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Journal - 02-Mar-2001, Friday, Copper Canyon Train, Mexico
(Trip: Baja California, Whale Watching, Copper Canyon.)

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Click for larger image! 'El Chepe' - the Copper Canyon train. Keywords: backpack,Mexico,travel,overland,camping,camp,bus,autobus,train,chihuahua,los mochis,sinaloa,creel,canyon,copper,copper canyon,barrancas del cobre
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! A train with a view<br> . Keywords: backpack,Mexico,travel,overland,camping,camp,bus,autobus,train,chihuahua,los mochis,sinaloa,creel,canyon,copper,copper canyon,barrancas del cobre
(Click to view)
'El Chepe' - the Copper Canyon train
A train with a view
 
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Monica wakes just before the alarm at 05:40. A shower and taxi ride later we're on the train to Creel, in Chihuahua. According to the guide, there's a lot to see around Creel.The seats are large with plenty of room between rows. Strangely the seat backs are almost vertical and recline very little. We feel more like we're sitting down to dinner than trying to sleep on a luxury train. Except there's no food. In fact eating is not permitted in the carriages. A light drizzle patters on the double glazed windows.

The passengers are mostly foreign tourists. In the next row, two groups of travelers, on opposite sides of the train, start 'making friends'. I guess sleep is out of the question now. 20 minutes later I know where everyone lives, what cars they drive, where they've been, and where they're going. The carriage is also treated to a harmonica rendition of 'South of the Border' by one of the group. Apparently "People like the harmonica". I'm sure they do, but possibly not at 06:30!!

Expected arrival time at Creel is 16:00.

Moving along slowly we pass some very poor houses on plots located between two sets of train tracks. Good job there's not many trains. Most of the houses have a yard with some livestock (and an outside bathroom). Many of the roofs are waterproofed with thick black plastic bags. An orchestra of squeaks accompanies the lazy motion of the train.

2 hours into the journey, we don't seem to have picked up much speed. I guess we're doing about 50 kph. If this is the maximum speed, I can only say the views better be good!

We've brought our own breakfast but the restaurant in the train is too fancy to eat it there. So, disobeying the graphical 'no hamburgers and shake' sign, we serve up our cornflakes in a tupperware style bowl. We only have one spoon, free with a yogurt I bought in Los Cabos, so we take turns to eat. Afterwards, Monica empties a sachet of chocolate powder into the milk bottle and shakes up half a liter of chocolate milk. What could be finer? (Maybe if she gave me some...).

From around 10 onwards we're in canyon country with occasional great views and long tunnels. The train rides along close to bottom of a canyon, weaving from side-to-side, following the canyon wall. There are no roads and just one set of tracks. Hope no-one's coming the other way!

At 11:30 we stop at Témoris - 213km from our origin and 1057m above sea-level. We're making an average of around 40 kph (and gaining over 200 meters of altitude every hour). Good job we took the faster (and more expensive) of the two daily trains. I think we might travel by bus from Creel to Chihuahua.

Snow appears as we rise into the mountains. First as white patches on peaks, later on the ground next to the train tracks.

At 16:30 our interim destination, Creel, is reached. From the train we see a frosty looking town square and a bank - good news as we're running low on cash. According to our accounts we've already spent close to $900. Gulp! Might need to hit the drawing board again.

Disembarking, a man asks if we're going to 'La Margarita'. We don't have any accommodation plans but, given the cold, I'm prepared to jump at anything within budget. The rooms are $25 including dinner and breakfast for two. Sounds okay. There is a bus to take us there which almost all the tourists are climbing into. This puts me off a little but I figure at least it means the place will probably be clean. As we climb aboard someone makes the comment that everyone has read the same guide book!

I'm still undecided as we drive down the street but figure if nothing else we're getting a free tour of the town. After a block or two we stop in front of the hotel. Cool. Now we know where it is we can walk around and see if there's anything cheaper. Then we're told that this is the 'hotel' Margarita. The price we were quoted is for the 'hostel' Margarita - next stop. So we stay on bus and nervously hope the hostel is not too far away (in case we have to walk back).

The bus turns around and goes back exactly the way it came! The hostel is just opposite the train station. We're shown a room. It's lovely - pine furniture, tiled floor, private bathroom, and heating. Taken. Dinner is served after 18:30.

Before dinner we wander around town. It has started to snow lightly. Monica is delighted - it's the first time she's really been in the snow. We take romantic pictures of each other. In the Creel museum (a small 'past and present' exhibition) a tourist map is bought outlining the local attractions and hiking and biking routes. The hostel runs tours and rents bikes and guides.

Returning to the hostel it seems our activity options for tomorrow are:
1. Two day tour with hostel to visit canyons and stay with a small ex-mining community in the canyon.
2. Go on a self powered bike tour.
3. Investigate other tour companies.
We decide to postpone our decision till tomorrow.

Dinner is spicy but I manage to tolerate it by stuffing a little at a time in a tortilla. Our dining companions are quite interesting and well travelled. One of them gives me some tips on buying a round-the-world flight ticket.

The snow has settled during dinner and I show Monica what a snow fight is! She's fascinated by the soft texture of the snow and wonders if it's the same in other places. I confirm this and suggest we make a snowman. We make a little friend and have picture taken with him.

Back in our chalet (okay, 'terraced chalet') we review the day's photos then go to bed. I want to get up early tomorrow to photograph the snow.

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Cuba - Rotorua, New Zealand - Christ Church, Dublin - Monument Valley, Arizona - Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico - Staffa, Scotland - Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico - Costa Rica - Tule Tree, Oaxaca, Mexico - Fiesta, Mexico City - Making Lacquer, Olinalá, Mexico - Talavera Ceramics, Puebla, Mexico - Mata Ortiz Pottery, Mexico - Lebanon
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