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Gee Gee Erickson Tells All

Copper Canyon to Cabo Mexico Tour–Favorite Experiences: March 6-19, 2019

Copper Canyon Railroad: El Chepe was our first wonderful experience. We rode the slow train, stopping at many small towns along the way, instead of the faster Express that only stops a few times during the trip. Both go the same route, but on different days of the week. The normal time frame from Chihuahua to Los Mochis is 16 hours. Our trip was 18 hours in duration since we had to stop for another train to use the same tracks towards the end of our journey. (We pulled out of the Chihuahua station at 6:00 am, just as the sun was rising in the
east.

We arrived at Los Mochis at 12:00 Midnight, piled into 2 vans for a 10-
minute ride to the Hotel, then left after breakfast the next morning for a half-hour flight across the Sea of Cortez to La Paz, Baja del Sur). So that first part of the trip was long, yet fascinating.

Chihuahua is a large city, over 800,000 people, in north-central Mexico surrounded by mountains, at about 3,000’ altitude. As we
chugged along, we climbed to the small town of Creel, about 5,000 people in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains @ 8,000’ altitude. The Copper Canyon route goes through a series of several deep canyons, 86 tunnels, over 37 bridges and is 408 miles in length.

The day passed quickly, with beautiful scenery that was ever-changing as we gained altitude: Lots of rough desert terrain, rocks, large
boulders, small streams, scrub plants and trees that I couldn’t identify, cactus, small farms, small towns, poor looking homes, cattle, horses, churches, cowboys.

We stopped at many towns, but didn’t have a chance to get out to
explore except at one town, Divisadero, where a small market was set up along the tracks. The indigenous Tarahumara people who lived there were ancestors of the Raramuri Indians who have inhabited those mountains for thousands of years. They are renowned for their long-distance running ability. You might have heard of Huaraches, their traditional form of minimal leather footwear. They are a shy people, and we saw women and children walking to school or to town along the tracks, dressed in beautifully colorful clothing.

As we ascended the higher elevations, pine and deciduous forests covered the rocky hills and mountains. This area has been both logged and mined for hundreds of years. Inside the train we were very comfortable with roomy seats, big windows and a dining car that served fresh- made food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each car on the train had a certain appointed time for us to walk to the dining car. Also, each car had appropriate men and ladies’ bathrooms. And an official Conductor who walked through at various times, pointing out interesting scenery or things we should know. It was helpful that 4 of the 8 of our group were fluent Spanish speakers who gladly translated for the rest of us Gringos.

La Paz and area: La Paz (population about 250,000) is the capitol of Baja California del Sur (BCS). We stayed in the Boutique Hotel Posada de las Flores. Our sister, Penny who lives in Lodi, California, met us there and was with us for the rest of the trip, making 9 in our group. The hotel is across from the Malecon (the esplanade along the waterfront) on the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, which separates the Baja Peninsula from Mexico.

Penny and I roomed in a newly decorated large Spanish Colonial style suite with French doors that opened to an outside living room/lounge area at the front that looked out on the Sea of Cortez, and to an inside living room/lounge off the spacious bathroom. Bobbe’s Suite was on the other side of the indoors lounge.

Each morning we ate breakfast at ‘The Oliva’ the beautiful roof-top restaurant at the hotel. Their Italian style menu was exquisite for dinners also, and we enjoyed Cappuccinos and cheese-garlic toasted bread as we watched the sunset on many evenings.

With La Paz as our hub, Hector, our Mexican driver (who spoke no English) took us on many adventurous day-trips. We toured the Museum of Anthropology to learn both ancient and modern history of the Baja peninsula, then stopped by the La Paz cathedral, started hundreds of years ago by Spanish Jesuit priests who accompanied the Conquistadores in the 1500s.

We drove to Balandra Beach, well known as the best beach in the area. Another day we made the 4-hour trek across to the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula to spend the day in Todos Santos, shopping, visiting art galleries and a cathedral, eating fantastic food under an open-sided palm-frond thatched-roofed Palapa restaurant. Then off to drive down a one-lane, hilly, curvy dirt road that opens out to a broad sandy beach on the Pacific. We all walked down to the water to take a group pic.

A highlight of our adventures was an overnight on Baja Charter Yacht “Pacifica” where we were treated like royalty with plenty of delicious food prepared onboard by John, our chef. Penny, Bobbe and I were assigned to the V-berth downstairs in the front of the yacht. There were 3 bunks and a bathroom that we shared with the crew.

