10. Copper Canyon (Part One)
Welcome to Chihuahua, with less pollution and lower altitude than Mexico City, but really not much else going for it. Thankfully this was just a stopping off point for our trip through the Copper Canyon. Admittedly we didn't stay in the town very long, but we didn't see many reasons to come back. The only decent place we found was the Chinese buffet. Apparently everyone else in town thought the same way, as it was packed. I loaded up on veggies, chips and coconut ice cream while Danny went to town on everything. We are uncontrollable at buffets. There were small packets of dry biscuits being offered, for who knows what reason. I took 12, (snacks for the train the next day) to make sure I got my money's worth. Back at the hotel we found a B-grade Australian movie on TV. It was so B-grade that we had never heard of or seen it before. I don't know what it was doing on TV here, but I think the Mexican TV companies got screwed over big time.
It was an early start the next morning to board El Chepe, a touristy train traversing the Copper Canyon. Comfy seats, lots of leg room - couldn't complain about the train. Unfortunately the scenery was flat and boring for the first few hours, so we used the opportunity to catch up on some sleep. Towards Creel it became more mountainous, with pine trees covering the hillside. Being a canyon, I thought that it would be more bare and rocky, but I was clearly mistaken.
We jumped off at Creel and found drivers from our hostel who had come to meet us. They even had a sign with our name on it (a first for us). After we came down from that little bit of excitement, we realised that it was bitterly cold, another thing we did not expect in Mexico. So, so, so grateful we packed some warmer clothes for this trip - the big puffy jacket was the first thing out of my bag.
The hostel had a beautiful fireplace in the main room, and I was content to sit in front of it to avoid the cold waiting for me outside. But that wasn't to be. We were offered a half day trip of the area almost immediately, and as we had no other plans we thought, what the hell, let's do it. So off we went in a minivan with four other tourists and a guide, none of whom spoke English. Great.
Overview of the tour:
Visiting the cave home of a Tarahumara family.
Elephant rock (yep, I see the elephant).
A big, empty lake (I'm not sure why it was significant).
Cascade Cusarare (I'm a sucker for a good waterfall, even if the water is dirt brown).
Valley of frogs and Valley of mushrooms (rock formations; nowhere near as grand as they were built up to be).
Being ambushed by the Tarahumara kids every single time we stopped somewhere, begging us to buy some cheap but colourful souvenir. Danny relented and bought a keyring.
Big empty lake.
We popped into the restaurant next to the hostel for a burrito for dinner, just so we didn't need to spend more than 15 seconds outside in the freezing temperatures (we discovered later the overnight low was 1°C). It was a damn good burrito - I probably would have walked 30 seconds for it. Earlier Danny had purchased a bottle of tequila and some limes, so after dinner we sat in our heated room smashing tequila shots, using salt we "borrowed" from the restaurant. We slept well.
You know, to keep us warm...