El Chepe

6th March 2018

My adventure with the train throughout the Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) started in the middle of the night. I was coming by bus from Hermosillo to Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where I entered the train around 5:30am, but I arrived already before 4am at the train station, which was locked. More and more people arrived soon. I also saw people sleeping inside on the benches. One awoke and discovered, that he could not leave the waiting room. It was cold at that time – only around +10°C. At 4:30am the waiting room was opened as well as the cashes. This time both the cash for the first class and for the economic class was manned. Lots of people bought their tickets last-minute. Exactly at 5:30am we were allowed to enter the train, but it was difficult to find the right car.  Finally at the right one, I was told, which seat was mine. Luckily it was a window-seat.

 

Finally Onboard

 

I had booked a seat in the economic class, though I shared the car with Mexican people. Already before we were allowed to enter the waiting room, I had seen, that the passengers had bags with potatoes as well as boxes and lots of suitcases with them. By entering the train, I could see, that all this stuff was taken into the car like the suitcases and backpacks. The Mexicans were nice, not too loud, not singing, not running around all the time. It was not allowed to eat in the car. There was a restaurant car to be used, where one could buy snacks and soft drinks, but unfortunately no coffee.

Soon after the train had left the station, I could enjoy the sunrise.

 

Sunrise at Los Mochis

 

Even I was tired – I had only slept for a little while on the bus, I did not allow myself to fall asleep now. I would like to see as much as possible of this part of Mexico. The first part of the route is just dessert, where one only can see mountains far away, but after a couple of hours the train reached the canyon.  The car I was in, was quite far behind the engine. As everything else, it had a good and a bad side. The good was, that I nearly could see the whole train, when it was going through a curve. Unfortunately I could not take a photo. The bad was, that I could neither see the names of the stops nor if we still where in the state Sinaloa, in the state Sonora or in the state Chihuahua. Though I did not know, where we were and had to ask, when it was time to leave the train.

My first destination was Bahuichivo, Chihuahua. I had asked the train assistant in time to call, which he did. More people than I was leaving here. A collective bus stood just outside my car. I asked, if that was the one to Urique and got a yes. The driver helped me with my big backpack and stowed it in the back of the bus. We were waiting a while before the journey started. The first part of it was just for 10 minutes. We did not come far either because of the bad road. There was a place in Bahuichivo, where another bus was waiting. This other bus was the one, which really was going to Urique. Though I had to change. Fortunately one of the drivers did move my big backpack between the buses. By the way neither one of the bus drivers did speak English nor did the cashier. At these buses no driver handled cash. There were special cashiers in Bahuichivo, Urique and another stop on the route.

It took almost 15 minutes, maybe longer, before the bus to Urique started for the route. Meanwhile I had paid 230 MXN. I felt it was expensive, but at that time I did not know, how long the trip will take. In kilometer the distance between Bahuichivo and Urique is not more than 60 km, but the road is hard to drive with lots of serpentines, going up and down all the time. In addition to that, there were two more stops, where the driver was waiting for almost 15 minutes each. There were also small stalls, selling snacks and soft drinks. At one of them I bought some chips, because I was very hungry now. I have had something to eat with me on the train as well as a bottle of water, but I did not expect a bus tour for three (3) hours, which it finally took.

My destination in Urique, Chihuahua was the hostel “Entre Amigos“. I have had contact by email with them before, though I told the bus driver, I will go there, as the owner of the hostel had written to do. By this the bus did drive me all the way to the entrance of the hostel.

This hostel has a big garden. There are two more options to stay there: To rent a private room or to sleep in an own tent in the garden. There are different buildings: The owners private home, the hostel, other buildings with rooms to rent and bathrooms as well as showers. Only one of the showers had hot water and only after the Mexican helper Tomas heated in the stove  (which was situated outside). By the way, he cared about the garden.

 

Shower House at “Entre Amigo” – the Stove for Hot Water on the Very Left

 

Maybe I should name here, that in this part of the country only a very few people are talking English. The lady at the hostel did, her helpers did not. There was another Mexican helper employed at the hostel, a woman. She did make the laundry and clean the rooms.

