Thursday, April 11, 2013
Barrancas de Cobre...Welcome to Mexico's Canyons
One of the reasons that I travel is for the view. Give me a great view, and I'm good. Canyons provide some of the best views in the world. Most of us have heard so much about the Grand Canyon and the Rift Valley that we sometimes overlook some other amazing canyons and gorges in the world. There are websites totally devoted to those of us who love canyons.
Now, most of us perceive canyon travel to be rustic at best. We see it as a lot of hiking, burros are involved, we have to drag along tons of water, and it's probably desert terrain and very hot.
Well, I have one that in many ways is different. Copper Canyon, Mexico in the Chihuahua region is not your typical canyon. It's six canyons, and if you think that you've seen it all because you were visiting it's neighbor up north in Arizona, then you are sorely mistaken.
Unlike the Grand Canyon, there are people living in the canyon besides the local native tribes people. There are towns in there with people living, working and taking care of the tourists. It's not several miles on foot with burros to the bottom to see a ranch. This place has roads, although some of them are quite rudimentary. There are cable car rides and driving routes here as well as the extensive horseback and hiking options. There are natives here that have foregone the technological outside world and still live off the land in the area. They are called the Tarahumara People or the Raramuri, and they have lived in the canyons for centuries. They move about a bit, living in small cabins in the warmer months and in caves in the cooler months. They don't really have any interest in interacting with the tourists, so if you get a chance, and find one of the tribespeople who want to meet you, don't blow it. It's not every day that these locals find someone that they wish to interact with.
The views are amazing, and there's things there that literally have just come to the attention of the outsiders of the canyons. For instance, there's a new waterfall. It's not new, but it's new to all of us. Discovered in 1996, Piedra Volada Falls are the highest in Mexico and eleventh highest in the world. They are somewhere around 1,500 feet high in the wetter seasons. In the dry seasons there are no falls there at all. But, when they are running, it's spectacular.
And there are more falls in the canyons. There are several extremely high waterfalls, as well as small and beautiful cascades. When we think of Mexico, so often we think only of the hot arid dessert. These mountains are full of beautiful rivers, streams, waterfalls, lakes, and hot springs.
Recohuata Hot Springs are only about 13 miles from Creel, a larger hub town in the area. The springs are actually too hot for humans, but the area to get into them is a little ways down where the water from the local streams come in. It's a wonderful place to spend a little time and just relax.
And if you like to relax while on vacation, there is the lovely Mirador Hotel which sits on the edge of the highest part of the canyon--about 8,000 feet--and is luxurious as well as having an excellent view.
There are many things to see and do in the canyons of Copper Canyon. There are ruins from the times of the Conquistadors. There are paintings from prehistoric times. There are local arts and crafts, and sports activities to explore and learn about. There are boat rides and even cable car rides within the area of this magnificent parkland.
Now, once you've taken a look around at what you wish to see, whether it's waterfalls, ruins, local people, caves, rock formations or whatever; there is one thing that you absolutely must do.
You must check out ChePe. That is one of the most amazing trains and train rides in the world. This train route took almost 100 years to complete. It only opened in the 1960's It goes from sea level to 8,000 feet in elevation, and has some of the most stunning scenery viewable anywhere. It has 39 bridges and 86 tunnels on it's route and runs some 390 miles. It's a four hour ride, unless you get off to explore which is perfectly fine. It's completely unforgettable. This is that thing. This is that activity that anyone can do. This is that thing that makes anyone able to have an adventure here.
You don't have to rappel down a cliff, although you can. You don't have to hike for miles to remote spots to see the sights, although you can. You don't have to ride horses or use burros to camp out in the remoteness, although you can. You can enjoy this area just by taking a trip on this train. It stops in all the best places, so that you can meet the Raramuri, see the waterfalls, have amazing views, and shop for the local crafts. It's an amazing way to see an amazing place. This is one of those off the charts kind of places. It's not the Grand Canyon, therefore it's not crowded like the Grand Canyon.
Come see something spectacular. Meet some amazing people who still live in their traditional lifestyle. Come see the wildlife, the waterfalls, the rock formations, and for goodness sake; ride the train.