Los Mochis to Creel By Train

Trip Start Aug 16, 2003
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Trip End Apr 21, 2004


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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Riding the bus again, after having breakfast in Alamos, we fairly expediently made our way to Los Mochis (which is a surprise using Mexican public transport!). We actually arrived before dark and booked into what so far has been our best hotel since we crossed the border. We discovered we had cable tv, clean/new sheets, AND hot water for the shower! We had to spend some time doing our laundry before we could explore the town, and had an amusing 'conversation' in stilted Spanish with the launderette owner - at least our clothes ended up smelling better than before!

Los Mochis, the town was not much to look at, and again we drew stares from the locals as we walked along the streets (this is pretty disconcerting, but I guess we are getting used to it). We made our way to the central plaza and then onto the botanical gardens, their 'beauty' only slightly shadowed by the lumps of concrete and smashed up ceramics peppering the vicinity.

At around sixish, it was really getting dark (something we still haven't attuned to since leaving NZ), so we nipped into a restaurant for dinner, where I heard the chef call out that a couple of 'gringos' had arrived - charming! Resisting the urge to leave immediately, we were led to a table and served with much more civility and good humour by the waitress.

Somehow managing to raise our weary bones from a comfortable few hours of sleep, we packed and checked-out before dawn. We traipsed round to where the book said the buses for the train station picked up, but could not see any sign of the particular bus we required. Some local street vendors briefly halted the setting up of their stalls to point us in the right direction, and we found ourselves the only passengers bound for the railway. Another brief journey ensued and we bought our tickets for the 7am 'Economy' train to Creel.

The journey was supposed to take around nine hours, and we were encouraged when we pulled out of the station on time, despite the Lonely Planet's warning to expect delays. However, the speed we soon realised, was desperately slow - a snail travelling through treacle would have overtaken us. By the time we reached the first stop (purportedly an hour away) we were two hours behind schedule! This agonisingly slow pace continued for a further 3 hours and we began to give up hope of reaching our destination before dark.

Without warning, the train jolted into life and picked up the pace, travelling at a speed we had assumed was the norm. We were by then three hours overdue, but perhaps we could catch up.

The guide book had mentioned that the right hand side of the train was more desirable because the more stunning scenery appeared on that side of the track. Fortunately, we had been assigned seats on the right, but I spent most of the journey in the vestibule between carriages (with the smokers) so that I could take photos. The scenery did, in fact, become quite amazing; beginning in fog-enshrouded flat lands, going through forests of cacti, and up into snow-scattered mountains. We were travelling through the Copper Canyon National Park - a beautiful and interesting region of Mexico, and one we were informed rivalled the Grand Canyon in size.

The weirdest sight I noticed was the transitional area, where cacti shared the ground with snow! We were certainly not expecting to see such a strange natural occurrence in the Northern part of the country which we had the (incorrect) impression of being arid and expansive.

Eventually (and thankfully), just before dusk, the train pulled into the station at Divisadero for a few minutes viewing time down into the actual Copper Canyon. We had just enough time to take a couple of photos before the light became too poor and for our bodies to recoil from the shock of the temperature drop now we were at 2500m above sea level!

The train meandered ever upwards as the sun slowly set to our left (prompting a couple more pictures), and an hour or so later, we arrived in Creel. The town had an Alpine feel to it, not surprisingly, and we hurried in the chill air to our accommodation - a 3 bed cabaņa. Mercifully, the owner instructed us on the use of the heater, and we were able to grab an extra blanket from one of the redundant beds to see us through the night!

We rose fairly early the next morning in order to enable us to have a look around the town and to try and find some caves that the Tarahumara people of the region actually live in! As we walked out of the little town, we felt like a pair of Pied Pipers, as we had accrued an ever-growing pack of dogs (of all kinds and sizes) following us and running around our feet. We didn't want to encourage this at all as we both expressed concerns of rabies - at least the mutts were friendly!

Having paid them as little attention as possible, and with no prospect of food from us, the dogs finally got bored and their number gradually dwindled to nothing. We passed the town cemetery or 'panteon' and followed a path uphill to the Tarahumara land. We only had a short time to look around as we were intending to catch a bus (infinitely quicker than the train) to Chihuahua within the next hour, but we did spot a cave that seemed to exhibit signs of habitation (there was a large pick-up truck parked out the front which gave us a clue!).

When we returned to the town, we grabbed a quick breakfast and jumped on the first bus headed for the much larger settlement of Chihuahua to the North. Four hours later, we had arrived and were again pleased that we still had some daylight, in which to explore.

Dan and Andrea
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