Saturday, November 30, 2019

Zip Line Adventure

One of the attractions to this park is the number of zip lines available to ride if one so chooses. The one closest to us was located about a half hour walk from our encampment.  Our group leaders had taken the zip line a number of years ago, and were encouraging everyone to give it a try.  It wasn't a very expensive activity, at 1000 pesos (about $50), but Larry and I wanted to wait to see what the attraction looked like before committing to the ride.

So, this morning, we got up and walked about 20 minutes back to the hotel which is near the train station to have some breakfast.  The meal was a fixed menu with your choice of egg style. We had fruit, scrambled eggs, tortillas with green sauce, refried beans, and toast with pineapple marmalade.  It was more than filling, and we had a gorgeous view of the canyon from our table.

We had texted ahead to Kevin not to wait for us, since we weren't sure how long it would take to be served. After breakfast, we  picked up a few things at the camper, and walked the better part of an hour to the zip line and gondola area.  Once we were there, we quickly decided that the zip line ride was not happening for us, but eight of the group members decided to go ahead with the leap, and we watched everyone suit up and launch themselves from the platform into the canyon void.  As soon as all the zip liners had gotten across, the remaining members took the gondola over to rejoin the group.  

Larry took the following four photos on his walk alone this morning.  We were hoping someone could identify the tree and the birds.

He spied this house on his early morning walk. As it turned out, there were many more to see in the canyon.

View from our breakfast table.

I should devote several posts to the dogs of Mexico. They are everywhere, and are such sweet companions on our daily walks.

This is the collection booth to get into the park. It cost $25 pesos each person.

Another shot of our rigs as we passed through on our way to the gondola. 

I shot this at close range. There are many small houses in the canyon with produce fields around them. The next photo shows how close I was able to zoom in.

Funky old Beetle we saw near the gondola. They probably had to make some adjustments to the axles?

Part of our group inside the canyon viewing area.

Mural inside the building where we bought our gondola and zip line tickets.

And here are the brave zip liners, from the left: Ruth, Kevin, Mona, Roger, Jim, Aron, Bob and Denise.

Here they are, signing release forms and paying for their ride.

All suited up in protective gear.

I believe this is a shot of Roger.  The zip line went all the way over to the next ridge, and was approximately two minutes in duration.

If you look closely you can see many small houses with walking trails in between.  The gondola guide told us that about 250 Tarahumara people live in the canyon.  Many sell trinkets in the touristy areas around the gondola and hotels.

 Gondola counter weight. The gondola traveled across the canyon once every 30 minutes.

This sweet little girl sat next to me at the gondola waiting area and asked if I wanted to buy a bracelet from her. I did.

Kevin took this photo of me looking through the earrings this young girl had for sale just before our gondola back to the canyon rim.

Two children patiently waiting while their parents and siblings sold souvenirs from booths or circulated around tourists with baskets of things to sell.  These two girls had unusual and beautiful caps.  In the background, Larry and Garth are headed to the rock formation in the distance.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving Feast and a Visit from the Soladores

We awoke to more rain on Thanksgiving, but at least it wasn’t the torrential rains of Wednesday. The winds were still pretty bad, though, gusting up to 40mph.

I didn’t take any photos on Thursday. We walked downtown in the afternoon and had another meal at Simple, then we ran a few errands and picked up more carrots for a dish we were making as our contribution to the Thanksgiving potluck. The meal was very enjoyable! In addition to roast chicken and various side dishes, we even had gravy and stuffing, thanks to Bob and Denise, and some cranberry sauce from Ruth! 

Friday morning the rain and winds had subsided enough for Larry to address the slide issue. After retracting and extending it a number of times, he determined that the weld had broken on a small but crucial piece of metal that guided the right hand part of the slide on its rail. We had heard from Kevin that there were a few welders in the area, and Roger knew where they were located, so he and I walked for a few blocks over to what looked like the industrial part of town and after explaining what we needed to the fellow in the first shop we came to, we were directed to walk across the road and talk to Oscar, who just happened to be passing by in his pickup. 

Roger and I managed to communicate that we needed a solador movil, though we were willing to drive the camper over if need be. Oscar said someone would be over in 15 minutes, and sure enough, two young men arrived with a portable welding setup, and within the hour, we had a working slide. They asked for 200 pesos, about $10! Larry gave them 250 pesos, which still didn’t seem like enough for the help they gave us. 

Once that need was addressed, we filled the water tank, gassed up, and set off for Divisadero Barrancas, about an hour away. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. 

Here's the rectangular piece that broke off, causing the slide out room to veer to the left towards the refrigerator.

And here it is welded back onto the rail. The men did a neat job.

Roger and Larry initially thought that it might be a good idea to have the men reinforce the weld on the other rail, but that plan was abandoned after it proved too much of a hassle.

One of our first views of the Divisadero. 

We are camped along this rim! All our rigs face the precipice, a really remarkable place to camp.