The first day we suited up in wet-suits, masks, fins and snorkels for a ‘Swim with the Sea Lions’ experience at San Rafaelito Island and coral reef. Unfortunately, it was an over-cast day with choppy water, so the seals stayed on their island, sleeping on the rocks while we paddled around, trying to keep the water out of our masks and stay prone in spite of the bulky life jackets we were given that bunched up under our chins and fought to keep us vertical.

Anna, our perky, knowledgeable Marine Biologist encouraged us with her many insights of living creatures below us, however it was a difficult task for many of us to really see the various fish and coral reef. And then to haul ourselves up that little ladder at the back of the boat near the motor before transferring to the Yacht was even a bigger challenge!

We were awed by a brilliant red sunset during dinner, but the rolling of the waves had a negative seasick effect on many of the group during the night.

Loreto and area: On the 4-hour trip to Loreto (population 13,000) Hector drove over the winding ‘sinuoso’ road up Sierra de la Giganta Mountains to the tiny village of San Javier (population 130) where we toured Mission San Javier de Viggé-Biaundó, known as “the jewel of the Baja California mission churches”, started by the Jesuits in 1697. After exploring the mission, we enjoyed a delicious spicy meal, then saw the 300-year old olive tree that was planted in the early days of that era.

Our guide told the story of the generations of his family who had lived in San Javier taking care of the olive grove: many of his relatives lived to be
over 100-years old.

We continued on to Loreto where we stayed at sister-HotelPosada de las Flores, nestled in an old Spanish-Colonial building overlooking Plaza Civica in the historical district. We walked to the Mission Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho another Jesuit mission built in the 1690s.

On their property was the Museo de las Misiones Jesuitas, a wonderful museum with rooms filled with dioramas, artifacts and maps showing the history of the Missions in Baja California. We especially liked the room-sized diorama of the ancient cave paintings that had been discovered in many caves in the Baja mountains, displaying the depth of intelligence and creativity of the indigenous artists thousands of years ago.

El Triunfo, San Jose del Cabo & Cabo San Lucas: On our way south to the Cabo area Hector took us to the small mountain town of El Triunfo to explore Museo Ruta de Plata (Museum of the Silver Route) which preserves and interprets the rich silver and gold mining heritage and settlement of the region. The private museum (built by Walton heiress Christine Walton) focuses on the period between 1750 and 1930 when the mines were active. During the heyday of the Mexican Gold rush El Triunfo had a population of over 10,000.

Today, almost a ghost-town, the population is about 327. A notable feature of the town is “La Ramona” the 154-foot smokestack that was constructed in 1890 for El Progreso Mining Company. It has been restored and saved by Walton money.

We stayed the last 2 days in San Jose del Cabo (population about 95,000) at a hotel across the highway from the international airport. Penny rented a car so we could drive into the downtown historic and art districts where we visited the Mission San Jose del Cabo on the city square, several art galleries, souvenir shops and even a large fabric store where Bobbe and Penny purchased brightly colored embroidery thread for future
fiberart projects.

We did drive into crowded Cabo San Lucas, about 20 miles away, just to say we had visited there. The city was filled with Spring-Breakers and congested with traffic so we didn’t stay long.

We had a wonderful 14 days in Mexico. We traveled by plane, train, yacht, van, taxi and rental car for thousands of miles, from Eagle Lake to Austin to Houston to Chihuahua to Los Mochis to La Paz to Loreto to Todos Santos back to La Paz to San Jose del Cabos, to Cabos San Lucas, to Houston to Austin and back home to Eagle Lake.

We never saw a traffic accident, not even a fender-bender while in Mexico where there are fewer traffic signals, where Stop signs really suggest slowing down and yielding, where we didn’t speak the language and where the sign most often seen on the highways cautioned us to watch out for cows. Every person we met was kind and helpful and tried very hard to
understand us if our Spanish-speaking travel-friends were not there to interpret.

We ate a wide variety of excellent fresh foods and never suffered any intestinal discomfort. We drank bottled water which was generously available in all hotel rooms. We felt very safe in all the cities and towns we visited. We were delighted with the accommodations.

We were enriched with the history of each area and are so thankful for Caroline Crimm of Historic Tours of Texas who planned and led this Copper Canyon to Cabo Tour. Written by Gee Gee Erickson

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