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Journal - 03-Mar-2001, Saturday, Creel, Chihuahua, Mexico
(Trip: Baja California, Whale Watching, Copper Canyon.)

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Click for larger image! Lago Arareko<b> . Keywords: backpack,Mexico,travel,overland,camping,camp,bus,autobus,train,chihuahua,creel,canyon,copper,copper canyon,barrancas del cobre,Tarahumara,valle del hongos,san ignacio,Cuzurare,Arareko,san sabastian,cave
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Click for larger image! Petrified mushroom in need of support. Keywords: backpack,Mexico,travel,overland,camping,camp,bus,autobus,train,chihuahua,creel,canyon,copper,copper canyon,barrancas del cobre,Tarahumara,valle del hongos,san ignacio,Cuzurare,Arareko,san sabastian,cave
(Click to view)
Lago Arareko 
Petrified mushroom in need of support
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So much for getting up early. It's about 9am before we've broken our fast and are ready to go. We decide not to go on the 2 day tour day as we'd have to stay another night in Creel after returning.

Stepping outside the town looks beautiful with its white coat of snow glittering with a clear blue sky above. We're are almost immediately offered a tour of the places we we're thinking of visiting on bicycle. $12 each. We accept.

The tour is shared with two women from Mexico City - probably the only other Mexican tourists in the area. As the women approach the tour van they are holding hands - not a common practice in Mexico. "Lesbians?" I wonder idly. Seems unlikely - Mexican homosexuality is still firmly in the closet. Mother and daughter introduce themselves. Oops.

Our first stop is at a cave dwelling occupied by three families of the indigenous Tarahumara people. Apparently much of the local indigenous population continue to live in caves, even though they may not care to admit it. It should be noted that 'living in a cave' really means living in a cabin protected by a cave or rock shelf. Not a bad idea given the weather extremes.

I'm not particularly comfortable gawking at 'natives' so I concentrate instead on photographing the beautiful snow covered mountains and trees - both accented by a deep blue sky.

Next stop is the nearby 'Valle de los Hongos' (Mushroom Valley). Here are some amazing rock formations with huge boulders (from 1 to 3m in diameter) balanced on eroding cylinders of white clay soil, or other rocks. The most dramatic is a cube shaped rock, about 3m in diameter, balanced on a point on less than half a meter of soil. Apparently the locals add soil every so often to stop the rock from falling. Another of the rocks is so finely balanced, it's possibly to rock it up down with your hands (if you're not afraid of being crushed by a falling rock that is).

Back in the van I do the unthinkable. In an act of confusion, I erase the morning's photos! This puts me in a foul humor. I'd taken some great pictures and there doesn't seem to be any way to reproduce them - as part of tour I can't really go back and the snow is melting fast. Damn.

Driving about 15 minutes we arrive at the lovely lake Arareko. The snow laden pine trees and rocks, bordering the green, is picturesque. We stop just long enough to take a few snap shots.

Further down the road we stop at an early missionary church, originally built by Jesuits in the 1600's. The inside is decorated with traditional indigenous motifs amongst the Virgins and the Crucifixes. Throughout the ages, native elements have commonly been employed to 'sweeten' the taste of christianity, leading to some interesting variations around the world.

A little further on, we're dropped at the entrance to Cuzurare's waterfall. A large, low-key, building dominates the area. It is an American-owned hotel, catering only to tours from the US. We'd seen similar 'US tourists only' arrangements in Baja California. I guess ex-pat's are ahead of the tourist game!

The 2km walk to the falls is mostly through evergreen forest, following the course of the river downstream. At this time of year the river is quite shallow but there signs, like a destroyed bridge, that things aren't always so calm.

When the falls come into view, they're spectacular. It's possible to stand at the very edge of the drop and look down maybe 30 or 40m below. I surprise myself with my daring by going almost to the edge of the unprotected rock cliff. Looking down it's clear that this isn't just a steep incline; it's an overhang - one slip and it's goodbye cruel world. It's a scary thought so I try not to think it as I move around the downward sloping rocks taking pictures. It doesn't escape Monica's notice of course - "No!" "Not there!" "That's far enough!".

Moving further on to fully face the falls, their full grandeur can be appreciated. The water spills over a rock face stretching almost 30m from side-to-side, creating the start of the Cuzurare canyon. Trees and sand-colored rocks line the edges.

Returning to Creel at 14:30, the snow has completely melted and the place looks quite different. Still angry over erasing my photos of the morning we decide to go back on foot to at least get some shots of the mushroom rocks (sans snow). To avoid hauling our baggage, we buy tickets for the 17:30 bus to Chihuahua and leave everything at the bus station.

The walk to Valle de los Hongos takes around an hour. After a couple of shots, the camera's memory card is full so I start to upload its contents to the Digital Wallet (basically a portable hard disk) at usual. The device gives an unpleasant error message at start up and appears to be making strange rattling noises. Not good. Naively I hope it's a transient problem and try to upload the card anyway. The rattling noises get worse and I can feel the unit shaking. The only moving part is the hard-drive. This does not bode well at all. More than likely the hard-drive, with the day's photos, has gone seriously beyond remedy. Luckily I still have some photos of the waterfall on my card. ALL the snow pictures will be lost. My only consolation is now I don't need to be upset about erasing the photos of the morning - I would have lost them anyway. Some consolation. I still hold on to some small hope that I'll be able to get at least some of the photos off the rattling wobbling disk. Surely that says something about the human spirit?! For those that don't know - the pieces of information on a hard disk are mere micrometers apart - think a human hair split into a hundred strands.

What a 'bad photo day'! My mood has now been pushed to 'detached spectator' status. We march back to the bus station, stopping only to buy a lime ice lolly.

At the bus station I gorge on the food we bought at the start of the day (and have been lugging around ever since). Nothing like chocolate biscuits to make all in the world seem good.

The bus is of 'medium' luxury which means the seats recline a little and my knees only just touch the seat in front. The ride is bumpy and curvy, with frequent stops. Not as comfortable as the train but the journey will 1.5 hours shorter. And the tickets are cheaper. We should get to Chihuahua at 22:00. Early enough to find a hotel I hope (and try to recover our photos!).

The bus stops in Cuauhtemoc, close to a mennonite community. The mennonites originate from Germany and live a simple rural lifestyle, similar to the Amish in the US. With my straw travelling hat and slightly german appearance, I'm occasionally mistaken for a mennonite - much to Monica's delight!

The bus terminal in Chihuahua is large and modern. We take a taxi to the cheap hotel zone and get a nasty room for $10. Towels require a $1 deposit each. I ask for two. The clerk hands me two large face clothes with a perfectly straight face. Now we're 'roughing' it!

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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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