Me, looking a little worse for the wear : )
The views were a reward for the hectic day!

We crossed this metal bridge to get over to the train station. There is a hotel and restaurant overlooking the canyon. I will post more photos from Larry’s phone later today.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ruth Has a Birthday, Roger Delivers a Bomba, and the Rain Continues its Barrage

The rain started up sometime early in the morning and continued off and on (mostly on, dear reader) for the entire day. By noon, our camper was no longer on an island, it was in the middle of a swamp, and by two o’clock, Larry moved it over closer to Garth’s rig on higher ground.

Did I mention we are having problems with the camper again? This time it is with the slide mechanism which seems to want to push the entire supplemental room over to the left towards the refrigerator when we retract the slide. Really alarming to behold. This new and exciting problem started just as we were readying ourselves to get on the train for El Fuerte: the final thing to do before walking with the group downtown to the train station was to pull in the slide, and of course, it wasn’t cooperating, so we had to leave it partially open and hope for the best in our absence. 

Due to the rain today, Larry wasn’t able to crawl (or swim) underneath the slide to look at things. Luckily, he has quite a bit of mechanical intelligence and I don’t doubt he’ll figure out the issue, but just to be on the safe side, I put a call into Winnebago in Indiana, and lo and behold, someone answered on Thanksgiving Eve who actually had some suggestions and a few pdf’s to email to us! Things are looking up! 

On to happier things. Roger knocked on our door this morning to give me “la bomba amarilla,” a neat plastic pump for the five gallon garrafone that Ruth had delivered to our camper the Sunday before. La Bomba is 75 pesos worth of pure utility. Now we must figure out where the five gallon water container will sit while we are in transit.

At two pm, we were invited to the resort restaurant bar to watch a French movie from 2004 called “Renegade,” (also titled “Blueberry”), that had been partially filmed at the Rancho where we stayed back at Basaseachi Falls. I was surprised to see Juliette Lewis, Michael Madden (Louise’s boyfriend in “Thelma and Louise”!), and Ernest Borgnine among the players in the film. I have to confess, my attention often wandered during the movie; it didn’t seem to be your standard good guy/bad guy western, and there were lots of peyote psychedelic scenes. Hard to believe it brought in $5.7 million at the box office, even harder to believe that the film’s budget was $40 million. However, no one in our group watched it just for the story line, they were all there to see the props on film that they had seen on their hikes around the Rancho back at Basaseachi Falls, like the fake boulder with symbols all over it and the club house that was built at the Rancho especially for the movie, and Kevin and Ruth recognized various rock formations in the movie that they had actually hiked around, so it was well worth the watch.

After the movie, we celebrated the birthday of Ruth, our guide and and tireless organizer. Sue made two delicious flans in her instapot for all to enjoy, and we talked about our plans for tomorrow’s potluck Thanksgiving feast. Happy Birthday, Ruth 🎂🎂🎂

At long last, our very own garrafone, and this one has a built in handle! I am excited to have a permanent, sturdy, reuseable water bottle!

And here it is with the bomba attached, a useful thing of beauty indeed.

Sue and the Birthday Girl Ruth! The restaurant allowed us to use their room for the afternoon, and someone built a cosy fire to sit by.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

El Fuerte to Creel

The rain started in earnest in the early hours of Tuesday morning.  We woke up at around 530, dressed, and asked the hotel clerk if there was someplace we could get a coffee and maybe a pastry. He directed us to an OXXO about five blocks away. 

By the time we ventured out, the streets were beginning to flood and we had to zig zag from the sidewalk to the street to avoid soaking our shoes.  Once we arrived at the OXXO, we stocked up on a few pastries and two cups of coffee, which, to my surprise, was pretty good!  (I should add that in the little towns where we have stopped, the coffee drink of choice on the shelves of small tiendas is instant, which I will drink in a pinch; luckily, we have enough ground coffee to last until the next major shopping opportunity in a week or so, fingers crossed).

The taxis we had hired were scheduled to arrive at 730 so that we could meet the 815 train.  The first one to arrive, a Chevy Suburban, pulled up under the portico of the hotel so that we could load ourselves and luggage without getting too wet. The Suburban was then driven into the street to load a few of us into the second taxi, a Mercury Marquis (or Ford equivalent, I wasn't paying close attention), because the Mercury (Ford, whatever), sedan could not pull into the portico due to the river of water going down the street in front of the hotel.  

Loading the second part of the group was briefly interrupted when the driver of the Mercury indicated that he needed his battery jumped.  The two drivers accomplished the jump in record time, (really! It was done in under 30 seconds!), and all were on their way to the station.

Once we arrived at the station, we huddled under a covered area with quite a few fellow train travelers, who were joined by at least three more bus loads of people wanting to ride the train.  The train's arrival was greeted with cheers!  I briefly worried about getting a seat on the train, given that El Fuerte is about 1-2 hours north of the end of the line and we didn't know how many people were already on the train, but my worries were for naught. Most of the people waiting along with us were headed for first class seating, and we were headed for the economy seats.  

