Subject: Mexico Travelogue XII Final Edition Ed and Edith Gray
We traveled about 470 miles to get from Saltillo to Chihuahua in one day. We paid about $80 in tolls but it made it possible to do in one day. The CG in Chihuahua is the best one we have been in in Mexico. We have 30 amp, pull thru's , sewer and water and a picnic table and grill and plenty of room and the sites are nice and level and nice and quite. There is a train track but it is far enough away and the two trains did not blow their whistle so disturbed us very little.
It is now day 78 since we left home. We left Chihuahua by 8 am and the road to Chetumauac was better than expected. There was one toll but it was not bad. The Mennonites are in this area and we seen dairy, cheese plant and lots and lots of apples and other fruit trees. There was netting I think for sun protection and smudge pots for frost for the apples. There were also big cultivated fields so it was quite a farming area. We got diesel at La Junta and the road to there by Mexican standards was not bad at all. It was a little narrow but not bad. South of La Junta it soon gets into the mountains and pine trees and is a good road with a little shoulder and very little traffic. There were a few topes in some small towns but not many. We arrived at creel about 11 am and got in the RV park.
The owner could speak English and we found out we could likely still catch the Copper Canyon train to La Fuerte so we quick set up, grabbed a few things and the CG owner had a lad take his bike down to the train and have the CG Van come back for us. We made it with three minutes to spare. Earlier we had a lad lead us to the RV park with his bicycle. We tipped them all as they deserved it. We purchased our tickets on board which if you are not part of a tour who gets them ahead of time it is the only way you can get them easily anyway. It cost about $46 each one way from Creel to El Fuente. One can buy a ticket for what ever town you want to go to, get off and get on another day and get another ticket. It seems to be pro-rated exactly. You can also get on the second class train which is about half price. The catch is that is runs later so more of the trip is in the dark and it is reported to be slower but not sure on that. Actually though you would see the best part of the canyon OK but the problem is you get in very late so you have to find a place in the dark to stay and it is going to be late. The El Fuente train stop is 7 KM from town so you need to take a taxi and it such that if someone wanted to rob you they sure could. There has not been any problems but I would be sure it was a reliable taxi and have some people with you. We got a good taxi driver and it was no problem. We happened to get the same one to take us back in the morning. The ride on the train is 8 hours and they stop a Divisadero, Santa Fe and Bahuichvo.. The only place you really see one of the deep canyons is Divisadero. The trip from Divisadero on to about 2 hours out of El Fuente is definitely the most scenic of the trip. There are the local Indian crafts available at Divisdero where you have 15 minutes to take pictures on the rim and you can buy out of the train door at Bahuichvo. The train stops here a few minutes as the crew is changed here but they don't let you get off and come back on. There are lots of people getting off and on at stops for backpacking and hotels. There are two or three others places you can get on or off if you plan to stay off. There was some very nice scenery with high mountains and interesting rock formations. Also there were the local Indians living in some remote places. They are noted for their colorful clothing, baskets and other crafts and the trails they have through the mountains and there ability to run very long distances in short times through the mountains. The train route has many tunnels, has a trail carved out of rock on the face of cliffs, many high bridges and has to circle around and cross over itself to get up some to the mountains. At El Fuente we stayed at the San Francisco for $58 for both of us. Very little English but with my Spanish we got by fine. I was kicking myself that I did not bring my Spanish book; especially when we went out to supper. We met a fellow from England at the restaurant and had a great visit with him. He could speak pretty good Spanish and this was his second long stay in Mexico. We had a bathroom, shower, two beds, A/C as it was over a 100 degrees during the day there but cooled of at night. We also had hot water. The hotel rooms were all facing a Spanish courtyard with Spanish arches all the way around. It was beautiful.