When I had checked in and chose my bed, the lady told me, that I can pay the upcoming day and also, that I can be happy, that I came with the train from Los Mochis, because coming from Chihuahua means a very late arrival. Furthermore she showed me in the garden, which vegetables I was allowed to take of for my meals. That was for free.

At that place were three more travellers. A woman from the East of Europe (I do not remember her name, so I call her Maria), a man from Toronto, Canada, named George and a woman from Costa Rica, named Sandra. George and Sandra had a tent and were travelling together by motorcycle. Someone of the three other guests had cooked a meal and invited me for dinner, but I was going downtown.

 

Urique – On the Main Road

I found a kind of small restaurant, where I ordered a Mexican Hamburger, because there was not much to choose. The place was clean  and it looked like in “mother’s living room”. There were table clothes on the tables. On the one I took a seat, the table clothe looked like handcrafted (crocheted). The owner and get daughter did also eat a meal, while I was there. They took place at the same table as me and started a conversation.

After the meal I was looking for cereals and milk for my breakfast and found that finally in a shop in a bit garage, where cleaning and other items for cars as well as food was sold. I did first not find the cereals, but the shop assistant asked me, what I was looking for and showed me. On my way back the dawn was coming.

At the hostel I had a conversation with Maria. She told me, that the week before, during the Ultra Marathon (a Marathon of 80 km) all rooms were occupied and a lot of people were camping, too, though there were long queues for the bathrooms and also for the kitchen. Fortunately the owner had told me about the event before. I do not mind crowds around me, but I do not like to queue for the bathroom. Maria and I were also talking about hiking in the surroundings. I had read, that one can make a jungle tour, but she told me, there is no jungle, only dessert. She added, that she nearly had got lost that day, because she did not find, where she could cross the river on her way back and she did not have enough with water with her.

I was to bed quite early and felt soon asleep after that I had listened to my music for a while. There was anyway no possibility to update my blog by the lack of wi-fi.

 

7th March 2018

This day my first big adventure began. I awoke before 7am because of the noise from the kitchen, which was very close to the hostel’s rooms, even it was another building. After breakfast and a shower I did pay the rent for the three nights I had planed to stay. I told the lady, that I would like to go hiking with a guide. She told me that it already was too late for getting a guide for this day, but she would try to find a female guide for me for the next day.

I went back to the room, but did not come so far, because I met Maria in the kitchen. She asked me, what I want to do during the day and I told her, that I would like to go hiking, but do not have a guide. Though she told me, that I could hike to Los Alizos, because there would be only one way and I could not got lost. She also explained, that I should hitchhike to Guadelaya and then continue to the Puente del Laya, which I had to cross. Afterwards it was just to follow the path to Los Alizos. She also told me, that it was a walk of around one hour in one direction, but also, that it is upwards all the time. Therefore I was expecting, that I will need two hours for one way instead. She also handed out a map to me, formerly used for the Ultra Marathon, were I could see the names of the villages I had to pass as well as the name of my destination.

 

The Map for my Hike – Unfortunately I did not Check it Carefully, Though I did not See, that it was 9,5 km Between Punte Laya and Los Alizos

 

Soon I was on my way to the other side of Urique. Fortunately I had taken my walking sticks with me. There I saw a little truck with the driver inside and the engine running. I showed the driver the map and asked him for the hitch, which he friendly offered. He also picked up more people as well in Urique as on the road to Guadelaya. Most of them had space on the back.

In Guadelaya he told me, he is not going further with the truck, bur added, that I could go to the bridge “Puente de Laya” by one of the buggies outside the police station. I first answered “no”, because I thought, I had to drive it by myself. Even I had driven this kind of buggies before, this was Mexico not Australia or Canada and the road in front of me totally unknown. He told me, that it is the only opportunity I have, if I won’t walk all the way and added, that it is not dangerous, because the police accept it. Actually there was a policeman in front of the office and he showed me, that it was right. I asked, if the truck driver could drive me and now I became aware, that it has been the meaning all the time.

I had to sit on the back, which was done for transportation of goods. By the way, there was a similar thing in front of the driver. It was easy to hold on it, but holding my sticks as well was harder. Halfway to the Puente de Laya, my driver stopped for a man beside the road and after a chat, took him in the front of the buggy. At the Puente de Laya we were dropped of. I had understood, that the ride was just done for helping me, though I offered some money for the gas. The driver happily took 100 MXN, while he stressed, that it was for the gas. He also told me, that the man with us is living in Los Alizos  and that I should follow him.

