Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Copper Canyon

Within the Sierra Madre there are six canyons that collectively form a system of canyons called the Copper Canyon.  The Copper Canyon is bigger and deeper than the Grand Canyon.

The Tarahumara live in the Copper Canyon.  The train known as the Chepe makes a long and picturesque trek through the Copper Canyon.

The drug cartels fly planes into the rim of the canyon to pick-up the marijuana and poppies that are grown deep in the pine forests, or perhaps at the bottom of the canyon.  I don't have a clue, all we saw were the former run ways that the federal police had managed to clean-up.

Gil and I drove to Creel, at 8,000 feet it is the highest point atop the canyon and the common spot to begin the train journey.

The Federals occupy an entire hotel in Creel.  Drugs and violence have hit this small pueblo very hard.

We found a guide, a native of the canyon named  Rafael, who spoke English very well.  On our first day he gave us a tour that took us to a Tarahumara house in a cave.  The reason the people of this house allowed our visit was in the hope we'd buy handcraft items.  Throughout the Sierra Madre Tarahumara tried to glean a few pesos from us.  They wisely would not barter their prices.

It was good to have a guide, Rafael knew all the spots worth seeing and showed us unusual rock formations, a waterfall and a lake.  On the second day he drove us to Divisadero.  Divisadero is the most picturesque spot in the Copper Canyon.  

If we had taken the train from Creel we would have had only about twenty minutes to view the canyon from this spot.  Because Rafael had driven us we saw a great deal more than we would have by train.

We boarded the train in Divisadero and traveled to El Fuerte.  We stayed overnight in El Fuerte and the next day took the train back to Creel, where we had left Gil's van.

Friday and Saturday, our first days in the Sierra Madre, were beautiful days, sunny and warm. Sunday was a different story.  The wind blew, it was overcast and it snowed.  It was bitterly cold.  For the first time since leaving Canada I wished I have zipped the winter lining into my jacket.

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