March 27, 2004 Saturday, Day 79 since we left home-We got up at 5:45 am and got cleaned up. We should of brought an alarm clock then we could of slept better. We went to the zocolo which was very historical and had the Spanish colonial arches around it with a great plaza. We then went to the mirador (look out). We got some fruit bars but could not find a bakery for rolls. The same taxi driver that brought us in spotted us and I asked him how much and he said 70 peso's. It was 80 peso's last night but given that situation we had no choice but to pay whatever it was or be stuck at a deserted train station. We were early and found out it was 7 km to the train. I talked with him in Spanish and it went well. At the train we found a lot of boys sitting around and I got information from them on the train times which turned out to be very accurate for both the first and second class trains. We wanted to get back to Creel around 4 to 5 pm so we could check out the bus situation to Batopilas. For the trip back we again got the canyon side of the train. Coming from Creel you want to be on the left side and going back to Creel on the right side. Our friend from England was on board and got on the right side also. There was a big tour group from Lake Chapala area so they took up a lot of room. There was also a private train that took a large group off a bus from El Fuente. I found out from on the the Lake Chapala group that the Pal Trailer Park had been converted completely to homes so not sure where you can stay in an RV. I have heard there is another park there and I will have to check this out. Edith had the window seat for the return trip. She got some good pictures and we had enough food and water. She got baskets out the train door at one stop and more at the Divisadero. Our friend from England got off here and will spend two hours and catch the second class train on into Creel. He had two different tickets or of course he could of done like we did and just buy them on board. Buying on board gives you a lot more flexability and I don't think you ever have to worry about getting a seat. You might not get two together but often you can move around with the permission of the staff. You are not supposed to eat or drink but they don't enforce it in regards to water or a bottle of pop. I don't think you can have beer. You can have snack bars but if you have other food you are supposed to eat it between the cars or best not to have it at all. You can purchase food at the 15 minute stop and eat it there or there was no problem if you finished it up standing between the car. I and some other finished it quickly before the train started to move. Edith was just finishing up and they were asking her to finish it outside the passenger car but she only had a couple of bites left so it was no problem. The food is expensive in the dining car so bringing snack bars and water saves a lot of money and you can get food reasonable at the 15 minute stop.
We got into Creel at 4:45 PM and a van from the hotel/RV park was there. I had him drop me off where the ticket place for Batopilas was and Edith went on to the RV. I really had to us my Spanish but eventually found out there was no bus on Sunday so we will leave Monday morning and we can come back Tuesday or Wedesday with the return tickets I have. I got the times and a suggestion of Mary;s for a place to stay and I won't need reservations. We leave Batopilas at 5 am to come back to beat the heat; although it may be 6 am. Either way we will need to take our alarm clock. Edith talked to the people who moved in next to us and found they took the oil road that goes roughly the same route as the train down to at least Santa Fe and had coffee overlooking the rim and done some sights around creel to the south so we will do that tomorrow and look around Creel. We very likely will spend two nights in Batopilas since the rooms are so reasonable and food is reasonable there. We should get back early enough to take off by checkout time and go to Chihuahua and spend the night and then go on to the border and stay someplace in TX.
March 28, 2004 Sunday, Day 80 since we left home. We had a nice visit with the people next to us from Quebec. We then headed for Divisadero and took another look at the canyon and Edith leisurely shopped for some more baskets and I got another T Shirt that said Copper Canyon. We went on to San Refeil where the oil ends. We came back and went out eat where there is a lake and a ways farther where there is a hike to a nice waterfalls but since it has been dry we decided not to do it. I followed the directions from the CG owner but apparently needed to go on farther as I did not come to the hotel or another place to walk in that he mentions. We had a picnic by the lake but were bothered by dogs wanting food and by people selling things two very common happenings in Mexico. We came back to the 5th and I got better directions from the CG owner on a tour to the Indian mission and some scenic rock formations. It cost 15 peso's each. We seen the Mushroom rocks, Frog Rocks and Monk Rocks. The Monk Rocks were about 4 miles past the mission on rough roads and it cost us another 5 peso's. We had a couple of kids show us where the elephant and frog rocks were. They also let us take their pictures and the one boy had the sandels made out of tires with leather thongs so I got a good picture of them. We gave them 10 peso's each for helping us and letting us take the pictures. They wanted to go to Creel to spend their money as they were hungry. Many of the Indians do not seem to be able to speak Spanish but these two boys could so that worked out great.
