Monday, April 11,2005
My wife, Donna, and I went on an escorted tour to Copper Canyon, Mexico, with Gadabout Tours, based in Palm Springs, leaving on April 11 and returning on April 21. The two trip options were to bus all the way, for an 11 day trip, or to fly to Los Mochis, and fly back from El Paso, for an 8 day trip. We, as well as everyone else on the trip except for one couple, chose the bus option. A van picked us up at our house on the morning of Apr. 11, and transported us to Ontario, where the Gadabout bus originated. In Ontario, we met our tour director, Shirley Graham, as well as some of the other boarding passengers. Leaving Ontario, we made an additional stop in Indio to pick up passengers from the Palm Springs area.
We spent the day traveling through the California and Arizona deserts, which at this time of year were very pleasant. We arrived at our hotel, the Holiday Inn in Casa Grande, AZ in the early afternoon. We had a welcome dinner at the hotel, where all the travelers got acquainted.
Tuesday, April 12
After an early breakfast at our hotel, we boarded our bus and departed at 7:30 a.m. As we approached Tucson, we exited at an off-ramp where we were supposed to pick up our Mexican guide, Cesar. As it turns out, he was there at the off-ramp being hassled by the police. Our tour director got off the bus and told the police yes, he was our tour guide (not an illegal immigrant), and the police let him go with a warning (about not standing on off-ramps), and he boarded our bus. Continuing past Tucson, we stopped at Mission San Xavier del Bac, which is one of the milestones on the historic de Anza National Historic Trail. Leaving the mission, we continued to the border at Nogales, and after crossing the border, we stopped for lunch at Santa Ana, where we also had an opportunity to exchange currency. We continued to our final destination, the Hotel San Carlos Plaza on the Sea of Cortez.
We checked into the hotel, and while dinner was not included, we were informed that the hotel was having a fiesta dinner for about $15.00 per person (special price for us gringos), which included a buffet, margaritas, beer, and entertainment.
Wednesday, April 13
The next morning, after enjoying an included buffet breakfast at the hotel, we boarded the bus to continue our journey. We were headed to El Fuerte, but stopped at Alamos, a small colonial town nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains on the way, where we had time for lunch and some shopping.
We reached El Fuerte in the early afternoon. In attempting to drive to our hotel, the Posada Del Hidalgo, there seemed to be a big traffic jam around the town square. We finally got to our hotel, but there was intense activity at the church in the square, with loads of people, and big-rig trucks with their engines running and horns blowing. We finally found out that the church ceremony was a funeral for a truck driver who had been shot in an attempted arrest of a drug dealer (who, rumor had it, was the owner of the trucking company) by the police. The town square was filled with angry citizens, and police with automatic weapons, so I thought it prudent not to try to take any pictures. El Fuerte is a semi-tropical climate, as is quickly seen by the vegetation growing around the hotel.
Thursday, April 14
This morning, we had breakfast at our hotel, and then boarded our bus to the train station to catch the Chihuahua-Pacific train, which would take us on our first leg of travel through the Copper Canyon. The train starts at Los Mochis, and arrived at El Fuerte at about 9:30 a.m. We boarded our coach, and within a few minutes, we were on our way. The train had a diner, and was also supposed to have a bar car, although that was missing from our train.
In contrast to Amtrak trains, where it is strictly forbidden to open the windows in the vestibule, the Mexican trains don't seem to care at all if you stick your head out the windows. Consequently, there was a significant amount of competition among the passengers to get to the vestibule windows for photography.
It was comforting to note there were police on the train with rifles, insuring a uneventful trip.
We had lunch on the train, and in the early afternoon, we arrived at our destination of Bahuichivo, where we were met by a school bus that drove us to the Mission Hotel in the town of Cerocahui, about 6 km from the station. After settling into our hotel rooms, we again boarded the school bus, for a 22 km drive over a bone-jarring dirt road to the Mountain Gallego Overlook, and our first view of Urique Canyon.
We arrived back at our hotel just in time for margaritas and dinner. After dinner, we walked around the small town, and then socialized in the hotel lobby before going to bed.
Friday, April 15
The next morning, we went on a tour of the town, visiting the local boarding school for the Indian female students who go to school in the area.
In the early afternoon, we again took the school bus to the Bahuichivo train station where we boarded the train for our short journey to Posada Barrancas. This time, there was a bar car on our train.
We arrived at Posada Barrancas, and were bussed the short distance to our hotel, the Posada Barrancas Mirador, which was without question, the most spectacular hotel on the trip because of its location overlooking the canyon.
