December 31 - January 2, 2014…Copper Canyon, Chihuahua Mexico

We boarded the ChePe train bound for Creel, Chihuahua, a town in the Copper Canyon area of Mexico… ticketless.  Yesterday we had tried to secure our ticket through an El Fuerte hotel, that, on trip advisor mentioned issued them.  We were told to just board and buy our ticket on the train.  We had hoped to spend New Years Eve at the Posada Barrancas Mirador, the ultimate room with a view, but it was booked, so we decided to head further north to Creel for New Years Eve then head down to the Mirador the next day.  

We were approached at the station by a curious english speaking hombre.  He quizzed us on our comings and goings, where we were from and also commented about our lack of luggage!  Politely, and giving vague information, as we guardedly conversed.  Uncomfortable as the exchange was, it promptly reminded us to be alert….always!

The train ride was rough, rocky and rogue.   The ChePe, Ferrocarril Chihahua al Pacifico roughly rocked, clanked, jolted, and noisily clacked its way through three diverse eco systems of simply amazing towering cliffs, deep canyons and stunning countryside.  Barranca del Cobre, Copper Canyon is named after its towering copper/green rocky walls rising throughout the 6 distinct canyons of the Sierra Madre Occidental, Chihuahua.  These canyons were formed by the 6 rivers that drain into the Rio Fuerte which then run into the Sea of Cortez.  The entire canyon system is four times larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA!  The region has 23 different species of pine, 200 species of oak, huge ficus, palm and succulents. 

From El Fuerte the train passed through the low brushwood, scrub tree, cactus pricked low lands, then into the tropical palm, ficus and vine obtrusive area and finally onto the high plateaus of pine, oak and fir.  All travelers with a camera fought for the open air space in-between the cars, hoping to snap that "perfect shot".  This is where I spent most of my time, although, I do need to learn to become more aggressive!  Between the rough jolting and rocking of the train, and its diesel fumes, I was lucky that I did not barf on more than one occasion!

The train stopped for 15 minutes in Diviserado, long enough for all to hop off and take a picture of where 3 of the 6 canyons merged.  Loaded up with my ultra light backpack,  computer bag and camera pack slung over my body I hopped off the train.  We headed down the staircase lined with brightly dressed Tarahumarans, the locals of the area, selling their weaved crafts, avoided many vagrant dogs of varying degrees of health, and passed fantastic smelling gordita grilling stands, on our way towards the fenced area of the canyon.  I snapped a couple of shots of the massive impressive sculptured void with the Nikon, and of course the iPhone, and then we returned to the train.  We have been on the train since 8:30 am, it is now 1:30pm and we still have 2 or so hours to go! 

The ChePe railway system is really quite an amazing engineering feat with it's 405 miles of rails, 39 bridges and 86 tunnels.  The total trip takes a rigorous  15 hours, delivering you straight into Chihuahua.  As an amazing trip as it is, today I'm glad we are only going to Creel!  

Finally we are in Creel….atop of the canyon and at 2340m, 8000ft. in altitude.  Creel marks the highest point of the ChePe railroad route.  We, the only gringos, disembark awkwardly amongst the disarray of excited mexican tourists.  We are hoping that we will spy a hombre holding a sign up with our name on it….but no.  We nuzzle through the crowd reciting "no gracias" as locals try to help us with our minimal luggage items while trying to figure out if our hotel has come to pick us up.  "Well I guess that they did not understand my email about needing a ride?", Kev says… and we head towards the street.  On a whim, we decide to approach this caballero looking hombre, helping mexican tourists into his SUV.  "Quinta Mison?", Kev asks…"uno momento", replies the hombre.  He then proceeds to pull out a scrap piece of paper from his side pocket, opens it up and says.."Kebin Backer?"…."SI"…..Well fancy that!  What are the odds.  Although if that whim did not arise, I feel that we would be making our own way to the Mision!

We arrive at the Mision and check in.  It would not have been too long of a walk, maybe 15 minutes or so from the train station…but, it was soon coming on dusk, in a foreign area, and with choppy use of our spanish language…the ride was a blessing!  The hotel asked if we wanted to attend their Feliz Ano Nuevo Buffet dinner…we agreed and paid the 285$MEX , $22US per persona.  It was a loud, fun and festive night!

I may have drank a little too much Don Julio last night!  Ja Ja Ja!!  Slowly we packed up the room and waited in the lobby for our ride back to the train station…back to Posada Barancas today.  The ticket office at the station was not manned…Oh yeah it is New Years Day today, a holiday!  We will buy our tickets on the train again, it was not a problem on the way up.   Today I was thankful that it was only a 2 hour ride to Posada Barancas!  We arrived at the Mirador only to find that they do not have a booking for us.  We had made a reservation on Booking.com and luckily they honored it….even more so, luckily they had a room!  We headed up to room 66, opened the door and were swept away by the awesome views.  This hotel is built on the cliff face of one of the 6 canyons of the Barranca del Cobre.  A simple room with simply outstanding views…this is amazing!  The hotel is an all inclusive stay, meaning they provide all the meals for you.  Breakfast is a lush buffet style banquet, lunch and dinner are served to you.  The food was fantastic.  We spent our short stay wandering around the area marveling at the views, watching the local Tarahumara go about their daily activities from the decks of the Mirador…kind of awkward, but, super interesting, and chatting with amazing tourists from Canada, France and Mexico.  It was a pleasure to chat in our native language…Ja Ja Ja!  We have only been in Mexico 10 days or so, and I found our conversations very comforting…funny!  Thanks for the conversation Dewar family!  We also enjoyed visiting with Brigette, Jean Luc, Paolo and Sereal…sorry if I have spelt your names wrong…amazing French and Mexican travelers with fabulous stories!

I could not help but purchase a few native Tarahumara crafts, kind of silly as I will need to ship them back to a family member for storage….but necessary!

Our side trip to Copper Canyon was well worth the extra expense.  The amazing landscape, interesting people, fantastic food, rogue train trip and overall adventure was fabuloso!

Back from our trip….I had read about this restaurant in El Fuerte.  It was the place where Don Diego Vega otherwise known as Zorro was born… was not to be missed.  After arriving back at our hacienda….mind you the staff watched our bikes and kept our room unbooked with our belongings securely stored inside for our entire Copper Canyon train trip…we venture out for a meal.  We ordered the river lobster…aka yabbies!  Fabuloso!!!!!  Zorro even graced us with his presence and quick synopsis of his life….What a way to end an amazing magical experience in El Fuerte!

Coffee shop next to train station

Coffee shop next to train station

ChePe

ChePe

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The local  Tarahumara selling baskets, fruit and empanadas

The local Tarahumara selling baskets, fruit and empanadas

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Hang'n on!

Hang'n on!

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Diviserado

Diviserado

3 of the 6 canyons merge in Diviserado

3 of the 6 canyons merge in Diviserado

Creel

Creel

Caballeros 

Caballeros 

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Arriving at Posada Barancas

Arriving at Posada Barancas

Room with a view

Room with a view

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Dining area

Dining area

The locals cliff side homes

The locals cliff side homes

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Back to El Fuerte

Back to El Fuerte

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El Fuerte

El Fuerte

Zorro!

Zorro!