Unfortunately a lot of the kids beg but given their circumstances you can hardly blame them but they were more than willing to help so I had no problems paying them. We don't give anything to those that beg but we did give away a lot of school supplies and ballons to kids. I got diesel and we have it lined up for the CG van to take us to the bus station for Batopilas. That is Ba to pi las with the Spanish pronounciation. I got diesel and had a nice visit with the fellow pumping fuel. He was telling me something about President Bush being to Batopilas but when I have no idea. That came up as the F-350 was dusty and he wondered if we had been there. I told him no but to the Valley of the Monks and that we were taking the Autobus to there and then he started talking about the autobus taking President Bush to Botapilas. I kept thinking I was not understanding but he kept telling me so I will have to ask more about that of the CG owner and when we are there. He thought it was when he was Gov. of TX. .
March 29, 2004 Monday Day 81 since leaving home. Today we took the bus to Batopilas. It was a 5 hour ride, we left at 9:30 am. The driver went faster than I cared for as he really took the sharp curves way to fast and if he would of missed on we would of all been dead as it was a long, long ways straight down in many areas. We were the only American's on the bus. I did find one fellow from Mexico who could speak excellent English. There was another Mexican sitting across from me and he could speak a bit of English and with my Spanish I got quite a few details as we went along. We drove about 50 miles on oil and the last 40 was on a narrow gravel road. The part on the oil and about the first 10 miles on the gravel was a lot like the Black Hills. The last 30 miles we dropped down in Batopilas Canyon. It reminded me a great deal of the Grand Canyon except things were greener, more plant life. Along the way we picked up and dropped of a number of Tarahumara Indians. They have very colorful clothes. The women wear multi-layered long dresses and have a blanket wrapped around their shoulders and wear a scarf. Most of them were a type of sandel made out of a piece of car tire and held on with leather straps. I bought a pair and they are not bad but of course they don't have any arch support. The men have bare legs to the thigh and have a wrap type affair which is hard to explain and a blanket around their shoulders as well. They obviously have to do something different when it gets cold. Most wear some sort of head covering. They are noted for there great running ability. As we dropped down into the canyon we had to make switch back after switch back and it went down a long ways. Someplace in the Copper Canyon complex there is a deeper part than the Grand Canyon but not as wide. Copper Canyon is made up of Cobre, Urique, Batopilas and one other canyon, named for the rivers that go through them. One we got down to the river then we followed along the cliff above the water on a narrow one lane road blasted out of the rock. Many times the tire would be just inches from the edge where some of the road had caved away into the canyon. One really needs to be watching so you don't have a head on collision. We did meet several and one has to back up to a wider spot where the two could just squeeze by. As we got down in the bottom we are only about 1200 feet above sea level so it is hot and it gets tropical. We seen all sorts of tropical plants. Along the way there are some small towns and some old mining activity. Here and there on the other side of the river or way above were the Tarahumara Indians living. They have a little livestock and grow some crops and fruit and barely have enough to eat. They do make crafts and sell them but here they have to take them to Creel to sell them. Batopilas was founded in the 1600's but the big silver was taken out by a man named Shepard in the late 1800's and early 1900 before the war in Mexico in 1910. It is strung along the river and pretty much has one narrow street with a few running up the hill. The town is about 2 miles long and has a population of around 1400 people. The hotels were pretty well full but we managed to get into one where back packers stay. It was so so but was only $20 a night and we did have hot water for the shower. We met a young couple one a Mexican and the other from Australia who were nice and we became good friends. The lady at the hotel could speak some English and our Mexican friend could speak good English. They had it lined up to go the Shepard Hacienda and asked us to come along. There was also a couple from Ohio and an assistant guide who had ridden horses in from Urique to the northwest. It took them a couple of days. Many million dollars of silver were taken out by Shepard and the Hacienda and processing history was most interesting. We had a Mexican guide who's farther drove mules for shepard so he knew a lot of the history and our Mexican friend interpreted for us. We had small bugs chewing on us as we tried to sleep.. We had a fan and it cooled of fairly well so we put on a sheep and that seemed to pretty much stop them
A lot of homes are made from homemade adobe bricks. We seen a number of places where they were making the bricks. We seen a number of logging trucks and saw mills so forestry is a big thing in this area. The advantage of taking a tourist van is you can make arrangements for them to stop a few times to take pictures as you head into the canyon. It does cost more. The other thing is you likely won't have to get up at 4 am. The 4 am is to beat the heat and to get to Creel before the train leaves. The bus also serves to bring packages, mail and messages both ways so it is a vital link between Batopilas and the outside world as well as other small communities along the way. A few of the Indian familes live in combination houses and a cave. In other words the house is build in front of the cave.
