Friday, October 13, 2006

Creel and the Tarahumara

Today was our first day under way aboard the train -- what a trip! Since we are the first rig in the line-up, we have an empty car in front of us (the "buffer" car), and we have a mostly unobstructed view out our panoramic upstairs window, cracked though it may be. Ahead of the buffer car are our two locomotives, the second of which is facing us. So it always looks like we are facing down a freight train. Adding to this illusion is the fact that part of the crew has been riding in the second locomotive, so they are facing back at us through their windows. (The rest of the crew, including the armed security detail, is traveling in an old-fashioned caboose, complete with wood stove, at the rear of the train.)

The price we pay for the magnificent view is that we get more than our fair share of diesel exhaust. It was mostly tolerable, except when we forgot to seal up all the windows before hitting the 4,000' long tunnel, an oversight which quickly set off the smoke detectors. We also have an area on our car in front of Odyssey, and we spent some of the ride sitting there in our lawn chairs.

The scenery today was magnificent, even though the best is yet to come. Louise took some photos and video for posting later. We departed La Junta just before 8am, and arrived here on a siding in Creel (map) close to 1pm, a journey of about 71 miles, and a couple thousand feet in elevation. After the train was parked, we had a brief lunch at a local hotel, followed by a bus tour of the Tarahumara Indian region adjacent to the town. We ended our day with dinner at the same hotel.

Creel is actually a thriving town, based principally on a heavy tourist trade. It is easily accessible by good paved roads, and by the railroad, which supports quite a number of passenger trains. It is a major jumping-off point for tours of the Copper Canyon area. The railroad, by the way, is the Chihuahua Al Pacifico, known locally as "Chepe," and has a rich history of its own.

Tomorrow we will make our final transit of the Continental Divide (the rail line crosses it three times), and from there it will be downhill to the Pacific.

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