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Friday, November 29, 2013

COPPER CANYON PHOTOS

Some of the locals in the Copper Canyon area

Roadworks heading into Batopilas - an abrupt stop

The new road into the canyon at Batopilas looks great

Pity the road is closed - they are dynamiting the cliff & pushing the rocks down to the valley (and road) below

The lovely canyon on our way to Creel

And the road to Creel

The river we camped beside (before Creel)

Lunch is cooking - YUM!!

Copper Canyon - AMAZING!!

The road - SCARY!!

Lower into the canyon

Camping right down in the canyon on the river bed

Wow! On our way back out

More obstacles on our way

The massive gold & silver mine - we camped very close to it

On our way to  Chinipas

Following a ute across the river at Chinipas

Another amazing mountain drive

More local scenery

COPPER CANYON LIVES UP TO OUR EXPECTATIONS


Today was a bright & early start to the Copper Canyon- Barranca del Cobre.  A few weeks ago we met an English couple in a vehicle similar to ours who drove a big loop from Creel, along the edge of the canyon, then down to Urique, followed the river, crossed through the river because the bridge was down, & then drove up through Batopilas & up out of the canyon. It was a very long slow trip, but what we would like to do in reverse and then head out of the canyon by the waterfall. Then a few weeks later we met an Aussie guy on a motorbike. He too drove the canyon, but told us that there were roadwork’s on the road to Batopilas, and that the road was only open at night. We will just have to wing it

Already we have changed routes as we have seen signs pointing down a different road. A good call as the road surface is great & scenery lovely. The nearer the mountains we get, the cottages change to log cabins. There are numerous villages, & the ladies are bright in their long flowing skirts.

Eventually we reach the turn off to Batopilas. We are surprised by how good the road has been so far & expect it to change as we turn off, but it doesn’t. Apart from corners being worn, it is a lovely, obviously fairly new road with no traffic. And of course the canyon we are descending into is quite spectacular.  But all good things come to an end. In this case an abrupt end as there are huge piles of rocks covering the road, & a huge bulldozer is pushing them over the cliff. Down below us we can see what will be an amazing road. When we show our map to the guys in the other waiting vehicle they let us know that when the digger finishes we can drive down to the lookout, but after that the road is closed. So we turn back to start Plan 2, to head back up the mountain & continue onto Creel – a gorgeous drive through some amazing canyons. (A real bonus as we would have missed this road on Plan 1). We are planning to camp beside the lake, but when we see a lovely creek we stop there for a very cold but peaceful night.

The next morning we continue on to the lake, & then the township of Creel where lots of tourists (who come on the Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacifico) overnight. Not a lot here, so we continue on along the rim of the canyon (more great sealed road) stopping at the lookout. Here of course there are local ladies selling their crafts & more importantly their food. We stop for some very yummy gorditas before continuing our scenic tour. Eventually our magic road deteriorates into road works & the going gets a lot slower. Finally we reach the turnoff that heads towards the town of Urique right in the depth of the canyon. Miles & miles of windy dirt road, but no real dramas until suddenly we are out on the lip of the canyon & can see over 1.8km straight down to the river below and our narrow road cut into the rock face.  A real edge of the seat drive for the next 15km (taking one & a half hours!) Phew! I am extremely relieved to be down. We pass through the town (interestingly the main street is the airstrip) & on to the river to find a spot for the night. In this isolated small town there are lots of new American fancy 4wd pickup trucks. Are these the guys in the drug business?

 Following the river we stop at yet more roadwork’s – more fallen rock being cleared away & an American guy stops – he checks about the road for us & we discover that we will not be able to get to Batopilas. We find a lovely spot in the river bed & work out our route Plan 3. We spread out our maps & remember that despite our maps showing no road directly west, that in fact there were road signs pointing to towns going west, so we decide “How bad can it be!!!” Plan 3: west to Alamos.

 After sitting in the river bed just drinking in the views for a while we decide it is time to tackle the drive up out of the canyon. John did suggest I could walk if I find it too scary, but I think I will risk it. Up, up, up we go….. Retrace our steps until we see our road sign (now we have no GPS & gaps on our paper maps)…should be interesting! Bad road makes the going slow. We finally reach Temoris & check at the petrol station re the next town. Yes we are on track. A few signposts would help! Yay, next intersection there is a sign & we follow it – the road is getting worse. At town we check again NO, NO – go back. Bother, at least we hadn’t gone far. Back we go & head onto Palmarejo as instructed. By now it is getting late & I am on a lookout for a campspot. Eventually I spy massive carparks beside what looks like a mine. As we get closer we see that it is a massive open cast mine.  Finally I see a carpark with a row of utes – in we drive & I lean out & ask. Yes we can park overnight.  We discover that we have landed at the Coeur gold & silver mine that has been operating for 7 years & employs 900 people. Unfortunately all the equipment comes in on the train, so there isn’t a good road out. One of the guys draws out a mud map with directions to Alamos. We discover the next day what a blessing this is. But he did warn us it was a “hard” road that takes him 6 hours in his ute! So maybe 8 hours for us.

