Thursday, February 02, 2017

Copper Canyon - The Complete Story

By 7:00 AM we loaded the huge ETN bus with our Mex-ECO Tour group and we were on the road. The bus had WIFI so we were able to catch up on emails and such. The ride to Guadalajara got us into our hotel about 1:00 PM.

Just outside of Manzanillo we hit our first slowdown. A container truck lost its load and so we ended up waiting on the highway for 20 minutes. Could have been much worse and we could have been sitting there a lot longer.

The bus was very nice and clean with a quiet ride. We passed near the two volcanos; one very active, one not. Our route bypassed Colima and climbed into the high flatlands near Guadalajara. This is a large farming region. Berries, sugar cane, agave and much more grow for as far as your eyes can see.

We arrived at the Hotel Morales at about 1:00 PM. While the rooms were being readied, we went to a restaurant named La Chata. We were able to walk right in and get a table. Later, we found out that this was a very popular place and that people usually wait in line for 20 minutes or more. We were very lucky, I guess.

I was starved. Linda agreed, so we ordered and shared our plates. It was fast and good. Didn’t seem like an exceptional meal. I like Buen Gusto better, but I guess I am Melaque-spoiled. 

Our room is nice and we have everything we need. Next up, was a walking tour of Guadalajara Centro!

We did the tour. Our guide was Ophelia, the same woman who did the tours when we went on the Monarch butterfly tour.  Ophelia lead us into the numerous squares, visited a Catholic Church, and saw many fancy fountains. One building, the Palace Building is never closed... except for today! We couldn't go in it.

I walked back early, and Linda went on to a jewelry store. That could have proven to be a huge mistake. As it turned out she was overwhelmed by the size of the place and came back empty-handed. I knocked on wood when she returned with all our money intact.

We had a 4:30 am departure from the hotel to Guadalajara airport for a 7:00 AM flight to Los Mochis. All went well, No slow ups and no mishaps though the airport itself was crazy. There didn't appear to be any rhyme nor reason to where the cars or people went. So glad we had Dan who speaks fluent Spanish and made our way through it as seamless as possible. We had a nice breakfast in a hotel in the heart of Los Mochis after we landed.

We bused our way to El Fuerte where we were to stay overnight at the Posada del Hidalgo, a beautiful hotel where it is said Zorro grew up.

I settled into the room and Linda went for a long walk through town and along the river. She said it was very nice because of the walkway, but the river itself was something you would not want to swim in. 

Linda and I had a great dinner in town and we took a bit of time to explore the area. When we returned to the hotel I made myself at home and Linda went down to the bar to see a performance by Zorro and his girlfriend. There were singing and interplay with the audience, but Linda learned nothing about the caped hero that evening event.

Early the next morning we all loaded onto the bus and met the Chepe train from El Fuerte to Bahuichivo and in the afternoon we rode a bus transfer from Bahuichivo to Cerocahui.

The train ride was a new experience for Linda and I. Linda had been on a train before when she was very little, but I had never ridden anything other than steam trains at amusement parks. Our ride was yet another grand adventure and I actually hardly sat down the entire time. Linda and I took turns hanging out of the spaces between the cars, watching the views go by, taking photo after photo.

Riding the rails was exactly as all the songs, poems and stories tell you. The train chugs along and sways back and forth. You could get up from your seat and go to the area between the cars and stand to watch Mexico go by.  I took photo after photo, as we moved along. Every turn provided a new vista.  We must have traveled through fifty tunnels, one dark tube after another. I was all smiles as we made our way up the mountains.

Some of the tunnels were hairpin curves. We would enter them, travel in the dark and then emerge into the bright light. You could look down and see the tunnel entrance that you had just entered below the one you just exited. It was very weird. 

We approached a small town and the train slowed to a stop. Tarahumara women scurried up to the doorways between cars, carrying armloads of baskets, hoping to sell them. I reach down and took one, it was woven very precisely with wonderful colors. I asked "quanto?" and the woman replied "veinte" and the deal was done. Twenty pesos is about $1 for a beautiful basket that probably took a half day to weave. Linda joined me and purchased a basket while I spent the rest of the stop taking pictures and absorbing this culture.

The train whistle sounded and the final deals were completed as the cars rolled slowly away. We moved further on up toward the rim of the canyons. 

We arrived at Cerocahui for a wonderful afternoon. The sun was out but there still was a nip in the air. Folks gathered outside our room and wrapped up in blankets to chat.

By this time we were acquainted with many of the people on the tour. Dick Ferguson, a former airline pilot, and I went for a walk. Dick said he needed the exercise, but I think it was more of an excuse to find beer for the afternoon social. He led us along the main street and finally found a little store that could sell us beer.

On the walk we visited the Mission of the town of Cerocahui, this mission is the one the wine is named after.  As Dick and I walked, Linda toured a boarding school for Tarahumara girls. She found out that the girls could attend the school as they choose. They could either stay the entire time or they could go home whenever they wished. Most chose to stay Monday through Friday, walking home on the weekend. We all met back at the hotel and had a wonderful dinner. Fires were lit in our rooms and we retired early after a long day of travel.

The following day we bussed up to the ‘Cerro del Gallego’ a viewpoint overlooking the Urique Canyon. The road was very narrow and windy, we only met one other vehicle which in our view was a good thing.

