Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mazatlan to Copper Canyon

Kelly and I at Plazuela Machado

    The entrance to the marina was the usual hair-raising spectacle with the dredging machine dominating the centre of the channel and waves crashing over the rocks on either side. But once through we settled in comfortably at the El Cid Marina to await our guest Kelly from Victoria. Unfortunately, it was almost Semana Santa, the biggest holiday season of the year, and the party atmosphere had already begun with the pounding beat of Mexican rap music from dawn til dusk.


     Once known as the Jewel of the Pacific the old town of Mazatlan has been beautifully restored. It was good to revisit the Plazuela Machado and sit amidst the leafy courtyard once again. Kelly and I checked out some of the enchanting artisan galleries while Daragh had the pulpit reconfigured to accommodate our slip back home in Victoria. We trekked the five miles of endless beach along the Malecon and stopped for refreshments at the old Sheik Hotel, and the Sky Bar atop the retro Hotel Kensington with a spectacular view of the entire city.
A very Porky Pig!

Topolobampo and Copper Canyon

     An unexpected delight was the trip to Topolobampo and the Copper Canyon. The name sounds like something right out of Dr. Seus! We made the crossing from Mazatlan in a record time of 32 hours at 6.9 knots due to a one knot current boost and flat seas on route. The entrance is a long wide channel loaded with shallows, but was well-marked and relatively easy to navigate into well-kept and  very welcoming Palmira Marina.

     We met Michelle and Bill on Adagio at the dock and we made up a nice foursome for our trip next morning to the Copper Canyon via the Chiahuahua Railway, affectionately known as El Chepe'. This hidden treasure is actually one of the world's great railway journeys with 37 bridges and 86 tunnels covering 653km and some of the most amazing mountain vistas anywhere, through the Sierra Madre.

The Raramuri selling basketry
El Chepe'

      El Chepe' has comfortable seating, air conditioning, and even a nice dining car. But the highlight is hanging out of the boxcars between the cars to enjoy the magical view with the wind in your face!
      We departed first of all at the rather ramshackle but spotlessly clean frontier town of Creel, home to Mexican cowboys and the Raramuri. These are the aboriginal people of Chiahuahua who often live in tiny huts or caves cut into the canyon. They dress in brilliantly coloured skirts and scarves, have their own language and quietly sell handmade basketry and wares to the tourists.

      The next day we rode a coach back to the Posada Mirador. The hotel is perched precariously on the edge of the immense canyon itself. Below you can see the tiny native huts and caves peppered around the canyon walls, like peering into the past. We took a gondola ride across the canyon. I was shocked to see a little urchin of a girl scamper up the rocks and jump between the massive boulders! It was of course, her 'back yard' but it was still very disturbing to observe, and hard to comprehend this way of life.

      The most impressive zip line in North America is also possibly right here plunging across the canyon ravines. After two days of hiking the trails and lounging on the deck mesmerized by the scenery, we prepared to take our leave back to the Divisadero train station. However, a group of protesters had blocked the railway to Creel due to some labour dispute. After a few uncertain hours a train was re-routed to take us for the long ride back to Los Mochis and Topolobampo, where we plan to cross the Sea of Cortez for Loreto.


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