Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Los Mochis "Copper Canyon" RV Park

Once again we were up before dawn, ready to unload at 07:00. After an hour or so of fiddling with chocks, straps, and ramps, we rolled off the train without a hitch. The unloading process turns out to involve four groups, onto the two ramps. Our group of five rigs was first, followed by the five rigs on the front of the other half of the train. While the second group was unloading, a locomotive came to pull the first half back, cut off the five front (now empty) cars, and move the next group of five up to the ramp.

The wagonmaster decided to bring each group over to the RV park separately. A good choice, since keeping the caravan together in Los Mochis traffic would have been impossible. Any time we got a green light, two or at most three rigs would make it through before it turned red again -- just getting all five of us here was a challenge. In any case, we are at the RV park (map), waiting on the rest of the caravan to arrive. The wagonmaster unhooked his truck and went back to the rail yard to fetch the second group.

A quick word about the map links. These links are "hybrid" views on Google Maps, which means satellite imagery overlayed by street maps. Unfortunately, Google does not have street detail for Mexico, so most of the maps have shown no streets, or, perhaps, one major highway. Some of the satellite detail, though, has been impressive. For example, zooming the above link in to the second-highest level (the highest zoom level is "unavailable") will show you a detailed view of the RV park, with the pointer very close to our actual space. In this view, the park is empty -- the white rectangles are the miniscule concrete pads provided between sites. If you zoom yesterday's link in to the same level, you will see the tracks and the concrete loading ramp in the rail yard. Several of the links from the train ride have detail down only to the fifth or sixth zoom level, which is to say, no detail at all. But at least one of the earlier links shows the siding, and several of the links from Chihuahua show the RV parks in detail, down to our actual sites.

Now that we are safely unloaded from the train and relaxing again on terra firma, I will share some observations about the train ride. First, let me say that I am very glad we did it -- it is a unique experience, and will make for many good campfire stories (the tales growing taller each year, no doubt). That being said, I will also say that I would not do it again. There are many reasons:
  • The loading/unloading process is harrowing and not for the faint of heart. If you haven't see the video, look here.
  • Strapping the coach down was also a nail-biting experience -- we never knew if the jouncing of the coach en route was doing any damage, straining against the cables. Not unlike the nail-biting that occurs when you need your rig towed.
  • The ride was uncomfortable. The rail car transmits way more vibration and movement to the coach than the coach experiences when driving down the road. This effect is exacerbated by the fact that all the air needs to be out of the suspension, so you are traveling on the stops. Louise lost more water out of the fish tank while on the train than on any road we have traveled.
  • Ferromex does not bother trimming trees along the route -- they just let the trains whack them off. Since we were taller than the locomotives, we whacked some branches ourselves.
  • The ride is painfully slow -- great during the most beautiful stretches, but excruciating otherwise. On the other hand, the trackage is so bad in places that you wish they were going even slower.
As I said, I am really glad we did it, for the experience. But next time we want to visit the Copper Canyon, we will either drive in (all the places we visited up through Barrancas Divisadero were accessible by good paved roads, and have campgrounds), or take the first-class passenger train. The tracks will still be in the same awful condition, but the passenger rail cars have suspension that ameliorates this a bit, plus full service dining and bar cars. Also, Los Mochis to Divisadero is about $65 first class -- I'm guessing the piggyback portion of our tour ran us over $1,000.

Now that I have said that, I also need to say that the Copper Canyon is not to be missed. The scenery is breathtaking, rivaling the Grand Canyon, or Yosemite. The geology and flora reminded us of the Sierra Nevada, but on a much grander scale. Visiting this area is also a study in contrasts -- first class tourist accommodations within sight of people living in a kind of poverty that simply does not exist in the United States. It is also a revealing view into European impact on Native American cultures -- the Tarahumara have been relegated to these lands, barely suitable for subsistence farming, and live in a kind of limbo between their ancient ways and the modern world -- their homes and life resemble more abject poverty than a dignified Native American lifestyle.

We were very happy to have had the chance to make this visit, and hope to return there some day on our own time and schedule. We know we have only scratched the surface of this vast treasure. In fact, in all of our travel in Mexico thus far, we have encountered only one disappointment: Trash. There is no environmental ethic in Mexico, and even places of such majestic natural beauty as the Copper Canyon are treated by the Mexicans as one giant rubbish can. Trash is everywhere -- on the street, along the train tracks, in the canyons, and even on private property. Only the tourist establishments and major retailers seem to do any kind of cleanup at all. Recycling, of course, is non-existent, although, to their credit, Mexicans still re-use their beverage bottles.

We are looking forward to the rest of our journey, now in coastal Mexico. Tomorrow, we will drive to Mazatlan, considered the first stop on the "Mexican Riviera" -- we've been there twice on cruise ships. On this visit, a couple of our readers, who have settled there, have offered to show us around.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, recycling has arrived in Mexico; really only in select very large cities, but it does exist.


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