This man was, what I later understood, a Tarahumara or like they call themselves “rarámuri”, which means runners. He was, of course, much faster than me, but very patient. He did wait for me off and on. I never felt alone. By starting around 9am at the hostel and the walk did take time, because it was mostly up on the mountains, even the path was easy to stay on with my walking sticks, we were walking during the worst heat. I even stopped for talking photos. I had enough with water with me, but the guide has not. He did not asked me for sharing, he was drinking water from the river instead.

 

View During the Hike

 

We reached Los Alizos around 2pm. While Maria had told me, that there are only three houses in the village, I soon understood, that only one family was living here. The wife of my guide offered me a camping chair, my guide offered me oranges, which had a nearly yellow peel. I ate one, but it was sour. The wife also started a conversation with me. At that time her grown up daughter with an own child in a sling was visiting. This family had almost three children at home: a toddler (boy), a four-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl. The last one was arriving later than me.

 

Tarahumara Girls

I could study their family life. The small children had no toys and were no very good to activate themselves. The mother was concentrated on me and in between on cooking beans – the meal for the day. The family had around ten cows. Papaya was growing in their wild garden. There were two buildings. The one had a kitchen, an all-room and a storage room. The other building seemed to be a “bedroom” for the children. An old fashion loo was almost ten meters away. It did not has a door. There was a fence around the two buildings, I guess to hold the cattle outside and the hens and the cocks inside. The family had six dogs of different ages. Two of them were fed with milk, while I was there.

While the mother and I talked with each other – as much as it was possible by my little Spanish, I asked her, why they are living so far away from the next town. She answered me, that she likes the mountains. You have to know, that everything they need has to be carried from Puente Laya to the house. I think, it was the reason why they have camping tables and other lightweights in their home. All food has to be carried up by men!

I had asked my guide, when we were close to Los Alizos, if it is possible to sleep there and he answered “yes”. Though I thought, there was a possibility to rent a room. While there, I fell asleep in the chair and did not awake before 4pm. That meant to me, it was too late to hike back to Urique. I might have come to the bridge before dark, but would have walked the road between the bridge and Guadelaya in the dark. It felt safer with this family. Though I was very happy, when they offered me a meal (cooked beans and a cup of instant coffee) and much happier, when they allowed me to stay. The husband (my guide) did put a camping bed outside, but the 16-year-old daughter asked me later, if I will sleep in the house or outside. At that time her parents were taking a walk to Urique. They were back after a couple of hours. The daughter also made the bedding. First a sleeping bag on the bed and that topped with four (4) plaids. She told me, that the night will be cold.

When her parents were back, we were still sitting outside until around 8pm, a relative came visiting. He took the bed inside for me and told me, it is not a good idea to sleep outside. We (the parents, the four-year-old daughter and I) slept in the room on the side of the kitchen. There was no other bed, though my host slept on the floor, with plaids under them and as a cover. The little girl slept in between them. Unfortunately I had to go and pee during the night as usual. By that I discovered, that the doors were locked. I found the way out via the kitchen. The 16-year-old as well as the other relative slept in the same house like the toddler. In my mind I was wondering, whom the bed usually was for. It was too small for the parents to sleep together on it.

By the way, I would have liked to inform the lady of the hostel, that I was save, but the family had no phone, because it would not work anyway. I expected, that they informed the hostel, when they walked down to Urique, but they did not.

I had it warm during the night with all the plaids. One of the parents was snoring for a while and one or both also made other noises, surely depending on the bean diet. Therefore I thought, there is no difference between all the human beings. A fact I always had in mind.

 

8th March 2018

We were up with the sun – or maybe a little later. We had all slept in the clothes, we had worn during the day before. I think, that was usual in this family, but for me it belonged to the lack of other clothes. I did have all changes at the hostel. I washed my face, was one more time to the loo and gave then 500 MXN to my guide “por todos” (for all I have got of them). They had not asked for money, but I felt, that they were in need of some cash. If I had hired an other guide, I also would have had to pay. He did not reject that money, but the younger man asked me to stay for breakfast and have a coffee. I declined. I was interested in to start as soon as possible on my way back, though I could avoid the worst heat.