Off we head bright & early, with our map in hand. There is another mountain range to cross before we descend into the town of Chinipas. Here we have to locate the church (always an easy task because of the tall spires) & cross the river. Apparently we won’t fit on the bridge. There is a defined track on either side of the large river, so as I am wearing shorts I get the job of walking across. First section fine, not quite up to me knees & flowing fairly fast. John crosses. Second part much deeper & stronger. I come back to leave the camera in GR2 – it is slippery & the currents strong. Fortunately a ute arrives & ploughs straight through – so we follow- saves me getting my shorts wet as indeed it is quite deep.

Mud map out again – because we wouldn’t go this way by choice as it is merely a goat track….mile after rough mile winding up a massive mountain slowly climbing over rocks. (Stewart you would be proud of us). Hours later we reach the top, only to start coming back down. What an amazing drive. Much harder than going into the canyon. Our mud map is amazingly accurate (Thanks so much to the safety guys at the mine) and many, many hours later we finally reach tarseal & Alamos. Tonight we find a campground. We plan to eat out, do washing & use their Wifi. Again we spend time with our maps. Have we got enough time left to explore the Baja Peninsula?  Eventually we decide “Let’s do it” & drive to the ferry port at Topolobampo just past Los Mochis. We arrive as it is getting dark, eventually getting tickets. We sail at midnight. Instead of heading upstairs for dinner & an upright seat, we sneak into GR2 for a good night’s sleep, albeit a bit stuffy. In the morning we arrive in La Paz, Baja California.

Adios Amigos

 

 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

HEADING NORTH - PHOTOS

The university at Guanajuato


The town of Guanajuato from the lookout at the top of the cable car - and you thought I walked!!

Guanajuato's Cathedral

Just one of the many tunnels that run  underneath Guanajuato

Laguna de  Cuitzeo - surrounded by volcanoes

The lovely Cathedral at Morelia - we sat in the plaza & ate tacos

The Aqueduct in Morelia at rush hour

The cute town of Patzcuaro

We are parked in the central Plaza at Patzcuaro

Patzcuaro

Lago Patzcuaro - can't see too much of it today

Cascada La Tzararacua

View from our campspot on Laguna de Chapala

Laguna de Chapala - south side

On the Tequila Trail - lots of argave plants

Our gorgeous "warm" laguna Santa Maria del Oro

Mazatlan at night

The Zona Dorada area in Mazatlan (the resort area near where we camped)

Sunset from our campspot - easy to see why we stayed 2 nights

The amazing toll road from Mazatlan to Durango

Bridges & Tunnels

The Devils Backbone - canyon on the way to Durango

Durango City

Durango city

More gorgeous scenery as we head north


Our camp spot for the night - very quiet!!

Wow!! Guarded in the Wal Mart carpark.

Parrall - an old silver mining town

New subdivision at Parrall

FINALLY HEADING NORTH


We finally leave Mats yard late in the day. He suggests we camp another night, but we are keen to head off. There are a few hot pools down the road where we hope to camp. First stop: the massive supermarket & then the hot pools. It is getting near to closing time. The first ones say “No” we can’t stay in their massive carpark. The second say “Yes”, but just as we are getting settled the boss comes out & says “No”.  There is no night guard, & only 2 months ago someone camped in the carpark & got robbed at gunpoint! Bummer. It is already dusk so we stop at the next Pemex Station. So much for a nice long hot soak.

The next day we head on to the Colonial town of Guanajuato which has been recommended by loads of people. Our book says under no circumstances drive into the city, so we stop at the campground outside town. Here we bump into our American mate from the last campground. Once we catch the bus into town we see why it would be very challenging to drive here. The town is set in a gully in a maze of tiny cobbled streets. Many of the roads pass underneath the town in old tunnels that were previously river beds.

It is as gorgeous as expected and we spend hours exploring the streets. By 5pm we head back to our bus stop & wait, & wait…. Finally after an hour we discover that we were told the wrong spot. We are relieved to get onto a packed bus before dark. After 30mins we are keeping a close eye on stops to make sure we get off at the correct spot as by now it is nearly dark.

After a slow start the next morning we head off towards the city of Morelia passing some huge lakes. They look shallow & reedy…in fact we drive on a causeway that runs right across Laguna Cutzeo. When we reach Morelia, instead of heading into the city we park at a supermarket on the ring road & taxi to the centre. What a lovely place. Tidy, clean, organized & very Spanish looking. We particularly love the long aqueduct & the cathedral. Even better is the Dulces Market (my favorite is the candied limes stuffed with coconut) By the time we get back to GR2 it is getting late. Time to head out of the city to find a quiet spot to sleep. Where better than yet another Pemex Station with the trucks. Safe & free!.