March 30, 2004 Tuesday Day 82 We got up early and headed on a hike for the Satevo mission. It is about 4 miles south of Batopilas and it is very old, back to the 1600's but the exact date is not know. By the time we got to the church it was getting very hot. Another group of hikers had caught up to us. They were a mixed group that had came down in a van together, they had not met before this and the fellow I met on the bus was with them. We had a nice visit with one from MA as he was walking slower. You come around a bend and you can see the mission about mile away and it is spectacular and there is a swinging foot bridge in the fore ground. One we arrived one of the fellows with good Spanish asked around and found someone with a key so we got to go inside and found it to be simple but very nice. We gave the fellow who opened it and stayed until we left a tip. Edith and I headed back first and we had not gone to far and the heat was really getting to Edith. It was a long, hard trip back for here, mainly due to the heat. The hills really exhausted her. Fortunately we had plenty of water in our back pack which I carried so I poured some on her head every so often and we stopped to rest in the shade. We got back about 11:00 pm so it took us about 4 hours total. She was really tired and sore. I got her a Coke and after the sugar kicked in she started coming around after setting in the shade by our room. Our room was off a court yard with lots of shade trees and was right by the river and there was some breeze so that really helped. I took off and hiked to the north end of town to get a picture of the sign and the elevation and then went to the silver mine and down the aqueduct about a 1/4 of a mile. I met my friend from the bus by the sign so we did the rest together. We decided to meet again about 4:30 and hike up a hill above town that some of his friends told him about.
I bought my Tarahumara sandels and learned how to tie them on. I notice I had a couple of blisters as I had walked 12 miles already. At 4:30 we took off but all we could find was a creek bed to follow and nothing up the hill. My friend kept asking in Spanish but most of the people were the Tarahumara of which many of the older ones speak little Spanish. We finally found a fellow who gave us some information so we headed up a side canyon and seen all kinds of mule tracks which guides used to take people across the mountain. We got quite aways along and found a house and family and he said the way we were headed was toward Urique which is a two day trip but we could go in a northerly direction, get on the hill and then hike down into Batopilas. We knew at 5:30 we needed to turn around to get back before dark. He said for $5.00 each he would take us there as we would very likely get lost on our own. We decided to do it. Unfortunately it was a much steeper climb up than we expected and the now 14 miles I had hiked was really taking its toll. With about 1/8 mile to go I really ran out of gas so I had to rest every few steps. We finally made it to the top, I was not puffing to bad but I had just run out of energy! Time was flying by since it took me longer than it should of so I said rather than rest I would be able to make it if it was all down. He said it was so off we went. He told us we would not be able to make the over-look but rather we needed to head down the canyon to a creek bed and follow it into town to make it by dark so off we went. Going down went much better and we made it into town just as it was getting dark. We paid our $5.00 each and thanked him as he really did a good job. I went to our room and sat down and then I realized how really tired I was. I could see it was going to take awhile to get some energy back.
