Leaving Hermosillo and taking the #16, the first 100kms is nice flat road, before it slowly starts to climb a windy path up into the highlands of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. Worried, due to recent events, that Porkchop was going to overheat, we were both pleasantly surprised and relieved that it didn’t even blink at the emerging pine tree sprinkled gradient laid out before it.
All this stress set to the soundtrack of Propellerhead’s ’On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘, with the slowly built up crescendo timed perfectly for reaching the 1,035m summit pass (great song by the way, check it out!). The temperature cooled and the flora changed to the pine trees we’d been aiming for as we reached the final pass at 1,950m. We can recommend the National Geographic map for anybody looking to drive through Mexico as it has pretty good topograph, giving you at least a rough idea of the gradient of mountain passes etc.
Reaching Yercoa and stopping for the night we stayed at El Dorado, which has rock walled rooms that keep at a perfect temperature during the day. With Matt asking the guy at receptoin ‘Do you have hot water and toilets in the room?’ we were thrown ‘Well you’re not sleeping on the street are you?’ and a laugh in response. All in all not a bad deal as along with this we got two double beds and cable TV thrown in for the 250 Mexican peso price.
Yercoa’s not got much for the average tourist with the plaza being the main focal point. Eating at D’Lucy’s we hadn’t got a good enough grasp of the Spanish language yet, so the menu became a point and see occasion – Matt to the only thing he knew, tacos, and Sarah ended up presented with a res caldo, a beef broth that’s more stock than hearty soup.
With its 24 hour reception, Hotel El Dorado ended up being a transit hotel Mexicans passing through at all hours. The sound of beeping horns and revving engines, combined with the continuous percussion of hammering rain ensured a pretty shitty night’s sleep. It would seem some Mexican’s either don’t really have any concept of consideration for other peoples sleep during night hours, or simply do not regard other people comfort/space with one iota of respect, as most of this was going on within several meters of the rest of the hotel rooms.
Waking early for the monstrous last leg push to Creel, we persisted through the mountains in the pouring rain, starving off drowsiness with shots of instant coffee mixed with cold water. We eventually arrived just before dark, cold and weary, at the Hotel Villa Mexican & RV Park campsite. Being out of season, we became the solo residents in the overgrown RV area.
The place has over 50 sites, most with electrical hook ups, for 150 Pesos per night, decent WiFi at the restaurant area, locked security gates, though only cold water showers. And here come the rains. The rest of the night was spent in Porkchop’s lounge room playing shithead, to the all too familiar Mexican soundtrack of a deluge above, only the loser leaving the dryness to make the dash to the hotels store to grab some more beers.
Creel is the main jumping off point for exploration into the Copper Canyon from the north. Whilst it lacks any sort of sights, it has many restaurants, some crappy souvenir stores, a ream of liquor stores, and a Santander bank in the square. Awoken at 4am due to the train passing through town, whistling it’s horn for what seemed an eternity, the kettle was on and a hot brew developed (as opposed to the desperate cold ones we resorted to the day before) to kick start the day. Patiently waiting for the sun to wish us good morning, the cards were once again out, Matt lost.
A night of cheese and cards in the lounge room while it poured rain outside, Creel
You can take in the view of the vast Copper Canyon, larger and in parts deeper than the Grand Canyon, from Divisadero, which makes a pleasant drive as you wind your way higher, intermittently criss-crossing the railway tracks which carry the popular Chihuahua al Pacífico or ‘Chepe’ train. Starting at Chihuahua there are various places to jump on, including one at both Creel and Divisadero, ending up on the coast at Topolobampo, winding through the Canyon and over breath taking bridges. Check out this link for more info
Again we experienced one of those ‘Oh shit’ moments. Coming up the gradual incline 3 kms from town, the van just would not drop down a gear. Sarah throws it down into second and nothing, the van Porkchop’s it, stalled. Sitting in the middle of the road with a pull out 50 meters behind us, we frantically scurried around the car thinking of what to do. Enter the Mexican tractor driver. A local who’d been grading the soft shoulders came to our rescue. Chains were produced, secured in and we were promptly towed up the road to the next flat pull off. Matt tried to offer a few pesos to our saviour for his troubles which were flatly refused. Champion!
Taking some deep breathes we spent some time looking at the obvious potential causes of the problem, before we had a bloke on a motorbike pull up to offer his assistance. As it turned out it happened to be Nate, a nice American guy we’d bumped into in the dodgy Tuscon hotel in Arizona. Nate’s on a mission to ride solo from Alaska to Patagonia, and you can check out his blog here! Sharing some coffee, we packed up and Matt’s decided to give the key a turn and VVRRROOOOOMMMMM back to life. We figured it must have flooded when the gear was changed due to low revs.
Arriving in Divisadero, we admired the jaw dropping views…actually it was total white out conditions so we could only see the sheer drop below us. We again bumped into Nate at the top of the canyon and broke bread, inviting both him and a local kid that was hanging around to sit with us and enjoy Sarah’s feast of rice and veg. With no sign of the cloud moving in a hurry we then headed back to Creel and beyond.