A Travellerspoint blog

29th April 2011 - Posada Barrancas

Grand, grander and grandest canyons!

There was no station at Posada – just a lean to shelter and a solitary Tarahumara girl selling her handcrafts. With no idea where we were going to stay and only a scattering of houses, it was fortunate that a friendly tour guide pointed us in the direction of Alberto, from the Family Diaz Cabanas. He loaded our bags in the bus and drove us a short distance to his family’s charming establishment, where we had our choice of rooms.
After a brief siesta, Roger and I made the long climb to the rim through the Hotel Mansion Tarahumara “El Castillo”. Hot and sweaty, our troubles quickly evapourated when we reached the top. The sheer splendour of the vista is, simply, breathtaking. Apparently 4 times larger than the Grand Canyon, the Copper Canyon is made up of 6 canyons - Urique, Oteros, Cobre, Tararecua, Batopilas and Sinforosa. As our eyes swept the far distant horizon, we spotted the cablecars – also, someone running the zipline accompanied by hardly audible screams – hardly surprising given the height and distance they were hurtling across the canyon – and not a safety net in site!
This is the true Mexico – rustic simplicity, squeaky clean and authentic home cooking. I’ve never tasted tortillas to equal these – both flour and corn, made fresh on the wood range and served hot with our delicious soup. Chile rellenos accompanied by frijoles, rice and tomato and green pepper salad were next on the menu and to finish it all off there was a beautifully moist apricot sponge cake – the food was the best Mexican I’ve ever had and prepared by 3 generations of gracious and friendly Mexican women. We got to chatting and were joined by one of the sons and the father, who very kindly phoned their friends in Urique and arranged a tour and accommodation for our last night in the Copper Canyon. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble.
Next morning was a 5.30 start again – but not to catch the train – this time it was the sun as it rose over the Barrancas del Cobre. Armando took us back almost as far as Divisadero to a wonderful view site with a walkway around the rim and we arrived with the sky turning crimson, backlit with liquid gold. We had the whole place completely to ourselves – absolute heaven!
Back to a farmhouse breakfast, Mexican style, with avena (sweet oats), eggs, beans and chips, with coffee, toast and tortillas – just what we needed after the long walk back.
Here is a word of caution to any fellow travellers:- when you ask in advance what it costs for the night, make sure it includes meals. We got a nasty surprise when our bill was double what we expected because we had assumed it was all inclusive like the other places.

Posted by suzeevee 10:31 Comments (0)

Thursday 28th April El Chepe and the Tarahumara

The Start of the Copper Canyon

Up at 5.30 to catch the train an hour later. We were warned to be punctual as the train leaves exactly at 7.00. Although just across the street from the hotel, I’m glad we went early, as the station was a seething mass of humanity, loaded with bags, boxes and baskets of all descriptions. At 6.30 the doors opened promptly and everyone jostled to get in line to board. As we’d bought our tickets the day before, this was a relatively smooth procedure and we found ourselves in a spacious compartment with not many others. For a second class train, we were pleasantly surprised – loads of room between comfortable seats which reclined, adjustable blinds on the windows and a buffet car which served coffee and snacks such as burritos and tamales.
Travel by train must surely be one of the most civilised modes of transportation. I love to be able to walk around, go to the loo (which were spotlessly clean) and have a cup of coffee – but the best for me was standing at the half open door between carriages and feeling the wind tug my hair as we chugged along at a sedate pace, climbing higher and higher. The terrain changed gradually, going from rolling desert hills, dotted with the red flowers of the ocatillas to vast dusty plains which were eventually to become the vast apple orchards that Cuauhtemoc is famous for. These in turn became pinon covered hills and mountains as the train ran alongside a riverbed whose canyon sides narrowed and steepened as we climbed higher. The drop became more sheer and the scenery more spectacular as we wended our way towards Creel – our destination for the night.
We had not been able to book accommodation in advance and it was with some trepidation that we alighted on the platform, luggage in tow. It seemed that most of the passengers were headed here too but that did not deter the touts – even in the midst of the melee they managed to single us out – hardly surprising, I suppose, as we were the only gringos! Casa Margarita had been recommended to us by a couple of friends, and sure enough, Miguel and Ezekiel were there to greet us, whipping off our luggage with us in hot pursuit to the awaiting mini-bus. Before we knew it we had checked into our room (en suite with hot water, towels, soap, TV and wi-fi @ M$300/night, D,B&B) and boarded the bus again for a tour of Piedra del Elefante (elephant rock), Lago (lake) de Arareco, Cusarare Falls (which, unfortunately, only had a trickle), Mision de San Ignacio, Valle de los Hongos y Ranas (valley of the mushrooms and the frogs – all stone!) culminating in the Tarahumara Caves.
Exhausted and starving we got back to the hotel as dinner was being served – a big family affair with all the guests at 2 long tables resplendent in brightly printed tablecloths. A cream soup of green chiles was served with rolls followed by a dish of mashed potatoes, tomato pasta and chicken casserole – very tasty. Before bed we decided to see the local nightlife. The town was buzzing as it is Mexican holiday time following Semana Santa (Holy Week). Music of every description issued from bars, cars and troubadours – it seemed the favourite pastime was cruising the streets, bumping along on the bass accompanied by blue lights. Makes a change from red, I suppose!
Next morning we decided to board the train again and head for Divisadero, where the canyon is more canyon-like. The train stops there for 20 minutes to allow all passengers a glimpse and to grab a bite to eat from the many vendors that line the station platforms. Here we discovered that the only hotel would cost us M$2400, but that we could find more economical accommodation at the next stop, so quickly back to the train and on to Posada Barrancas!

