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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How To Make Your Trip To Copper Canyon Mexico Easier

You’ve probably heard about the train trip through Copper Canyon in Mexico. The Chihuahua Pacifico, “El Chepe” for short, is the only passenger train in Mexico. It winds its way through the Copper Canyon system which is bigger than the Grand Canyon in the US. It is increasingly becoming a tourist magnet. On our train
ride, there were tourists from the US, France, Italy, Germany, and Mexico.

You can fly to El Paso and then drive to the city of Chihuahua, spend the night there and then board the train early in the morning, like 5:30 a.m. Don’t worry, you can get a hot breakfast on board. There’s a dining car and also a bar. The Copper Canyon train runs between Ojinaga (north) and Los Mochis, in the state of Sinaloa, near the Sea of Cortez, but passenger service begins in Chihuahua City.

Your Copper Canyon train trip will take you from sea level to more than 8,000 feet as the train cuts its way through the Sierra Madre Mountains. Reports vary (and we didn’t count) but there are over 75 tunnels, and
over 30 bridges. The views are spectacular, covering all types of terrain – farmland, Indian dwellings, hills, canyons, rivers, springs, waterfalls – you’ll see it all. You can stand between cars for a better view, fresh air, and great photographs. This is truly a photographer’s dream trip, but great for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts as well.

The train always stops at the town of Divisadero so passengers can get out and see the view. As the name would suggest, Divisadero is at a dividing point between the Atlantic and Pacific watershed. You can see down three of the canyons: Cobre (copper), Urique, and Tarahumara. You’ll also want to do some souvenir
shopping. The Tarahumara Indians sell their crafts and there are also food stands.

The Copper Canyon railroad was begun in the late 19th century but because of various problems, not completed until 1961. The entire trip takes around 15 hours. Worried about disorder? There’s a military guy with a machine gun on board, because I guess there used to be robberies. Well not any more!

Since this is not a sleeper train, you can stay in hotels along the way where you may find trail rides, hiking, a van trip down the canyon, ATMs, local music, sights (like balancing rock), missions, food and shopping.

Google “Copper Canyon” images and take a look at the photos. If this whets your appetite, here are some tips to make your trip easier:

 1. Southwest Airlines flies to El Paso. That’s a no-brainer. Many Americans spend the night there, and then their guide drives then across the border to Chihuahua the next day.

 2. Be sure you have a valid passport.

 3. Yeah, it’s a good idea to take something for turista, just in case.

 4. You’ll also need some special clothes for your trip:

a. A hat or head covering, sunglasses, and good sunscreen. Think of it like skiing in Colorado. High altitude.

b. Comfortable casual clothes, jeans, shorts, t-shirts are fine. The temperature can vary. Bring layers. Of course there is air-conditioning on the train. In one hotel, we turned the heat on at night.

c. A backpack or something you can put over your shoulder to put all your things in like purse, passport and camera.

d. Film or batteries for the camera. Trust me – you’ll take hundreds of photos and never tire.

e. Shoes for horseback riding, hiking and the ATV.

f. Something for rain. There were sort of tropical showers in the afternoons and evenings when we were there.

g. Bathing suit. Some of the hotels have hot tubs and pools. Check before you go. You may also want to take a dip in some of the beautiful rivers.

 5. Dress clothes optional. Our tour included two really nice restaurants. So if you like to dress up, go ahead. The one we ate at in the town of Chihuahua, it was Sunday afternoon and the families there were dressed. (It was also one of the single best meals I’ve ever had.)

 6. Any special equipment for your laptop, cell phone etc.  Everywhere we stayed had computer connection, but not always a computer. What was nice was the ones that did have computers and Internet let you get on the Internet without charge. They don’t do that on a cruise now, do they?

 7. Check with your cell provider before you go about coverage. There were blackouts for us.

 8. A guide. He can handle the luggage, the tickets, the lines, the local culture, the language and currency, getting through customs, and they know where the good places and the good water are. In the towns where we stopped, there was always a place to buy the things we needed or wanted, like bottled water.

 9. Get insurance – if you’re driving in Mexico, and also check your health insurance to see if you’re covered in Mexico.

10. One last thing  — Toilet paper. Yeah, you’ll see a lot of the locals getting on the train with a roll of TP. The restrooms were well-stocked (and clean), but it seems to be a tradition.

I’d heard a lot about the Copper Canyon train ride. It’s one of those trips that exceeded my expectations. It helps to be well-prepared, so I hope these tips help you. It’s a vacation trip you don’t want to miss!

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