Our bus took us to the train depot for our ride from Bahuichivo to Barrancas. Once again on board, we watched the mountainous terrain go by as we chugged up to the top of the canyon rim.
Exiting the train we loaded onto a small bus and were transported to the Barrancas Mirador hotel. 

WOW! What a view! Our room, and every room opened to a balcony that dropped off directly into the bottom of the Copper Canyon. The view was beyond words! We spent the next half hour taking photos and marveling at the spectacular panorama before us.

We pride ourselves away from the view and met our group outside the hotel where we took a hike down along the canyon edge and visited Tarahumara caves and viewpoints of the Copper Canyon. The trail was well marked and so several of us walked briskly up to the viewpoints where we posed for photos and enjoyed the canyon.

That night we ate another wonderful dinner and retired to our room on the edge of the world.

The next morning we gathered outside the hotel and watched a performance by the Tarahumara. Three musicians played instruments as another fellow dressed in traditional Tarahumara cloth did three dances.  Two Tarahumara women joined the group and demonstrated a ring race that was traditionally done during gatherings and celebrations.  Poncho pulled Linda out of the crowd and had her compete aginst one of the other tourists.  I think Linda would have been an Olympic Ring Runner if she had lived with the Tarahumara people. I was very proud!

Another bus ride carried everyone along a rough road and into an adventure park where we walked to the famous ‘Piedra Volada’ (flying rock) and some spectacular views from the cable car station. After entering the park the bus took us to a modern viewing station where we could purchase a ride on the longest zip line in the world or check out the zip lining tour through the canyon.

It was highly suggested that we do the zip lining tour because you get much more for your money.  The longest zip line in the world is cool, but it is a three minute, 60 mile per hour drop straight down into the canyon.  Three minutes and it is over, whereas the zip line tour is a combination of seven zip lines and two swinging bridges that give you two hours of excitement.  We all chose the tour!

WOW! What a thrill! We all loved it. In our group of eight, only three had done a longer zip line. Linda and I had done the little one at North Idaho College, but that is nothing compared to these wild rides.  Our group was amazing, there were no hesitations, and no one showed any fear, period! Yes, we were all scared internally as we rocketed across the canyons, but you would never have known it by our actions.

If you ever get a chance to do this adventure, I highly recommend it!

After the seven lines were conquered, we met at the gondola platform for a group picture and then we rode the car back up to the flying rock view point and our awaiting bus.

Click here to see our Zip Line Photos.

We left the beautiful cliffside resort and our bus rumbled on to our final destination in Chihuahua, but first, we stopped at the viewpoint in Divisadero for last minute photos of the area where the three canyons come together.

After a couple hours of moving on down the winding road,  we entered the community of Cuauhtémoc in Chihuahua. This community has some very odd ties and our visit just pointed to just the very top layer of its history.

Cuauhtémoc is a Mennonite community. The Mennonites moved from Manitoba Canada around 1925. Their community has grown to be about 25,000 strong and we were able to visit their museum and eat lunch at a Mennonite farm.

I had a few questions so I sat down with our guide Poncho and he had an interesting take on the Mennonites. Poncho called them predators. He clearly stated that they came down to this area and took everything from the indigenous people and do not give anything in return.  They don’t mix in the community, they don’t share resources, and they won’t learn Spanish or respect Mexican customs.  It was obvious that Poncho did not respect these intruders.

We ate a very good lunch of bread, lunch meat, and cheese.  Cheese is one of the staple products of the Mennonite people and it was very good. Linda and I bought two large blocks, and have been enjoying them since our return.

Our bus took us on to Chihuahua and our final hotel. When we stopped it was the usual running of the bulls getting off the bus. We entered the hotel and got our key assignments and I realized that my jacket vest was still on the bus. As soon as I noticed this I ran out to catch the bus but it was too late. Our driver had left. I talked to Dan and Poncho and they said that we would have the same bus and driver the next day so to worry. It was then that I remembered that my phone was zipped tight in the pocket of the vest. Now I had to worry about the phone and what was on the phone that might get taken if some found the vest and kept it.

We walked around the streets of Chihuahua and visited their federal building. What a wonderful place. Poncho was from Chihuahua and you could tell how proud of his hometown he was. We returned to the hotel and all the Lady Flyers had Tequilla sunrises to celebrate their conquering the zip lines. At 7:00 PM we went to bed and crashed.

Morning came early and I checked with everyone about my vest and phone. It was not found. They said the bus was cleaned and it was not on board. The two items were stolen and now I had to deal with it. Bummer. 

 We again loaded onto the bus made our way to the airport, checked in and scurried through customs. Our flight was to leave at 8:00 AM but we started hearing rumors that the airport in Guatalaharra was fogged in and our plane would be a few hours late. The plane was four hours late and later we found that it had not been fogged in, but it was held up by a protest by the Ahedo concerning a failer by the government to pay the contracted rent for the land that the landing strip was built upon. A battle has been going on for quite a while and this protest did its job by disrupting air travel throughout Mexico. 

Finally, our plane arrived and they did one of the fastest turnarounds we have ever seen. We were on our way within a half and hour of the arrival of the plane. We flew into Guatalaharra, found our bus, and headed home arriving in Melaque around 9:00 PM. Another long day but our adventure was over and we could get home and relax. At least for a day.

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