13 March 2007

Chugging through the Copper Canyon

El Chepe train

I just returned from a sojourn across Northern Mexico, which included a train ride on the "El Chepe" through the Copper Canyon. Being short on funds, I naturally took the "clase economica" which was comfortable and at times highly amusing. It cost half the price of the tourist service, but who needs an overpriced dining car when gordita vendors at the many stops serve up good cheap eats?

The passenger train, the last one of its kind in Mexico, chugs from Los Mochis, Sinaloa near the Pacific Coast to Chihuahua on the high plains. It climbs more than 2,000 meters and takes around 15 hours. The train is often behind schedule, but not for my trip - at least the first part of it. El Chepe arrived barely two minutes late in Creel, where I climbed aboard.

Creel is a logging town turned backpacker haunt and a popular spot for launching excursions into the canyon. By boarding in Creel instead of Chihuahua, I avoided an early morning departure, but the town is where most budget travelers end their train journey after starting in Los Mochis. I instead headed towards the coast and ran the risk of missing the spectacular scenery near the western end of the run due to darkness.

Perhaps I lucked out. The train passed through the best spots as the sun was setting and there was just enough light. We arrived a bit late in Los Mochis, but after the a ride on El Chepe, who cares.

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