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Friday, November 29, 2013

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

 

 

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