I hoped, I would have a guide the first part of the way back, but nobody was offering it. Therefore I tried it totally by myself. I remembered that I, as soon as I will come down the first hill (it was actually a mountain, but the first part down was like coming down a steep hill) I have to cross a little river. I found the stones to use for the crossing as well as the path on the other side of it. From here the path was easy to follow, even I had to cross three other small rivers until I came to a broader, but dry bed of a river, where I not easily could see, where the path continued, but found also that by a very small detour. For the ultra Marathon, stones had been painted with white colour to make it easier for the runners to find the way, which helped me, too. Furthermore was the path accompanied by empty water bottles, which the runners had thrown away. To come onto the bridge “Puente Laya” was a challenge for me. There was a little narrow stoney hill to climb and then go down to enter the bridge. Just the way down was very narrow, changing direction and full of tiny macadam. I was happy, when I had made it. The bridge itself was challenging, too. In the other direction I had concentrated on the back of my guide. Now I tried to concentrate on the other side of the bridge, which was difficult, because the bridge was so rusty and I was wondering, for how long it may hold.

It did hold for me, of course and I walked on the dirty road all the way to Guadelaya. I did not see any car meanwhile I was walking. Even I have had a snack, when I started on my way back and still had water, I was hungry now and looking for a restaurant. I passed a couple of restaurants, which were not open before I found an open one, where I ate a burrito and had something to drink. The table clothes were not really clean, but the plate was. After the meal I walked further throughout the village and hoped to get a hike. When I passed the police station, the policeman greeted. So did I. I just saw, that he used his phone. There was no car coming, though I started walking. I had not come far, when I heart a car. I was waiting for it, showed my thumb and the light truck  stopped and picked me up. First inside this truck I became aware, that I had entered a police car – especially by the riffle the driver had, but also by the clothes. In best company I arrived save in  Urique.

I had to walk throughout Urique, because the police had to continue in another direction. Finally back at the hostel, the lady was very happy to see me. She asked me, where I have been and told me, that she had been in contact with the police as well as she had called all the people she know, who could have seen me. In addition to that she explained, that Maria first late had told her about her recommendation for the hike. Though she hoped, that I was staying in Los Alizos during the night. Furthermore she added, that the family up there only could be reached by radio and that the police was the only opportunity with radio. The police had tried to reach them, but they had not answered. I answered her, that the man, who drove me to the bridge had known, that I was following the Tarahumara man, but that man she has not been in contact with.

We were taking about food and I asked her about the “Agua de Horchata”, which I could neither find in Urique nor in Guadelaya. The lady told me, that in this area it was only served during festivities. She offered me to make some and celebrate me. She told me to relax and come to her in a couple of hours.

The first I did then, was to take a shower. I was happy, that there was hot water. Afterwards I relaxed and actually had a nap. When I finally visited the lady, she was occupied and it seemed, she did not remember the promised “Agua de Horchata” as well as that she would like to spend time with me. It was like I was talking with another woman and asked myself, if she might have a twin sister, which I was talking with now. Without asking anything I went back to the hostel.

I did not wish to go to a restaurant that night, though I had corn flakes and milk for dinner. I used my time to try to learn some more phrases in Spanish, but unfortunately it did not help. Before I tried to sleep, I activated the alarm at my tablet for 4.30am. I had to be at the bus at 6:30am, the lady had told me and I was afraid, I would miss it.

 

9th March 2018

I was up, when the alarm clock rang, took my medicine, dressed, but had no breakfast, because I had no milk left. I packed and was finally going outside 6:20am, though I should not miss the bus. When Tomas came around 6:30am, he was surprised, that I already was there. He told me, that the bus will come at 7am and also called the bus Company for confirmation. I took the opportunity to take some more photos. While waiting again for the bus a man on a horse passed. He had a package of eggs with a lace around in one hand. Some school children came walking as well as other people. All were greeting.

I became hungry and started to eat a snack, which was left from my hiking tour. When I had eaten half of it, the bus arrived. It was 6:50am. The driver helped me with my big backpack again. On the way throughout Urique some more people entered, but the bus became not full. Before leaving the little town, a male cashier came. He left as soon as all passengers had paid. One more time I could enjoy the canyon.

