Week 45: Batopilas, Divisadero, El Fuerte & Los Mochis. Mexico

The start of the week myself and Israel made the 4 hour journey to the bottom of the canyon to a small village called Batopilas.  I didn’t really know what to expect and just decided to go with the flow upon Israel’s recommendation.

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The  stunning road to Batopilas
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We stopped off en route to do some vulture spotting. There were loads of them!

We were warned the heat was insanely bad and they were right. Even sitting in the shade I was dying. All I could eat for the day was ice pops. We stumbled across Casa Monsay where we stayed. It was just an old woman who rented out dirty rooms full of cockroaches. I’m not exactly fussy so it did the job. Israel  on the other hand wasn’t  too sásta with the set up. We didn’t have any other choice as practically all of the hotels and restaurants were closed.  There was a really strange vibe in the place and felt like a ghost town. We were the only tourists in the small village of 1,800 people. It was absolutely stunning and has been titled as one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos. Israel had hay fever so took to the bed for the day.

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The beautiful buildings of Batopilas
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An extremely pretty little town

I went exploring by myself taking photos. A few people asked me was I a journalist and why was I here. It was a bit strange but I didn’t think anything of it. I was just chilling in the plaza when a group of kids almost attacked me. About 10 of them flocked around me with their teacher asking me would I mind answering a few questions in Spanish. This was bizarre as the first question was ‘cual es un cite sexual?’ (what is a sexual date?). A little bit taken a back I still tried to explain this in Spanish. I thought the kids would be giggling but they were full on serious. Quite an uncomfortable yet hilarious encounter.

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The local talent of Batopilas
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Childhood friends. They meet on the same bench everyday for the chats.

Anyway later that day I asked someone why there were so many armed guards and why everything was closed. It transpired that Batopilas is home to loads of Narcos. It is a well established place for drug production because the village is so inaccessible. Apparently they are trying to re vamp the village to attract tourism but people are still too scared to go ( We clearly didn’t get the memo). Obviously a gringo ‘journalist’ is probably not the best title to be carrying around. We both considered staying in Batopilas for the independence day celebrations. There was also an ultra marathon taking place in the canyon which I would have loved to have seen (I was invited to participate!!!). We both decided against it as there was absolutely nothing to do, nothing open and the heat was pretty unbearable. Still such a worthwhile place to see and completely off the beaten path.

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Independence day ready Batopilas
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This photo perfectly sums up Batopilas; a gun, a tarantula and an empty restaurant

The only way out of Batopilas was the 5 am bus. We arrived into Creel in the early am for some delicious coffee and we both parted ways. I decided to take a bus to another part of the canyon called Divisadero. I wasn’t too excited  about this and figured it would be really touristy because its main attraction was this adventure park, home to world’s longest zip-line. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I met Tim a lovely American on the bus who was struggling with the Spanish. We got lapping and he too was en route to Divisadero. We both presumed there would  be a town of some sort but all it has are a few extremely expensive hotels overlooking the canyon (pretty cool). I had decided to camp where we got dropped off. There were a few cabanas which had rooms for a reasonable price. Tim is a semi retired pilot from California backpacking solo around Mexico. He also is an avid motor bike traveler so he was giving me some dangerous ideas. Tim’s room had 3 double beds in it so he offered me a bed in place of the tent. As much as I love camping in my battered/bruised tent I couldn’t resist. Such a sound guy.

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Creel’s burrito buses

Tim had never been zip lining before so he convinced me to join him. I had decided not to do it having done it recently in Peru. I am so glad I did. So when we arrived at the park the place was completely deserted. We had panoramic views of the canyon it was amazing and completely to ourselves. Someone told us during the weekend/ holidays the place is crowded so we were lucky. We did  a circuit of 7 different zip lines and two different suspension bridges. It was incredible and worth every penny.

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Me at Divisadero’s Canyon
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Me and Tim on one of the suspension bridges
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Tim you legend!
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Sensational views from this cable car

I just can’t understand why nobody is here. Locals were saying lots of people still think the north of Mexico is extremely dangerous. Obviously it has its parts but I felt really safe. That evening myself and Tim got a few beers and trekked up to one of the fancy hotels overlooking the canyon and pretended to be guests. We drank our classy cans while watching the sunset into the canyon.

