Sunday, January 22, 2012

likin’ the lichen

[We did not have internet at the hotel in Cerocahui.  This should have been Sunday night’s post.]

When we greybeards start reminiscing about the golden age of transportation, we often forget a salient detail  Travel was slower black then .

But that may be lone of the reason we undertake journeys.  To rediscover the bit of our lives we have bartered for a bowl of multi-tasking porridge.

We discussed the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico yesterday --
– the rail service that runs along one of the canyons that makes up the Copper Canyon system.

Copper Canyon (or Barranca del Cobre in Spanish) is a misnomer in two senses.

First, it is not one canyon.   There are about nine canyons carved by six rivers, converging into a single river -- Rio Fuerte.  Mexicans love to point out that the canyon system covers more territory than the Grand Canyon.

The second misnomer is the tem “copper.”  There are plenty of ores in these mountains, but no copper.  And the name does not come from the occasional reddish stone in the canyons.

Instead, think patina.  The greenish growth that covers many a copper-roof.  When the Spanish first came to the canyons, they thought they saw copper ore exposed on the cliffs.

They were wrong.  What they saw was lichen.  But the name stuck long after the Spanish discovered their error.  After all, Lichen Canyon sounds like something out of a Disney animated film.

But that has nothing to do with the leisurely pace I discussed at te top of this post.  Our train ride did, though. 


The first class carriage on the Copper Canyon run is just that -- first class.  But the speed was slow.  Just as trains once were.  Even in the dry desert that would have felt at home outside of Tucson, there was plenty of time to see everything.  And to enjoy it.

But the slow speed became a true asset once we entered Chihuahua state -- where the canyon system begins.

The rail line follows the Septentrion River up the Septentrion Canyon.  At its deepest, the canyon is 5250 feet deep.  Part of the fun of the trip is the number of bridges, tunnels, and switchbacks  the Mexican engineers used to defeat the canyon’s barriers while allowing the passengers to enjoy views where the next is more spectacular than the last.

We left the train at Bachuichivo and took a long bus drive (the drive was long, not the bus) to our hotel (Mision) in the mountain village of Cerocahui.

After checking in, we got back on the bus for another hour drive over steep mountain roads that could have qualified as log truck roads in Oregon.  Most of us were wondering what could be worth the tedious drive through scrub pine woods.

But the destination was worth the trip -- and more.  We came around a tight corner, and this was what we saw.


Urique Canyon.  The deepest Canyon in the Copper Canyon system and in Mexico.  Deeper than the Grand Canyon.

But the photograph above is not the deepest part of the canyon.  This is.


It is too bad we did not have ore time to enjoy the subtleties of the view.  Like too many group trips, this was a long ride followed by a brief photo opportunity. 

Had I been traveling alone, I most likely would have stayed two days at the Hotel Mision. getting up early enough to watch the light play over the canyon as the day progressed.

But “what ifs” are for another day.  Now, it is time to get to bed to head to get ready for another train ride.


Francisco said...

Thank you for the stunning photos.  Well worth the travel.

Steve Cotton said...

You are welcome. I just wish the tour would stay at some of these places more than one night.