We took a fairly nice dirt back-road from Basaseachic to Creel, which is only a few hours away. Creel is, for most, the starting point for trips to the Copper Canyon and is perhaps most famous as being one of the main stops of the famous Chihuahua al Pacifico train (El Chepe). Most of the guidebooks we have read speak highly of the town, but hoping not to offend anyone we must say we didn’t really find anything all that great about the place, granted we only spent one day and a half there. I guess it is probably the largest town in the area, and thus has all the amenities a tourist might be looking for, but the town itself isn’t that appealing.
We drove from Creel into the Copper Canyon towards Divisidero without having much of a plan on where or what we were going to do for the day. At Divisidero, which has perhaps the best-known overlook of the “Three Canyons” area of the Copper Canyon, we found out that there is a 40 peso ($3.25) per person entrance fee. We were somewhat reluctant to pay the fee, but decided “hey, why not, this is the place to check out the Canyon.” Once in, we slightly regretted our decision to pay as it consisted of two small platforms connected by a swinging bridge at the edge one of the canyons. It was a nice view and we took a few pictures, but not any nicer than other views that we saw along the way into the canyon, some views were even better and they were free of charge. If this is as far into the canyon as you are going, the place is worth checking out. We continued driving into the canyon and passed a few other small towns. The whole drive is well worth it just for the surrounding country side. It is a small mountain road, winding through pine forests with views out across the canyons. It is a side of Mexico one never thinks of, and although I am a big fan of the beaches of Mexico, this area is just as enjoyable. The sweet smell of mountain air mixed with the scent of the pine forest were enough for us to be quite content with this part off our trip.
We drove to a place called Hotel Paraiso Del Oso (Paradise of the Bear), a small hotel located out in the “middle of nowhere” between two small villages in Tarahumara country. Edmundo (our über-host at Los Mochis) had recommended the hotel as a possible stop, and a stop it became as it seemed like a much nicer stop than Creel for a second night. Paraiso del Oso is located at the base of some beautiful rock cliffs, one of the rock formations looks like Yogi the Bear®, which was the inspiration for the name. One of our tentative day plans was to drive back to Creel with a stop at some hot springs nearby and then driving down the other side of the canyon the next day. At Paraiso del Oso, we met Diego (Doug) the owner of the hotel, and after some small talk he was gracious enough to invite us to dinner with his family. Dinner came in the form of two giant pan pizzas that where absolutely delicious, it was a great dinner that included great conversation and stiff margaritas. The talking went on until bedtime (not too late) and some of the talk included the canyon and places to go.
Following Diego’s advice, we decided to drive to the town of Urique at the very bottom of one of the canyons. From Urique we could either drive on a very small back road to the city of Batopilas, or maybe take the road through the length of the Canyon to El Fuerte (near Los Mochis). Doug has taken the road a few times, and he claims it isn’t any more dangerous than any other road through the Canyon. Meaning that, something might happen anywhere, but chances are it could be perfectly safe (8 out of 10 people have advised us against driving out to the coast through the Canyon). Who are we to play it safe, when adventure is out there (and it seems safe-ish).
The road from Paraiso del Oso to Urique is debatably one of the most amazing and scary roads I’ve ever been on in my life (Lacey). As the road nears the edge of the canyon and starts to drop the 2300 plus meters into the canyon, it becomes very narrow, with sheer drops to the bottom below. It is thrilling, and not a little scary, as you look out over the canyon, and the town of Urique sitting beside the Rio Urique that gives the canyon it’s name. Unlike the Colorado River of the Grand Canyon (at least before all the dams that tamed the river), the Rio Urique is a fairly smallish river, meandering slowly on it’s way through the canyon. During the rainy season I’m sure it is a lot more of a river to be reckoned with, but while we were here the river seems to belie it’s strength and it’s ability to carve a canyon as deep and immaculate as the one it sits at the bottom of. As I have mentioned, the views from the road going in are amazing, even though as you are looking down from the road you get a tickle of fear up your spine at the depth of drops below. There is another tidbit that makes this road one of the scariest ones I’ve ever been on, The Local Drivers. The road to Urique is a very narrow one lane-two way traffic road that corkscrews in on itself as it slowly winds down the mountain side. The locals that drive this narrow road go much faster than any sane person would, and they don’t stop or for that matter even try to get out of the way when they meet another vehicle in a turn. Because the road is so curvy, you can never see ahead to know if somebody is coming. Whenever we met another car on the road we quickly attempted to find a place to get out of the way, while the other car blew past us as if we weren’t even there. We wondered what happens when two locals meet on the road and neither person wants to yield. How do they decide which one gets out of the way? We figure, it is the person that has the nicer car and therefore has more to lose that finally moves over to let the other car pass. We have seen this phenomenon on several occassions within small towns, two or sometimes more vehciles come to an intersection and no one will move for a few minutes! We saw one where they waited until a cop arrived to make the decision, we call this the classic case of a Mexican stand-off.