Copper Canyon Trip
27 October 2016 | Copper Canyon in Chihuahua
Pat and Melodie
We have returned from our eight-day trip to see Copper Canyon in the State of Chihuahua. We had a fantastic time. Let me tell you how it went.
We took a taxi into Guaymas to the Tufesa bus station. We caught the 8:10 bus south to Los Mochis; it took about 5 hours to get there. We explained to the bus driver in my limited Spanish, that I didn't know exactly where to exit the bus for the bus bound for El Fuerte, our destination that day. The bus driver was nice enough to stop the bus and point across the boulevard, indicating we should cross the street and get on the Alzules bus. We got on the bus and paid the attendant for our fare once we were already on our way.
We arrived in El Fuerte and walked a few blocks to our hotel, the Hotel El Fuerte. It was about 100 degrees out, so it was a warm walk. We were very pleased to find it was an old mansion, in the classic style with the courtyard surrounded by rooms. That night a group of University students performed in the courtyard for the hotel guests. They did many cultural dances, including the famous "Deer Dance". Now that we've seen the dance performed, we see the deer headdress everywhere. In fact, the Tufesa bus line uses it for their mascot/logo.
We were in El Fuerte for two nights. Sunday evening we had dinner at Mason de General. They had awesome garlic fish. They had a courtyard with 4 hummingbird feeders. There were TONS of hummingbirds. Melodie took some slow-motion videos of them. On Monday we spend the day walking around. We visited the historic museum/fort and walked along their Malecon, which is a sidewalk/path along the river. That night we had dinner at the historic Hotel Hidalgo, famous for the story of Zorro (masked man with sword). They have a statue of Zorro in the main patio and after dinner they do a little show for the tourists. The dancing with the students the night before was much more rewarding.
On Tuesday we took a taxi early (about 7:30 am) to the Chepe train station. We did have breakfast and coffee at the hotel before we left. We had to arrange for it the evening before and it was prepared special for just the two of us in the morning. The morning prior we walked all over town trying to find some coffee. Apparently people in El Fuerte don't drink coffee. We finally found some at a restaurant in an expensive hotel. Enough about the coffee.... We did not have tickets for the train in hand, but expected to buy them on the train. We were successful and purchased a two-part ticket: passage to Posada Barrancas for that day, and the following leg onto Creel in 2 days. We rode in First Class. Melodie enjoyed standing between the cars and watching the scenery go by from the open area. Lots of soot from the train and pollen and leaves from the trees, but the views were spectacular. The weather got cooler and the flora changed as the train climbed up approximately 7500ft. Starting out with cactus and ending up with pine trees.
We arrived at Posada Barrancas where we had booked a room at the Hotel Mirador, by far the most expensive place we stayed. They included breakfast, lunch and dinner, but not drinks, so that helped some. The rooms were right on the canyon edge with spectacular views of the canyon. It was interesting that both evenings we were treated to a nice display of lightening across the canyon. During our second day there we had a full rainbow stretch into the canyon with only a few raindrops on us. The daytime temperatures were perfect for a hike being in the mid 70s. We took a walking tour guided by a local Indian (show in the photo). He only spoke Spanish, so we missed some of the finer points of his tour. Luckily another American gave us the short version of the stories the guide was relaying. Turns out the Tarahumara Indians are famous for their skills at long distance running. We were glad we went on the tour because we went farther into the canyon on steeper trails than we would have done on our own.
On Wednesday we took a tour to their "Adventure Center" where for a small fee you can take a zip line across the edge of the canyon. Their adventure center seemed similar to a National Park in the US. Meaning that they had railings at the canyon edge. Everyplace else you're on your own. We chose not to participate in the zip lines, but they are some of the longest in the world. We walked on a trail along the canyon rim from the Adventure Center to the town of Divisidaro. Melodie thought this was one of the nicest parts of the trip. We enjoyed great views of the canyon.
On Thursday we boarded the Chepe train once more for our leg to Creel. We arrived in Creel with another tour group. There seem to be many tour groups. We got to our hotel, only to find they did not have room for us. We had booked this hotel via Expedia. They put us in another "similar" hotel a block away, but it did not have the ambiance of the main hotel. I have a theory, the hotel tells Expedia they have 30 rooms, but in reality there are only 20 rooms in the main hotel. They put the small groups, 1's and 2's into the "similar" hotel. Again breakfast and dinner were included, but we had to walk back to the main hotel to eat. All in all it was fine. The room was clean and we had a place to sleep. There was an upside, in that the guy at the front desk arranged local tours on the side.
On Friday we took a guided tour of the area of Creel. We went with another couple that are Mexican and live in Mexico City. It was nice to have only the four of us and our guide in his Ford Expedition. He drove us to several local sights to see both cultural and natural sights. We visited the Tarhumara Indians who still live in caves in the area. The landscape is beautiful. We saw some natural features (rocks) called Valley of the Monks, a rock called "Elephant Rock", mushroom rocks, a lake and a waterfall. We were on tour for about 7 hours. When I told our new friends Alberto and Rita I spoke limited Spanish, he kept trying to engage me in conversation. I had to explain to him how LIMITED my Spanish really was. He however, spoke very good English so we would converse in English. They were a very nice couple to spend the day with.
Once we finished in Creel, we began the trek back to San Carlos. This time they would not let us buy our primero tickets on the train; you had to get tickets on-line ahead of time. We tried to do this but we couldn't figure out how to do it. It turns out that you can only purchase them 72 hours in advance and we were trying a week in advance. The porter escorted us to the economy class cars on the train where you can buy tickets on the train. It was not quite as nice, but it was cheaper. We took the Chepe train for eight hours straight to El Fuerte. Melodie was outside between the cars almost the whole time. We arrived after dark, but had made arrangements with the taxi driver to meet us. We got to our hotel around 8 PM. This was called Hotel Rincon Magico, another place surrounding a nice courtyard area. We walked to dinner and ate at the Mason de General restaurant for a second time. I had shrimp and Melodie had fish, we both had beers and flan for desert, all for about 25 USD. It was a nice dinner! We had a thunderstorm after we got back to the hotel and power went out for a little while.
We got up early on Saturday to catch the 9:30 local bus to Los Mochis. First we had breakfast and coffee at the hotel. Again, we had to prearrange this the night before. It was instant coffee, but at least they had coffee. Enough with the coffee...when we arrived in Los Mochis the bus attendant asked where we were going. When we told him the Tufesa terminal, he said we'd have to exit the bus and take a taxi to Tufesa. Apparently we'd missed our stop. It wasn't too bad though; the taxi ride only cost 60 Pesos, about $3 USD. We had about an hour to spare, so we had steak tacos at the bus terminal lunch counter. They were quite good. The 5-hour bus ride back to Guaymas seemed to take about 7 hours, but we made it on time, arriving around 5:15 pm. We caught a taxi out front and got back to the boat around 5:45.
We really had a great trip. Even with the hotel glitch and the anxious transportation connections. We'd recommend anyone traveling in Mexico to make the trip.