El Chepe

The main reason for our trip to the small working port of Topolobampo was to stretch our legs and venture inland. We left the boat in the secure marina and headed to nearby Los Mochis, where we caught the train, “el Chepe,” and embarked on what is hailed as one of the most scenic train rides in the world. The route winds its way into the Copper Canyon, Mexico’s version of the Grand Canyon in the US (but an area four times larger).

With 37 bridges, 86 tunnels, and even a full 360 over itself to gain altitude, the train ride itself is spectacular. Stops in several small towns give a glimpse into local life along the way.

One of the stops is Divisidero, a stop without a town, where you can hop off the train to see the canyon (Clark Griswold style), grab a quick bite to eat – numerous vendors sell gorditas (tortilla pockets stuffed with cheese and other yummy fillings) – and browse the local handicrafts.

Our end point in the canyon was the town of Creel, located at 8000 ft. This area is home to the Tarahumara Indians, who are known for their ability to run extreme distances. We found them to be shy and reserved but friendly people. The weather was cool and beautiful and we took the opportunity to visit one of the nearby Tarahumara communities and the 18th century San Ignacio Mission.

On the way back we spent the night in El Fuerte, founded in 1564. It is the birthplace of Zorro and home to one of Latin America’s last remaining dry tropical forests. Its location by the Rio Fuerte makes it an oasis in the midst of the surrounding dry, arid landscape. In town are numerous old mansions that have been turned into boutique hotels, each quite charming and unique.

Our visit coincided with that of a regional dignitary, too, so we got to catch the local parade in his honor, complete with caballeros and dancing horses!

el-fuerte-caballero

One thing we took away: 3 days was too short. We would love to return to explore more of the towns and spend time hiking and biking in the canyon. This was a tasting menu of a trip, for sure.

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