and had to buy them online.  What?  We thought for sure we were going to be stuck in Divisadero.

Several of us started to look around for other options, hoping to find a bus or some other service.  Thank god Mike is persistent.  He hopped on the train and hunted down the head conductor to beg him to let us buy tickets on the train.  Before we knew it, Mike was hollering at the rest of us to jump on the train, so away we went!  It all worked out in the end, but we had a few stressful moments!

We got back to Topolobampo about 9:00 pm and crashed.  Our plans were to depart Topolobampo the next morning for the two day passage to Mazatlan.

Overall, it was a great trip but way too short.  There were other excursions and sights we could have seen in the canyon if we’d had more time. So, I’d definitely recommend it, but spend a few more days than we did.

If you want to see more pictures of our trip to Copper Canyon, please check out our Facebook page and the album titled “Copper Canyon.” I took over 200 photos, not including all the video.  Someday I’ll finally get more video up, I promise.

We’re in Mazatlan now, and had a great time last night at the Dia de los Muertos festivities last night, but I’ll post about that next time.

~katie

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