Larry and I spent most of the train ride reading, and I was even able to fall asleep as the seats were comfortable, and the rocking motion of the ride was mostly gentle.  We arrived back in Creel and had dinner at a local restaurant, Veronica's, and celebrated Owenita's birthday during happy hour.  Ruth made a delicious Black Forest cake for Owenita, a fitting close to the day. 

Perhaps you can see the caskets on display in the funeral home window across the street from the hotel where we stayed. I took this photo just before we departed and you can see how flooded the streets were.

Here's a short video that Larry made on his phone from the train platform:

Monday, November 25, 2019

El ChePe Arrives

This morning, we walked to the station in Creel to catch the 1115 ChePe train through Copper Canyon to our ultimate destination of El Fuerte.

Wikipedia gives a short synopsis of the train and its route:

“The most popular way to view Copper Canyon is by train, as the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al PacĂ­fico or ChePe, runs along the main canyon called Canyon Urique, between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, on the Gulf of California.
The Chihuahua al Pacifico began in the late 19th century. The revolution, lack of funding, and the overall difficulty of building a railroad over such terrain hindered its completion until 1961. The railroad comprises 405 miles of rails with 39 bridges and 86 tunnels. The total trip takes approximately 15 hours and passes through towns, as well as the towering cliffs of the canyons. Along the railway, many Tarahumarans lay out their food, crafts and other wares for sale.
Mexico established the Parque Nacional Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon National Park) to showcase this remote area. The park is located in the municipalities of BatopilasBocoynaGuachochi, and Urique.
The Basaseachic Falls National Park around the Basaseachic Falls is located within the canyon area.”

We boarded the train just before noon and opted for one of the Clase Economica train cars. Two one way tickets to El Fuerte cost 1600 pesos, approximately $88 US. The journey lasted about eight hours, and though it was somewhat overcast, we managed to get a few nice pictures of the day, especially when we stood on the platform between train cars. 

The destination train station was located seven kilometers from El Fuerte, and due to the late hour, we took a taxi to the Hotel Franco El Fuerte, a very basic and clean accommodation near el centro. After checking in and dropping off our bags, we walked a few blocks and settled on eating at the Restaurante Diligencias. The restaurant had good shrimp from the Gulf of California that many of the group members enjoyed. 


This sweet doggie greeted us at our campsite when we arrived on Monday, and has followed many of our group members on their walks through town.  This morning, she followed us to the train platform. I took several pictures of the dog and happened to catch this image as one of the many indigenous women gathered at the platform passed our group. I am not certain but I assume that the women and their children, along with a few men were members of the Raramuri.

From  Wikipedia:

“The Rarámuri or Tarahumara are a group of indigenous people of the Americas living in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico. They are renowned for their long-distance running ability.
Two Tarahumara men photographed in Tuaripa, Chihuahua, in 1892 by Carl Lumholtz
Total population
Unknown: estimates vary
Regions with significant populations
Mexico (ChihuahuaDurangoSonora)
AnimismPeyotism, and Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Originally inhabitants of much of Chihuahua, the Rarámuri retreated to the high sierras and canyons such as the Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental on the arrival of Spanish invaders in the 16th century.[1] The area of the Sierra Madre Occidental which they now inhabit is often called the Sierra Tarahumara because of their presence.
Estimates put the population of the Rarámuri in 2006 at between 50,000 and 70,000 people. Most still practice a traditional lifestyle, inhabiting natural shelters such as caves or cliff overhangs, as well as small cabins of wood or stone. Staple crops are corn and beans; however, many of the Rarámuri still practice transhumance, raising cattle, sheep, and goats. Almost all Rarámuri migrate in some form or another in the course of the year.
The Rarámuri language belongs to the Uto-Aztecan family. Although it is in decline under pressure from Spanish, it is still widely spoken. In the language, the term rarámuri refers specifically to the men, women are referred to as mukĂ­ (individually) and as omugĂ­ or igĂłmale (collectively).”

Here comes El ChePe!

All aboard!

Larry settles in for the ride ❤️

This man circulated through the train taking photos of tourists, developing the photos, inserting them into a plastic key fob, and selling the fobs to tourists.
Prior to our departure, Ruth and Kevin mentioned that they had had a key chain made by a man on this same train five years earlier.

Standing on the platform between cars, waiting our turn to get a few photos.  Many of today’s photos were taken through the train windows instead of from the platform.

Part of the loop that is drawn on the map at the end of this post.

A not very good shot of a party bus that was playing festive music as it circled the square in El Fuetrte.

I attempted to download a Google map showing our train route, but for whatever reason Google would only establish a car, bicycle or walking route between Creel and El Fuerte. So I downloaded a map from the El ChePe website. On this map just south of Creel is the train loop that I attempted to photograph.