That evening, we had an enjoyable margarita hour in the lobby, followed by dinner in the dining room, where we had a beautiful view of sunset over Copper Canyon.
Saturday, April 16
This morning, after breakfast, we were treated to an exhibition of some of the customs of the Tarahumara Indians in front of our hotel.
After the Tarahumara demonstrations, our guide, Cesar led us on a tour through the area, and through the Tarahumara community which was visible from our balcony.
One thing that I noticed on the trip is that the dogs in Mexico are not like the dogs in the United States. In the U.S. dogs are hyper - they jump on you, lick your face, smell your crotch, chase their tail, and in general are constantly active, at least when humans are present. In Mexico, dogs are lethargic and do nothing but lie on the ground. If you talk to them, saying "here boy!" they ignore you. They ignore humans, except perhaps if the human is bringing the dog food or drink. This is a scientifically accurate judgment made after observation of at least ten Mexican dogs, and hundreds of American dogs.
We had lunch at the hotel, and were supposed to continue on the train to Creel, but since the train was running late, our tour director decided that we would go by bus in order to arrive at Creel in a timely manner. Our bus met us in Posada Barrancas (after traveling about 500 miles from our drop-off point of El Fuerte). We traveled by bus the short distance to the train station at Divisadero, where we got off for another look at the canyon, and to peruse the Indian wares.
After spending about 30 minutes at Divisadero, we-boarded our bus and continued on to Creel. We arrived in Creel in the early afternoon, and checked into our hotel, the Best Western Lodge at Creel. This was a very nice rustic appearing lodge, surrounded by trees. We could tell that we were getting back to civilization, because our room even had a TV set.
After getting settled into our hotel, we boarded a school bus to visit a Tarahumara settlement, the Valley of the Mushroom Rocks, and Lake Arareco. When we attempted to leave the Valley of the Mushroom Rocks, our bus would not start; the engine would not turn over, as if the battery had gone dead. We even attempted to get the bus started by pushing it, but we couldn't get it going fast enough. Finally, after about a half hour of trying different things, the driver poured a can of Coke over the battery terminals. That did the trick; the bus started. Apparently the battery terminals were corroded, making poor electrical contact, and the Coke solved the problem. I always knew Coke was good for something.
We arrived back at our hotel in the late afternoon, and our group went to the bar for margaritas before heading to the dining room for dinner. After dinner, we walked around town, and then went back to our room and watched TV for the first time in about a week.
Sunday, April 17
The next morning, we had breakfast at our hotel, checked out of the hotel, and boarded the bus for tonight's destination of Chihuahua. On the way to Chihuahua, we stopped at the Mennonite colony of Cuauhtemoc,, having lunch with one of the Mennonite families at their farm house. Lunch consisted of homemade cheeses, cold cuts, breads and rolls, and cookies.
We arrived in Chihuahua in the early afternoon, and before going to our hotel, we visited the History Museum of the Revolution in Pancho Villa's Home and Military Headquarters. We then checked into our hotel, the Palacio del Sol in downtown Chihuahua, where we would stay for the next two nights.
Monday, April 18
This morning, we took a tour of the city, stopping at the Government Palace, where wall- long murals depict the city's history. We then drove around the city, viewing landmarks and many statues of Mexican heroes, as well as a statue of Anthony Quinn, who was born in Chihuahua.
After the city tour, we had the afternoon free to tour the Cathedral and the downtown shopping area, which were within a few blocks of our hotel. That evening, we had dinner at our hotel, which included a folkloric dance show.
Tuesday, April 19
The next morning, we awoke early, had breakfast, and boarded our bus, heading for Ciudad Juarez, where we crossed the boarder with immigration formalities on both sides. Then we headed to the El Paso Airport, where we dropped off the one couple who were flying home, and from there to the bus station in downtown El Paso, where we dropped off Cesar, our Mexican guide, who was heading back to his home in Chihuahua. Finally, we arrived at our hotel, the Embassy Suites in El Paso, where we were greeted with a margarita reception and snacks.
Wednesday, April 20
We left El Paso after breakfast the next morning, continuing our homeward journey as far as Phoenix, where we stopped at the Holiday Inn Express Phoenix. As this was the last night of our trip, we had a farewell reception and dinner at the hotel.
Thursday, April 21
Leaving Phoenix bright and early the next morning, we continued to our final bus destination of Ontario, arriving approximately 3:30 p.m. In Ontario, the tour-provided limo was waiting to take us to Fullerton. We arrived back home at about 4:45 p.m.
Click on each photo above for a larger image.
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