 

View from the Bus Between Urique and Bahuichivo

 

The bus left me very close to the train station in Bahuichivo. I looked for a shop or kiosk and saw both not far from the station. To reach them, I had to cross the railway. It seemed to be easier in the direction to the kiosk. I bought there a kind of flat cake, filled with apple mash as well as a small pack of dry biscuits. At the station was a waiting room with a bathroom, but it was locked. Outside were several benches. It was still around +10° C only, though I used my inflatable cushion to sit on. On or two more passengers arrived after a while before a tourist group arrived. They took most of the seats. I was watching them for a while, which let me see, that the waiting room finally was opened and I could use the bathroom. I had to queue.

The train was in time, that means: It arrived at the time, when it should leave. That seems to be usual here. Many people did take photographs of it, so did I.

 

Sign, which is Fastened High Up at the Building

 

For this part of the ride – my destination was now Cuauhtémoc, I had a first class ticket and met only groups of foreign tourists. It was louder here, than it had been in the economic class. The seats had a little more leg room and were a little wider. The first class had its own restaurant car, which I not visited. I had a window seat again and took some pictures and a video during the trip.

 

A Special Rock Formation

 

Off and on the rocks where in a red colour, bur mostly they were white. Even rocks in yellow were among them.

In the first class the train assistants came through before every station and called. In San Rafael the train stopped a little longer. Outside were Tarahumara women, trying to sell handmade baskets. There was also a station called “Barranca de Cobre”. Before we came close to this, I saw a red building with white details. It looked like a castle. Unfortunately I could not take a photo of it, even I tried. Close to that station was a hotel with the same name as the station. A group of people left here and another entered.

The landscape was soon more open. There were horses on fields and later on also cattle, sheep and pigs. At one place, where we did not stop, I saw a little white church and buildings spread out in the valley. I also could see a little river, which became a little wider at one point. Women were washing their clothes along the river. In another little village we passed, I could see timber buildings. Some seemed to be quite old, others very new.

In Creel most of the passengers left and many others entered. I did not want to interrupt my journey too often, though I decided not to see Creel and the surroundings, but by the explanation of the train company about this place, I regretted, that I had not planned a stop here. Between Creel and Cuauhtémoc I also have seen rock formations looking like dentures – with one and another bad tooth as well. There were also areas, which were artificially irrigated.

There were three hours more to go until the train arrived in Cuauhtémoc, were I had booked a room. Couchsurfing was unfortunately here not an opportunity, no hosts had signed up. It was dark, when we arrived, though a taxi was the option I had to go to the hotel. It was a wise decision, because, what I now became aware of, the hotel was a motel and at the end of the town. Anyway the ride was for 50 MXN only. I think I was in my whole life not using taxis as often as here in Mexico.

Fortunately there was a restaurant at the side, but the prices were high, though I had a mushroom soup only and a bottle of water. That was for 65 MXN. The waitress was happy, when I have her 10 MXN as a tip. The room was actually nice and big as well and the bathroom clean.

 

Motel “Hotel del Camino” at Cuauhtėmoc

 

The hotel had free wi-fi, too. Though I could update my blog. Anyway I did not come far, it was too much to do.

 

10th March 2018

I had my breakfast at that restaurant. I did not pre-order, though I could chose, what I liked. I took porridge (Mexican style) and toasted breda, which came with butter and jam. I also had a cup of coffee. Unfortunately the coffee is not strong in Mexico and one can be happy, when not served instant coffee. My breakfast was for 88 MXN (a pre-ordered was for 100 MXN). I left 7 MXN to the waitress as a tip.

I hoped to find more Tarahumara selling there crafts here in Cuauhtémoc, but first I was to the Museo Menonita. I had found it on Google maps, after I had read about it. It was some km outside the town, further the direction, where the motel was. I decided to walk there and on the way buy some water in a supermarket. It was further to the supermarket as I had expected. Therefore I decided to try to hitchhike to the museum. After a while a father with his two small daughters stopped. I had to explain the way for him, even it was straight ahead. He was short on gasoline, but want to drive me all the way to the museum. If there had been a gas station, he would have stopped, of course, but there was none. He drove a little too far, therefore I had to walk back for a quarter of an hour. Anyway he saved time for me and be was very kind.

