We decided to treat ourselves to a vacation away from Blue Aweigh. It may sound funny, but just as on land, it’s nice to change your environment from time to time. Because of the logistics of getting there and the many destinations, we booked through a travel agency that had everything from trains and transfers to rooms and meals all pre-arranged for us. Am I glad we did. From Mazatlan, we took a bus for about 6 hours to El Fuerte, home of Zorro. Yes, he really existed and the beautiful historic hotel where we stayed has a guy come out during happy hour and do a cheesy rendition with dancing and singing. It was good for a few laughs and allowed us to meet another great Canadian couple (he’s an ex-pat). After a couple of stiff margaritas and a very nice dinner together of freshwater black sea bass (the local specialty) we said our good-byes and headed to bed very late….and got up very early for a train ride to Cerocahui ( cerra-cow-e). When we stepped off the train, it was apparent we were at a much higher elevation. This is the first time we wore pants and jackets since December. Brrrr! We met a group of ex-pats from Oregon and Arizona now residing in Alamos, Mexico and enjoyed an evening of information sharing. One gentleman which we liked particularly, was the dentist for the Grateful Dead for many years (should have been there Peter!). So, Cerocahui, like El Fuerte was a dusty little town at a much higher elevation, with a huge cathedral and some hiking trails and a waterfall. As we meandered out to take a short hike we were stopped on Sunday morning by 4 borachos (drunks) who were just waking up and were still red eyed. They wanted 20 pesos to pass their house so we decided to walk along the small stream which ran through the town instead. In town, which I use very loosely, we met Claudia, a very old, very tiny little lady of 80+, who insisted we come into her home. She offered her home to us for our next stay instead of paying to stay at the beautiful hotel next door. She offered to cook for us as well! We thanked her and bought one of the dolls she makes for tourists before departing. We promptly returned to the beautiful Mission Hotel and wandered in their vineyard until it was time to depart.
After a brief train ride, we arrived, finally, at the Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) in the heart of the Sierra Madre Mountains at 8,000’ of elevation. It is made up of 6 separate canyons which are larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. Though strikingly similar to the Grand Canyon, it was not as spectacular, but breathtaking nonetheless. This spot is home to the Tarahumara (tara-oomara) Indians. The Tarahumara live in caves or shacks usually on cliffs and are renowned for their long distance running. They are so light on their feet that as we hiked and walked amongst them, we seldom heard them appear or disappear. They typically wear sandals, which they run in, and have very hearty looking feet. They are quite poor, shy, dress colorfully, are excellent carvers and basket weavers and have lots of babies. The only reason we were able to speak or come into contact with them was their need for pesos. We bought a few small baskets for very little pesos and were able to bring some Tarahumara art work home with us. Unfortunately, due to their size and our need to bus, train, taxi, etc. back to our boat I could not buy larger ones which is unfortunate as they are very skilled weavers. For those interested, I recently read a good book from the NY Times Bestseller list called, Born to Run, which is about long distance running & injuries and the Tarahumara custom of long distance running and tidbits of their lives in the canyons. Anyway, we stayed at the hilltop of the canyon for two nights at the Hotel Mirador with a million dollar view. The sunrises, sunsets and clarity of the stars at night were unforgettable. The service, accommodations and food were excellent. We hired a tour guide to take us around the general area which was worthwhile. We enjoyed going onto reservation land, seeing an Indian Catholic church, visited a cave home, saw rock formations (elephant, “penny” which we later learned meant penis, a frog rock and walked the town of Creel where I bought a pair of traditional Tarahumara sandals. After reading the book, I just had to own a pair. And really, for 90 pesos ($7.00) they were worth a try. The soles are made from tire tread with a strappy piece of leather. I later paid a local woman to help me tie them on as the back strap kept falling off. So, I have been harassed by you know who and though I may never wear them much….I own a pair. To round out my photo collection, I traded pencils, pens, t-shirts and bought baskets for pictures of these people with a tough life. I hope you enjoy them.
When it was time to leave the canyon, we had a long ride ahead of us,9 hrs. by train to Los Mochis. Did I mention that the train we took had more rocking at times that we experience on our boat? But Mexico wouldn’t be Mexico if the tracks were level. There were nice views from both sides of the train as we wound along a river, enjoyed waterfalls, and lots of pueblos (towns) as we descended to sea level. Our train car even had a huge rock thrown at it as we approached Los Mochis. When we arrived at our hotel we decided to stay in, as it was 10:00 p.m. and Los Mochis, like much of Mexico is having issues with drug cartels. So after a wonderful buffet breakfast we hopped the bus back to Mazatlan, taxied back to the marina and here we are….enjoying the pool and all the amenities at El Cid till we head to the Sea of Cortez, very soon.
Tonight, Plaza Machada the French-like downtown square for dining and music as is the Sunday Mexican custom. Oh yes, today is the warm up for Semana Santa the BIG week in Mexico for Spring Break as all national schools are out for two weeks. It’s starting….I hear music from more than one location as I write. Adios!