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Tarahumara

El Chepe pulling into El Fuerte.

We were picked up at 8 am for our taxi ride to the train station that is 4 miles outside of town. Trains here have a schedule but it is always approximate and dependent on what happens on the route before your station. Blasts on the horn signals the arrival of the three diesel engines pulling about 12 or so carriages about evenly split between first and second class. I’ve heard there is not much difference between them but we had first class seat assignments in carriage number 4 and we lined up for the conductor to check our tickets before boarding.

Inside first class carriage.

Carriage was about 3/4 full and once moving our guide, Edel, spoke to the conductor and said that we could occupy some of the unoccupied seats on the preferred side of the train, the right side that is.

We were going to the town of Creel, about 7 hours, and the route basically goes through dry bush to the base of the mountains, then follows the river Fuerte up it’s gorge till we get to what I would call the highlands, around 7,000′, after which it goes through rolling hills till Creel.

Edel, excellent guide.
Initially dry bush landscape.

When I grew up in South Africa train was our primary form of travel both for commuter into town and long distance where you often had a cabin with seats during the day that folded flat for sleeping at night.

I just love train travel ……

Crossing the Fuerte river.
Single track so trains have to pass at these sidings with dual tracks..
Dam on the Fuerte.
More bridges.
Then come the tunnels.
This is tunnel number 52 and it’s 312 meters long.
Small, isolated communities along the way.
Approaching the big 180 turn.

The vegetation changes, some semitropical, and eventually pine trees with lots of pine needles on the dry ground.

Look at the photo above and use a bit of imagination. We’re rounding a bend to the left and need to end up at the tunnel above the locomotives. We will make the left turn, straighten out, enter a tunnel which makes a 180 degree turn inside the mountain and get spit out traveling to the right where we enter the next tunnel significantly above the tracks below.

Terrain has more pine trees as we climb up to the highlands.
Tarahumara Indians hawking their ware.

The indigenous people are the Tarahumara Indians who have been drawn into the tourist cycle and sell their wares of basket weaving, bead work and wood carvings to the visiting tourists. As a side note, Edel told us that 80% of the visitors were Mexican and 20% foreign.

Typical array of basketry and bead work.

At the station of Divisadero the train stops for 15 minutes and we are free to view the sights. The stop is right on the edge of one of the canyons that make up Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) and we get our first views down into the rugged canyons.

First look over into the canyon.
Street food. The woman in the train doorway is ordering from the vendor below.

The sun is sinking low and the temps are falling as we pull into Creel and walk to our modest hotel near the center of town. The rooms are initially cold but the gas furnaces are lit and they slowly warm up. You do not walk around in T-shirts and shorts and even inside it is two or three layers to keep yourself comfy.

Next morning we venture out around 9’ish for our tour and the ice on the car windshields tells us how cold it was last night.

Temps were down to below freezing overnight.
Off to see how the Tarahumara live.

Today we were shown various aspects of the Tarahumara’s lifestyle starting with the fact that some live in caves. Now I’m not sure how many actually do or if they promote it because we, the tourists, want to see it.

Dwellings in the cliffsides.
She was watching over her wares like a hawk.
Mushroom valley.

Nearby is Mushroom Valley. Volcanic activity nearby resulted in softer ash deposits layered with harder lava and mother nature has, over time, weathered and eroded them to these mushroom like formations.

Big mushroom.
Mission church.
Horseshoe lake.
More cave dwellings.
Rose taking a look inside.
Cristo Rey overlooking Creel.
Creel from the Cristo Rey statue.

The afternoon was ours and some of us found a way up to a highpoint overlooking the town. Then, at a dingy liquor store we found a bottle of L. A. Cetto Nebbiolo wine for happy hour.

Entertainment during dinner was provided by these local musicians.
Creel.

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