An early start the next morning (Sunday) sees us arriving into the gorgeous lakeside town of Patzcuaro. This means we can park right in the centre of town & explore the cobbled streets, then the markets. Sadly the lake is shrouded in mist so we don’t head out in a boat. On instead towards the industrial city of Uruapan & take a short detour south to visit Tzararacua Waterfalls. Very pretty, but with lots & lots of steps down, & then back again. John suggests he leaves me plodding & make a cup of tea. After seeing how many bullets the local policeman/guard here has in his gun, I suggest I would feel much safer staying with him!! (John has now said no more waterfalls until Niagara & no more ruins until Alaska!!!)

And so follows more driving surrounded by volcanoes, 100’s of them.  One village has a military checkpoint before & after – not sure what’s going on there!! But we are well past it now. After a lot of bumpy roads we make the decision to return to the toll road. Much easier driving with great scenery & we get a few more miles under our belts. Finally we reach the massive Lago Chapala (we plan to follow the lake rather than pass through the city of Guadalajara – the second biggest in Mexico). We had hoped to park beside the water, but it is cultivated for miles. Instead we find a Pemex, fully guarded by the police 24hrs a day, with a fantastic view of the lake. Perfect.

A lovely drive around the south side of the lake before heading along the Tequila Route, stopping of course to look at some of the tequila production. We choose to stop at the Hacienda Herradura as they have the old & new production, & get our own English tour. Still don’t appreciate Tequila as others do! A quick look through town before returning to the toll road & our final stop for the night – the absolutely magic Crater Lake at Santa Maria del Oro. Can you imagine swimming in a warm lake!! Needless to say we don’t leave as early as usual the next morning.

We plan to reach Mazatlan tonight, but it wasn’t to be. After a late start, stopping in the modern city of Tepic at the supermarket & then detouring to the coast via a windy little road through the most avocado trees we have ever seen (lots of Guacamole here!) & following the rather non exciting coastline to San Blas we don’t make it. So it was another Pemex (ah well at least they are free) & the next morning we roll into surely the most expensive campground in Mazatlan – but it was right on the beach.

We only planned to stay one night, but it rolled into two. And we sure did enjoy swimming (probably more than exploring the city). We ate out twice (big for us), meet quite a few Canadians & Americans who come here every year, & of course caught the local bus in to town to explore. But best of all was the gorgeous sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. It was also a good chance to update the website, Skype the family etc.   

Time to drag ourselves from the beach. Our next adventure awaits – the amazing Copper Canyon. After a lot of research (mainly other people’s blogs) we have decided to head inland & approach it from the south. So we are heading up the brand new toll road to Durango. One of the Americans told us it had been closed due to slips, & has just reopened again, so we are in luck. We set off – what a stunning drive. The brochure we were given states there are 61 tunnels & 115 bridges over 230 km. The old road apparently takes over 6 hours, the new under 3. It is not just the amazing canyon scenery of Puerto El Espinoza del Diablo (Devils Backbone) that it staggering, but the amazing road. What can I say but WOW!!

The road leads us to the modern city of Durango – we drive to the centre & find a gorgeous centre. Clean, tidy, organized. After a yummy lunch of gorditas (corncakes stuffed with meat – rather like a Mexican meat pie) we continue north towards Parral, stopping for a quiet night beside a cemetery. Arriving in Parral, we find a Wal-Mart, so stop to stock up on food. The place is pumping…it is a long weekend so it is starting to get busy. We try to head up to the old silver mine located on a hill right in the centre of town, but we get snarled in traffic & have to concede defeat (we had wanted to go to the info centre to find out about roads into the Canyon – we will just have to wing it!) While filling up with diesel we discover that our tail light isn’t working, so the next few hours are spent locating an auto electrician & getting a repair job. It is on dusk as we leave…..but we want to get out of the busy city. We head off on our side road towards the Canyon, finally pulling over at a Zoosanitario Checkpoint between States. A surprisingly peaceful night.

Coming next: The Copper Canyon.

 

 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

DAI DE MUERTOS - PHOTOS

The huge tree at El Tule

Weaving in the village of Teotitlan de Valle


Our purchase


The cliffs at Hierve el Agua


the lovely pools at Hierve el Agua

The church built on top of the ruins at Mitla

One of the many Corona trucks

A delivery of flowers for Day of the Dead

Tacos cooking at the markets at Coscomatepec

Tiny alters for sale for Day of the Dead

At Jose & Martas home in Coscomatepec

Pico de Orizaba

DOD decoration in the Zocala - Mexico City - Cathedral in the background

Dancers in the Zocala - they dance all day

There is a huge police presence in the city

On our open top bus trip - some of the sights - Mexico City

The modern theatre

The historic theatre

Back at the Zocala - Mexico City

DOD displays set up in the Zocala

More displays







More displays - look what happens if you drive a motorbike in Mexico!!

DOD wedding car/limo!!!

Voladores at Teotihuacan Pyramids

Climbing Pyramid del Sol

View across to Pyramid de la Luna

The gorgeous cathedral at San Miguel de Allendale

They are still selling the rest of the DOD lollies

Some are pretty clever

In the yard at Mats Hammarlund Racing