February 13, 2006

Sonora and the Sierra Madres

Press HERE to see a slideshow from Northern Mexico.

Sonora River Valley
Arizpe Hills
Arizpe's Old, Old Mission Church
And Inside the Mission
Copper Canyon from Devisadero
The Trail to the End of the Canyon
Canyons Abound
The end of Copper Canyon
In the Cowboy Cantina
With Ranchero Music in the Air

We begin where we left off on Monday, 7 February, in Nogales:
Before leaving the town, we bought Mexican car insurance ($167 for six months) and did a little internet checking at the library. Then we drove into Mexico. About twelve miles in we stopped for customs and immigration. It did not take very long. The six month visas were $21 each and the car permit costs about $30. Before we left we found a turist office for Sonora, where we got some information that we ended up using. We continued down Federal highway 15 until we got to Imuris. We stopped to look at a mission church, then east to Cananea and then south. There were many very old towns along this route with old missions. We stopped at Arizpe, founded1649. This little town of 1700 soles was the first capital of Sonora. It was a beautiful little town with an incredibly old church. We spent the night here.

We continued south, stopping at each little town that had something interesting to see. But the valley scenery was better than the missions. Eventually we got to Federal highway 14 and turned west to Hermosillo. When we got back on 15, we followed it a few miles and turned east on 16. We were quickly in the Sierra Madres, which are very beautiful. We drove until dark and stopped in Yecora. Like so many of these mountain towns it is very poor. The roads are primarily dirt and gravel and the dust is thick. We were quite surprised by the cost of things in this town. Given the quality of the hotel, it was expensive at $40 per night. We check others too, where the prices were lower - but the quality of the rooms were much worse. The only reason for the high cost of food and other things here, is that it is so far from any decent sized city, take a whole day of driving to get to Hermosillo or Chihuahua

We continued east on 16 and then turned south to Creel, arrive in the late afternoon. Creel is a good sized town on the train-line that runs from Mochis to Chihuahua. It is this train-line that has made this area so well known. First we checked into a nice hotel and paid even more than the night before, but it was nice and breakfast and diner was included. We used the few hours of light that were left to walk around and get info about the area; I even looked into trying to ship my car down to Mochis. That was a no go; but I know they do ship vehicles from Chihuahua to Mochis, because the next day we saw car loads of gigantic recreational vehicles and a car or two that were being shipped by rail. The railcars are pulled on to a siding at the best locations where the owners stay in them.

We took it easy the next day. We drove to two locations to view the Copper Canyon. First we went to the famous train station stop of Devisadero, where the Copper Canyon begins. It was only thirty miles away, but it took almost an hour to get there on very good paved road. The canyon is beautiful and it is but one of many in this area. As I took out my binoculars and looked around the high mesa that abound in this area, I could only marvel and the occasional residence and wonder how they could build in such a remote location. I had heard that it rivaled the Grand Canyon, but this is far from true. Yet this area of many extremely deep canyons is special in its own way. The altitude from the tops of the hills and mesas around the Copper Canyon are 7000 to 8000 feet above sea level. We hung out here for an hour our so, then drove to the end of the Copper Canyon in a round about way that took about two hours. They reason that it was only two hours is that the canyon is quite short, less than 50 miles long. We returned to Creel before night fall. As the night before, we stopped at a little bar that had a wonderful fire to keep us warm. Oh, did I fail to mention, it gets cold enough to freeze water in the nights.

We doubled back the next day, covering much the same ground as the on Wednesday. We drove all day to Ciudad Obregon. We only stopped twice along the way. First, we stopped to see the falls at Basaseachi. We had to hike a kilometer into the forest to see it. There is not much water this time of the year, but still it was a sight spilling out of an old lava and falling 800 feet into a beautiful boxed canyon. The second stop was for another one of those Mexican horrors, the Military search of your vehicle and personal items. Nothing infuriates me more that to be bothered by this most uncivilized behavior. Why nations continue to treat all there citizens like criminals when there is only a handful of people out of ten-thousand that break the drug and arms laws is beyond me. All people who travel are punished for the sins of a few. Thank god that we have probable cause laws to stop such harassment in the USA. Finally, just after dark we arrived in Obregon.

After a bit housekeeping, or better said clothes washing, we headed off to find a bit of coast line. It ended up being a but of a wild goose chase. We got to the place where there was a beach, only to discover that there was no town only a wild life preserve with a road so bad that we did not make it to the beach only a kilometer or two a way. We decide to drive a few miles more to Alamos, which we got to after navigating some hairy detours. Alamos is a very expensive, but cute old town. And when I say expensive, I mean crazy expensive for Mexico. Yes, there were two at $60 but the rest started at $125 and went to $400 USD. We ended up at a campgrounds that had a few bungalows and even that was more that $50. We were extremely hungry and ate diner, and had wanted to go to a fiesta at the town hall. Too late we discovered that there was a price to be paid that included diner and drinks. Having just eaten, we passed on it. Maybe that was all too the good. I have never really been in the classical Mexican, cowboy cantina. But we found one on the main drag and entered cautiously. More than half the men wore their cowboy hats. These were rough-looking, hard-working Mexican ranch workers. There were few women in the place, mostly servers. They all seemed to be dressed to catch one of these cowboys. Then there was the Ranchero band, singing their cowboy songs. They started out slow, but end up flying. It was great; it was fantastic.

Yesterday, Sunday, we drove hard all day, proceeded to Mazatlán. We arrived a little after dark and quickly found a motel. Motel prices are cheap here starting at about $20. We paid more for a seaside view. We ate at a seafood restaurant and the food was good.

Today was a more leisurely day. We took it easy in the morning then visited the old town in the afternoon. It is a pretty old part of the city, but this is mostly a place with thousands of tourists for the USA and Canada.

I am not sure where we are off to next, but we will keep you informed.

Posted by bill at February 13, 2006 07:28 PM