Posted by suzeevee 10:29 Comments (0)

Ay...Chihuahua!!!

and not a squeaky little dog in sight

Well, we made it across the border and down to Chihuahua without incident, although maybe a bit windblown, arriving about 9.30p.m. Our taxi driver assured us he knew the hostel we had booked into and we headed downtown looking forward to a good night's sleep. Predictably, however, the elusive hotel could not be found and after an interesting tour of the red light district our driver delivered us to this place that had been closed for years but was the address we had (I'd love to know who took my booking when I phoned a couple of days before????). He eventually found us another place and charged us double his quoted fee.

In the morning we awoke to discover how basic our room really was - just a bed with a sheet (I think it was clean), a really cigarette burnt table and broken chair - no hot water, no towels, no TP or soap - but it was cheap - $22! We paid up and headed out in search of another hostel I'd read about, opposite the train station. It too was closed (be sure to check dates books published and any other possible reference sources) so we booked into a little hotel next door which is very comfortable with all mod cons for double the price.

With peace of mind and after a cup of coffee, we walked across the road and bought our tickets for the El Chepe train. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, changing our money to pesos at an excellent rate.

The day was then spent exploring downtown Chihuahua - Cathedral, Town Hall etc - and trying out various local delicacies. Later on we took a guided tour in an old wooden trolley bus around the various museums, including the most magnificent example of an Art Nouveau interior I have ever seen at Quinta Gameros, followed inevitably by the Pancho Villa Museum, complete with gunshot car. I have to comment on the revolutionary art in evidence throughout the city - the sheer size and strength of subject is quite awesome.

Now we're back at the hotel and about to shower and get organised for our early start tomorrow - we have to be at the station at 6.30. I'm so glad it's just across the road!

Hasta la vista!

Posted by suzeevee 19:46 Tagged museums hostels cathedral station taxis art_nouveau el_chepe revolutionary_art pancho_villa Comments (0)

Time to Hit the Highroad – Heading South:

New Mexico to Mexico

It’s hard to believe it’s almost 10 months since I got off the bus at McDonalds in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico – the same bus that we’ll be catching (yes, there’s 2 of us now, Roger and I) to take us to El Paso then across the border to Ciudad Juarez and down deep into Mexico to Chihuahua City.

Hillsboro and its close neighbour, Kingston, these unassuming little towns, that you hardly realise are there before you’ve driven through, welcomed me in and adopted me unreservedly – became home when I needed one. It’s the people who live here that make it so special. It’s a community unique in my experience, of caring and kind individuals, many retired professionals, many artists and all with loads of character. My heartfelt thanks go out to all for making my stay so enjoyable and memorable. I’ve loved every minute and everyone. I’ll miss you all.

But now it’s time to take to the road again. The call is irresistible and Mexico beckons, despite all the well-intentioned warnings we’ve had from concerned friends. The past couple of weeks have been a frenzy of activity, especially for Roger, who’s sold his beloved Vulcan bike and packed up not just his motor home but his life in that short time. I’m sitting at the table writing this, and all that remains to be done is drive to the other end of town where our home on wheels will remain, along with the car and trailer, until who knows when.

Tomorrow we head out to catch the bus at 1.00 but first we’ll relive old memories and have breakfast at the General Store Cafe, where Roger and I first met 8 months ago. I was having difficulty deciding on raspberry or blueberry pancakes and a friendly voice from the next table announced that it had to be blueberry – and you had to have bacon with them. Guess what our last breakfast in Hillsboro will be? That’s right – Blueberry Pancakes and Bacon!

We are leaving on Tues 26th. Have got the bus tickets and will be leaving from TorC going down to Chihuahua, crossing the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.

From Chihuahua, where we’ll spend 2 nights, we will catch the El Chepe train through the Copper Canyon, apparently 4 times bigger than the Grand Canyon, staying a few nights in the canyon before heading to the coast.

We’ll catch the ferry at Topolobampo (great name!) for a night crossing of the Gulf of California, taking us to La Paz on the Baja California del Sur.

I found a house sitting job on a 350acre ranch for a couple starting mid to end June, which looks fantastic. They organised for a friend of theirs to take us on for the month of May, house-sitting in a little Mexican village called Santiago. She in turn has a camper 5 minutes from the beach which we can use in between, so everything has worked out really well so far!

Will keep you posted.
Hasta luego!

Posted by suzeevee 08:26 Tagged bus mexico train ferry new_mexico copper_canyon house_sitting Comments (1)

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