Is this Mexico or the Pacific Northwest
04 May 2010 | Creel
Melanie and Craig
Take a good look at the photo. Pine trees, pine needle carpet on the ground, cliffs, river... Looks like the interior of BC or Eastern Washington. We even saw our breath in the mornings and had to wear fleece! But it was really the famous Copper Canyon of Mexico.
We just got back from a week traveling to Creel and El Fuerte...two beautiful towns along the Copper Canyon railway. We started the trip in Los Mochis, a city of about 180,000 people. We had an early rise the next morning to be at the train station by 5:30 a.m. The Copper Canyon Railway (or Barranca de Cobre in Spanish) is considered one of the world's most scenic rail trips. It has 16 bridges and 87 tunnels along 655 Km of railway line connecting the mountainous Chihuahua interior of Mexico to the Pacific Coast. The scenery was absolutely magnificent as the more we climbed, the more spectacular the rock faces and cliffs became.
We took the train about 3/4 of the way (about 9 hours) and got off in Creel. We traveled the way I like to travel best....we had a destination in mind but the rest we would determine when we got there. We met some very interesting people on the train who have built a school in a remote town several hours from Creel. They were inspiring to us as they talked about their experiences of helping this small village of indigeneous Indians and the relationships they have built. They gave us some great information on Creel and we ended up staying in the Inn they suggested. It was called Casa Margarita and for a grand total of $500 pesos (about $45 USD) we got a room with two queen sized beds, our own bathroom, breakfast and dinner included. The meals were served in a communal kitchen type environment and the patrons were of a broad range...some families, some backpackers, some Mexicans, some gringos...it was a nice variety of different people.
We met up with a backpacker from France who was a very nice young man and we ended up touring Creel together. In addition, we bumped into our friends from the sailing vessels Meschach and Eonie. They also stayed at Casa Margarita's so we got to spend lots of time together and of course the boys got to play with Tristan, Sienna and Zeta!!
We spent three days in Creel and did three different tours. The first day we took a van tour to see some of the most popular sites including some very cool rock formations where the erosion of the volcanic rock has resulted in formations that resemble an elephant, frogs, mushrooms etc. We went to the Crusare Waterfall and hiked around there and saw many of the Tarahumara native dwellings.
There are more than 70,000 Tarahumara natives (more current name is Raramuri) that live in the series of canyons that form the Copper Canyon. They live a VERY basic life where they inhabit small log cabins or cliff dwellings. They subsist on very basic agriculture and the women sell their crafts of beautiful baskets, hand woven goods and jewelry. They are very solemn and proud and it seemed that even the children did not smile very much. The women dress in very brightly colored flaired skirts and the very traditional men wear loin cloths and poofy shirts (just like Kramer's poofy shirt in Seinfeld!). We didn't see very many of the men wearing the traditional clothing...most were in jeans and shirts. Another interesting fact about them is that they are famous for long distance running and they used to hunt deer by chasing down, exhausting and then running them over cliffs. Apparently they run 160 km grueling races without stopping through the rough canyons!!
On our second day we rented a suburban that in addition to its normal seating, had two seats welded to the roof with five point racing harnesses (Mom and Pat, this last comment was for your benefit!!). The driver rode us through the windy roads through the Ulrike Canyon where we took tons of amazing pictures. We took turns on the roof seats and just had a great day with breath taking views.
On the third day we decided to check out the hot springs. We went with our friends from Meschah, Eonie and Arno (the French backpacker). The hot spring is at the bottom of a canyon and only emergency vehicles can drive there. We hiked down for about 1.5 hours (we didn't think it was going to be that long!!) but in the end the experience was worth it! The were 5 different pools and just indescribable views all around.
After Creel we backtracked on the train and got off at El Fuerte. We only had one day there but it was such a charming town. El Fuerte is a picturesque colonial town with stunning buildings. It means 'The Fort' and although the original fort is no longer there, a replica was built and turned into a museum. We stayed at a hotel called Rio Vista that was apparently the stables for the original fort. It was very charming with tons of artifacts and art on the walls. The place is true to its name...it had a great view of the river.
Now we are back in Mazatlan, waiting for the weather to settle down so we can head into the Sea of Cortez. It is looking like we will be leaving today...take care
Mel and her boys