The Mennonites are a Christian, baptizing church. Baptists do not baptize children. I did not know more about them, than that they long time ago came from Germany and still speak German. At the museum I learned a lot more. If I remember right, there are 100,000 Mennonites living in Mexico, most of them in the state of Chihuahua and almost 50,000 In Cuauhtėmoc. Since 1980 there are two groups existing: The traditional and the liberal. The liberals have still the same faith as the traditional, but dress liberal, use newer machinery etc. They live anyway still together. Out 17-year-old guide was answering all out question, though he also explained that Mennonites children has to learn four languages: Low German (Friesian), German, Spanish and English.

Many of you know, that I am not religious. I think to learn about Mexico, is to learn about all the groups living there. It was the reason, why I visited that museum. To know a country means to see all the parts of a jigsaw and put it together respectively to see the whole mosaic.

 

Dining department at the Museo Menonita

 

I should tell you here, that you have to pay 10 MXN additional to the admission fee, when you want to make photos – without you pay only 35 MXN, though it is not very expensive. I had the fortune and could follow a guiding in English, because of a bus tour, which arrived directly after me. I had already bought my tickets, but found it difficult to make photos during a guiding. Therefore I asked the cashier, if I may enter the museum afterwards again to take photos, which I was allowed. I also left my belongings to the cashier before I took photos. It made it much easier.

When I had left the museum I tried to hitchhike to Cuauhtėmoc city center. I had to wait a while, but then a car stopped at the middle file of the road. He signed, that I could get a hitch of him. At the same moment a car stopped some meters down the road on my side. I was not sure, that the second one dit not stop for another reason, though I crossed the road. The driver was quite young, but his car was quite old. That was no problem, even the seat belt did not work – that is a generall problem here in Mexico, even in taxis.

In the city center I first was to the church and took photos – for the architecture and art. It is a church in baroque style.

 

Cathedral of Cuauhtėmoc

 

I also could see many Tarahumara women, dressed in their beautiful clothing. This city has a lot of shops, but I could not see many tourists. It seems to be the market town for the surroundings. I did not see any Tarahumara selling crafts in the streets. I asked around to find the bus station for the busses to Chihuahua – why I will explain later. When I found that, I bought a ticket for the upcoming day. The bus was leaving 8:15am. There was only another one that day, at 9:15pm. I was told to be at the bus station half an hour in advance. The ticket was for 143 MXN. Now I was very hungry and looking for something to eat. I wished to try something new. My choice was a restaurant, which served nachos. I chose the specials after had got an explanation, what that special means. The nachos came with red and white cheese 😉 as well as with sweet corn. I was told, that the dish was not hot spicy, but in real it was somewhat. The nachos had chili powder on them.

Afterwards I took one more round in the city, bought a yogurt at a supermarket and walked then all the way back to the motel. Well there I messaged my upcoming host, that I had bought a bus ticket and that I will leave Cuauhtėmoc 8:15am the next day. He answered me, that he is happy about it, because originally I had bought a train ticket all the way to Chihuahua, but the train would leave around 9pm from Cuauhtėmoc and come very late to Chihuahua. Though my upcoming host had asked me, if I could come by bus. I made my files, prepared for leaving, called the taxi and asked for one at 7am next morning as well as I wrote some lines in my blog, but was early to bed, because I had to go up early next morning.

 

11th March 2018

I was up 5:30am, dressed, ate the yogurt I bought the day before with the corn flakes I had left from Urique and packed the rest. Afterwards I checked out and paid. On booking.com an amount of 842 MXN, but there was no taxes included, though I was first surprised, that I had to pay 1010 MXN instead, therefore I checked my reservation. I apologised and paid the amount, which I was asked for. I went outside and started waiting for the taxi, but no taxi arrived. I called and explained, but no taxi arrived. I went back to the desk and asked them to call a taxi, what the receptionist did. After 10 minutes a taxi arrived. We were anyway in good time at the bus station, but I was already allowed to leave my big backpack and take my seat. The bus left Cuauhtėmoc in time.

About my days in Chihuahua you can read here.