I told Edith to see if our two young friends wanted to go out for supper if we would take them. They said sure, but wanted to take a shower and get ready which was great by me as I needed rest. They got ready and I got up of the bed and about fell down but got to moving and we headed for the restaurant which was about a block away. It seemed like a mile. We sat down and ordered and I was so tired I could hardly stand it. I got a Sprite and drank a bunch of it to try and get some sugar in me for quick energy. About time our meal came I started to feel just a touch better and then about 15 minutes later as I was slowly eating I started to feel a whole lot better so was able to visit and have a good time. We got back and exchanged addresses and phone numbers and went to bed as we had to be up a little after 4 am to be at the bus stop a little before 5 am. Fortunately the bugs were just a few and I soon went to sleep.
I am thankful the good Lord has given me the gift to be a good judge of people. I felt confident about the reliability of my Mexican friend and our guide. In talking to my Mexican friend the next day he was pretty concerned as it was starting to get dark. I was not worried, as I felt I knew where we were and was sure we were headed back to Batopilas. It turned out I did know as the town was right in the direction I though it was but of course without our guide we would of never made it before dark.
I think a great trip would be to take the train to Bahuichvo. from either El Fuente or Creel. Use the second class train, get off there and take a vehicle down to Urique. You can hire a guide and mules for your pack and do it very, very cheap or for more money you can ride across like the people from Ohio did. You could spend a day or so in Batopilas and then take the bus out to Creel for $16 each. You could also do it in reverse going from Batopilas to Urique and up to the train and back to Creel. This trip would have to start at Creel to be able to get to Batopilas. The canyon to Urique is just as spectacular as to Batopilas. Also the two day trip on horse or probably 3 day trip on foot goes over several ridges and is about 20 some miles and the views are fantastic. If you can stay on the main trail you could do it yourself but if you get off you can get into areas where people are growing POT and that would not be good. Considering how reasonable the guides are for the first time I would see no reason not to hire a guide. If you had did it once and had GPS waypoints, etc then you could do it on your own BUT again I would hire a guide so you at least had mules so you did not have to carry the heavy back pack as it is a tough grind. There is water with a purifier so that helps with not having to haul 2 or 3 days worth of water. Anyway it was quite a thrill to hike in the Sierra Madre Mountains. There are definitely rugged.
March 31, 2004 Wednesday Day 83 since we left home. We were up a little after 4 pm and was on the bus and off at 5 am. It was a 5 hour trip into Creel. It was light by the time we got to the most spectacular part of the canyon. WOW! It is nice! On the way to Creel the inside dual went flat so we had to change that. We also picked up and dropped of a lot of Tarahumara Indians. It is obvious that the bus plays a major part in helping them get around to see relatives, sell things, buy things, etc. Several went into Creel and sold some of there crafts. Edith bought some things at the store where we got our bus tickets and where they buy things from the Indians. Some of the profit goes to the hospital for the Indians. We then walked to the RV park, about a mile and packed up and headed out. I was about 160 miles to Chihuahua. It was a nice drive, but we were getting a little sleepy having got up at 4 am and given all the exercise from the day before. Just a side note before I forget. One thing that happens in Mexico if you don't understand a number they grab a calculator and punch the number into the calculator and show it to you so you know what it is. It works slick!
April 1, 2004 Thursday, Day 84 since leaving home. We were on the road about 6 am local time and in the USA at Persidio, TX at 11 am. On the Mexican side me Spanish, poor as it is saved the day on getting our vehicle permit turned in a receipt and our Tourist permits turned in. On the USA side just a few standard questions, no food inspection and just a quick drug check with the dog. As before the big thing about getting into the USA is how much better the roads are, one is alway very thankful not to have had an accident in Mexico and the other striking thing is how much better the food is here!
That's it, I hope you have learned Mexico is a safe place, we had no problems other than the Maps could be better but we now know to buy state maps in addition to the Atlas which is what we done for Chihuahua and we got by fine. We plan on going to the four states in Mexico we have not been in next winter.
Ed and Edith