Sunday, April 12, 2009

To Copper Canyon

January 20th to 23rd

Leaving Topolobampo, (apparently the 2nd largest natural deep water port in the world) it's soon clear that things have changed. The mainland is much more populous and affluent than the Baja and the soil here is held together with vegetation making it way less dusty. We pass Los Mochis - the first industrial town we have seen since the US and on into fertile flatlands...

100 pesos (7 dollars)gets you the worst room in the world in San Blas...

Copper Canyon is in fact deeper than the grand canyon and covers a larger area.... It’s actually a series of 20 interconnected canyons with the main one mistakenly named for the copper it was assumed to contain due to the rock coloration.

As you can imagine trying to build roads into such an area is pretty difficult so they blasted a railway line through, which carries tourists into small villages and towns to get a glimpse of the enormity of the place. The train which starts from a pretty little former Spanish fort town (El Fuerte) is luxurious with a restaurant car and waiter service.

But we are made of sterner stuff than this and we inquire about alternatives. No roads are marked on maps, but we are told there is a way in to the canyon system along dirt tracks made by mining companies. 130 miles in lies San Raphael where a new tarmac road is under construction which takes us the rest of the way....

We cycle out to Choix about 25 miles and then follow the dirt road out of town towards the mountains....

It's tough. Then it gets tougher, the road heavily laced with rocks and gravel. Then it goes uphill. Sharply. Then it turns to sand a foot deep in places. Once our speed drops to 2 miles and hour and we spend as much time pushing as riding we know we're in trouble. There are no towns and no rivers for the next 75 miles which means no water. It's about 5 days at this pace and we need to carry maybe 75 litres! Minimum. Maybe this is a mistake and the train might be better. We have to retreat and ride back to Choix to get more info, where we happen upon 3 guys. My Spanish is OK at best but I manage to discover that one of them is driving out tonight to start a shift at the mine in the morning - do we need a ride?

It feels like a defeat, but we have no option, so, we throw the bikes in the back of his pick up and we’re off back the way we came. The road is amazingly bad, 350 horse power of 4x4 is struggling, taking run ups and 2 or 3 attempts in places. 5 hours and 75 miles later he announces we are here. It's 10pm and dark and "here" seems to be nowhere, but luckily there's a tiny hotel for mineworkers.... Unluckily - it's closed. Raul, our drive seems to take this personally and goes to find his boss.... who just happens to have a spare caravan.... would we like to spend the night there?

We fall asleep amazed at our turn of luck and the generosity of people here who won’t take a penny for petrol or for our luxury accommodation.

But not before first wondering.... How the $%^&%?? do you tow a caravan here? It was tough enough just driving here....
Must have been a helicopter drop.

This is Arturo, gold mine boss and all round fine human being.... plus his impossible caravan.....


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