Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Copper Canyon, Part One

As indicated by John’s recent posts, Perk the engine is still giving us problems. I thought it prudent to refrain from posting on our adventures until our readers' attention had been amply focused on our engine issues, and we've received some very promising suggestions and advice. Thanks so much for your input everyone! More engine work awaits us in the coming weeks. Kitty is ready for it.

On Monday the 15th, having spent multiple days inspecting, testing, cleaning, checking, and discussing it, we still hadn’t discovered the source of the problem. Deciding a break was in order, we de-boarded El Tiburon and hopped on a Baja Ferry bound for Topolobampo on the Mainland. Our destination was the Copper Canyon, or Barrancas del Cobre, in the state of Chihuahua.

The Copper Canyon is a series of six canyons in the Sierra Madre that is similarly impressive as the Grand Canyon. We were eagerly anticipating hike it and basking in its glory, but it would be quite a journey to get there.

First we had to get a ride to the ferry port in Pichilingue (thanks Rob!) just north of La Paz. Then we spent six interesting hours on the giant ferry that was more like a cruise ship. In one salon, a female crewmember in red hot pants sang karaoke to a bunch of Tecate-drinking muchachos, while another salon featured rows of movie theater chairs with three big screen TVs airing a kind of horror movie channel. There was a shocking amount of dark imagery being shown, considering children were running around everywhere, but nobody seemed to mind. When we went to the cafeteria to get dinner we were too late as they'd stopped serving dinner at 4:30PM. We ate Cliff bars for dinner and watched the sunset.

We landed in Topolobampo (a fun word to say over and over again) at 9:30PM and grabbed a cab for the two-hour drive to El Fuerte. It was late. It was dark. We were tired and unfamiliar with the area. We weren’t in quiet La Paz anymore, but the state of Chihuahua. You know, the oneyou hear about in drug war news? I was a little anxious about this situation but friends from the marina had done the same trip without any problems, and it was generally agreed that it was a safe journey. The cab was an official taxi and our driver was kind and spoke slowly so we could understand him as he told us all about this area of the country. I got a little freaked out when, after an hour on the freeway, he turned onto a long stretch of dirt road and drove past a group of pickups with men congregating around a pit fire. But as it turned out, they were just trabajadores working overnight to complete that section of the asphalt road.

We arrived safely in El Fuerte around midnight where, after a quick midnight tour of the town, our cabbie pounded on the door of Hotel Guerrero to wake up his friend the owner. It was an adequate place to sleep for the night, except maybe for the lack of hot water and warm blankets. It was remarkably cold in El Fuerte so we all slept in our clothes and sweaters.

In the morning we had two hours to explore El Fuerte before we had to catch the train to the canyon. We paid our host Guerrero $40 for the night, then set out to find some breakfast. El Fuerte proved to be a lovely town with brightly painted haciendas that lined the quiet cobbled streets. Morning chores had left many of the homes’ big wooden doors ajar, revealing inner courtyards with lush gardens. The elegant town square featured a grand gazebo in the center, and walkways lined with massive palms.

We ate breakfast at a beautiful hotel called Posada Hidalgo, where Zorro apparently spent the first chunk of his life. Hummingbirds abound in El Fuerte and there was a colorful swarm of them at breakfast, having been lured by feeders.

After a short taxi ride we spent 30 minutes waiting for the Chihuahua al Pacifico train, or “El Chepe,” as it is affectionately called. A group of tourism students were waiting at the station as well and, after a brief lecture from their teacher, dispersed to take photos of each other in various poses and positions. Without a single word to us, three kids came to stand in between John and me, put their arms around our shoulders and smiled for their cameraman friend. We then asked them to take another with our camera, and they did so happily. A few minutes later they’d configured themselves into a sort of pyramid on the tracks. I stood up to take a picture, but caught them only as they were coming down. "Shoot, I missed it,” I said then turned to sit down again when one of them called to me “Otra vez?” (“Again?”). They got back into position just so I could get this photo. It was very sweet.

El Chepe arrived and we bought our tickets to Divisadero for $30 each. From cushy reclining seats we watched as El Chepe climbed 2,000 meters through rugged canyon terrain, crossing lofty bridges and hugging the canyon walls. It took six hours to get to our destination (and the railroad’s peak elevation), the rustic town of Divisadero.

Stay tuned for Part Two!

No comments:

Post a Comment