March 23-26, 2018
(It is so strange to write about Northern Mexico while sitting in Bali but I really want to get this written. I resolve to write about places closer to when I’m there. Ok, I’ll try)
I gotta say, there is an abundance of testosterone in the feisty little town of Creel, Mexico. I would not have been surprised to see an old fashioned Western gun fight break out on its dusty streets. Not that it was violent, it was the machismo swaggering of many of the male tourists and local Indians, the Raramuri, was very clear. Which leads to it being a loud town – loud music, loud cars, loud quads, loud voices. To help fuel this machismo was a plethora of opportunities to challenge your athleticism and guts (and lack of self-preservation). You can horseback ride, hike, dirt bike or quad up and down the canyons, throw yourself off great heights at the end of a rope, white-water rafting, paragliding and rappel. It’s a busy busy town.
I did indulge in a couple myself, a sedate quad ride tour of the Valley of the Monks and the Valley of the Frogs and Mushrooms, rock formation, which was great fun, especially the Monks. I had to laugh at the story of the Catholic brothers, when shown these sacred fertility symbols decided they were monks. Monks? Seriously. That is so wrong on many levels. What do you think?
The other thing I did, now in my top 10 most fabulous awesome things I have ever done – was the ZipRider at the Parque de Aventura Barrancas del Cobre. It is the longest zip line in the world – 8,350 feet!!!! Vertical drop of 1450 feet!!!! They don’t even give you a helmet for goodness sake cause honey if you fall, no helmet is going to save you LOL I love the honesty :). The fastest speed is 65 mph but my complaint about zip lines is that they are, well, too zippy. They are always over the most beautiful scenery in the world, I want to hang out and enjoy the view. I must admit it took several seconds of making peace with the very real possibility of my death before I was able to ‘relax’ and enjoy it. OHMYF***INGGAWD! There are not enough exclamation marks to do this experience justice. I managed to record the ride with my iPhone without dropping it! Hilarious little noises come out on the video LOL
There is some rough language at the beginning of the video and then I go strangely quiet. I finally realized that I was staring straight ahead clutching my phone with 2 hands so I made myself look around. I was ready to go do it again except they freaking make you climb from 1700 m above sea level to 1900m in 700m up to the where you catch the cable car back up to the park. That just about did me in for good plus the tour I was on was leaving :(. But if I ever go back I will so do that again. I’m all pumped up just writing about it!
Evident from the ride on the train and my 3 days in Creel is that El Chepe runs through the heart of her people as well as the hearts of the towns. My hotel room was across the street from the tracks and about a block from the station so I had a front row seat to witness the daily interaction with the trains. For the Raramuri, who are descendants of the Aztecs, the daily influx of tourists means income from their cooking, baking and crafts. It has been so lucrative that many families pull their kids from school to make baskets to sell to us. This is sad for the kids since it will severely limit their options in the future and frankly it is sad for the craft because the quality is sub-par and I fear the skill will be eventually lost.
On the other hand the Raramuri leadership certainly exhibits a level of political sophistication concerning protecting their people’s land rights and future. Like many Indian cultures around the world, theirs is communal based, which struggle against the mighty force of our corporate world. It was nice to see that these people seem to have learned the lessons of the North American tribes and have taken measures to protect their land, which is everything. There are tolls to use their roads and tours have to buy permit to gain access any of the sites, like Valley of the Monks and much of the canyon. The quad tour I took was by 3 Amigos made a point of getting me to pay the Raramuri myself at the gate so that they and I would have at least that connection. It was a little thing but I was impressed, to me it showed that they are a company of integrity and if they pay that much attention to the little things then the big things are likely to be good too. The little things are what the front line staff see everyday and it sets the tone for them.
Speaking of 3 Amigos, I highly recommend this company. It was a bit expensive for me because I am alone and all their tours are private but everything about them shouts integrity, safety and professionalism. My guide was so sweet, the Raramuri children at the different sites knew and adored him and he was knowledgable about the land we visited. You can do individual tours through 3 Amigos or their sister company, Amigo Trails will plan the whole shebang (including the dreaded el Chepe train tickets!)
I stayed at the Hotel La Posada Santa Cruz in Creel, awesome place. It is clean and the folk are friendly and go out of their way to make your stay comfortable. I was there in March and was chillier than I expected and the 4 blankets, a sheet and a comforter was so welcome at night. There are 2 lounges you can hang out in and both have a wood burning store which helped with the cold. It is across the street from the tracks and about 2 blocks from the station which make for great people watching if you are lucky enough to get a front room.
The Copper Canyon, of course, is the star of this show. It is outrageous and my brain struggled to believe it to be real. So I’ll give you a few facts to catch your interest:
- The canyon is made up of 6 smaller canyons and multiple gorges in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains
- This canyon system is four times larger than the Grand Canyon in the United States, while four of its six canyons are deeper than the Grand – some by over 1,000 feet.
- It stretches 900 miles across Mexico and covers over 64,000 sq. kms (25,000 sq. miles).
- The name refers to copper/green colored lichen that clings to the canyon walls, copper was never mined that much there.
- As you can imagine the photo opts are mind boggling, thank goodness for digital cause if I had to develop all those pictures to figure out which I wanted to keep I would be a very poor traveller sleeping in a cardboard box.
Have you been to the Copper Canyon? What did you love/hate about it?
Did you miss my post about El Chepe? El Chepe! The Train of the People!