The next day me and Frenchie (another chap in the hotel) were up at the crack of dawn to do this trek to the bottom of the canyon. At dinner the night before a couple recommended we do it that the guide was amazing and it was the best trek they had done in their lives. Huge statements. I was afraid of missing out so decided to go for it. Turned out to be the biggest waste of money and we ended up just strolling along the side of the canyon to different miradors. We definitely could have done this ourselves but I have been warned several times that trekking in the canyon alone is really dangerous and I was asking for it. For once I took the sensible option.  You win some you lose some and definitely not the worse thing have a massive canyon all to yourself at sunrise.

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How the locals live in the Canyon
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Morning Walks in Divisadero
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Sunrise in the Canyon

Later than day we all headed towards the train tracks to catch the Chepe train en route to El Fuerte. This 653 km  train journey is known as one of the most beautiful in the world and it is really easy to see why.  It passes through a series of tunnels that go through the canyon where you pass loads of rivers and waterfalls. It is dolla but completely worth it. I spent most of the 6 hour train ride outside soaking up the views.

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One of the many tunnels
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Friends in the right places. No issues getting mugged on the train while hanging out with these lads
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The massive El Chepe train
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Some of the stunning views
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Views from the back of the train

We were all warned about the heat in El Fuerte but nothing could prepare you for this. It was 100% humidity and unbearable. I could barely take any photos as my camera kept steaming up. Myself and Frenchie stayed in the cheapest hotel we could find. Tim went a little more upscale. Tim not able to hack anymore tacos insisted on treating me and Frenchie to a beautiful fish dinner in an upscale restaurant. One of the kindest guys I’ve met on my trip. When Tim was my age he went backpacking for 2 years and completely understands slumming it. We opted for delicious sangria in an attempt to cool down. Poor Frenchie was staying put for a few days in El Eeurte.  I was delira to be leaving first thing in the am, Tim too. I headed to Los Mochis where my flight was leaving the following day.

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Children in El Fuerte getting ready for Independence day
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The height of what I saw in El Fuerte

Disaster struck in Los Mochis when there was a thunder-storm. The roads starting flooding and there was absolutely no ubers, taxis or buses to make the 20 km journey to the airport. The roads were steadily filling up with water. Afraid of missing my flight I tried to hitch hike. This was useless as the roads were practically empty. After about an hour I started walking and saw a police van and asked them would they bring me to the airport. I had nothing to lose and to my luck the police were bored out of their trees and were delira to help. Once again a very lucky duck making the flight by the skin of my teeth.

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At least one of us was happy about arriving at the airport!

The next stop was Puebla 2 hours away from Mexico city. They are worlds apart and I much preferred Puebla. It is stunning and is known for its culinary delights the most famous being mole. Mole typically contains a mixture of chilis (sometimes up to 7 types), nuts, seeds, tomatoes, raisins and the secret ingredient is chocolate. It contains more than 30 ingredients and it originated in Puebla. It is usually served with raw onions, toasted seasame seeds with shredded chicken in a tortilla or with rice. This with an ice cold corona is heavenly.

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Mole enchiladas

Below is Rosa. She was begging me for 10 pesos for a bottle of water. She was quite demanding and rude and wouldn’t budge until I prouced the goods. Anyway I gave her the money not wanting to deny an elderly woman water.  She emerges seconds later demanding more money saying 10 wouldn’t cover the cost. Feeling generous I gave her more and moments later she produces a bottle of liquor and a beaming smile. She instantly became super friendly and we sat down for for a few drinks together to celebrate Mexico’s independence day.

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Having none of it
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We cracked a smile (post booze)
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Happy independence day Mexico! Spent with the best. The irony of the sign behind! I think Rosa needs this number

My time in Puebla was spent mostly eating and drinking. It is renowned for its culinary delicacies so I was in my element.

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Chalupas: Traditional  tortillas in Puebla fried in tons of beef lard, spicy salsa and pork. SO HEALTHY
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Chili en Negoda: My favourite Mexican dish. Chili stuffed with meat, dried fruit and nuts. It is covered in the most sensational sweet walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate and parsley to represent the Mexican flag. SENSATIONAL

 

Week 44: Zacatecas, Chihuahua & Creel. Mexico

I was told that Zacetcas was a must visit while in Mexico. This is a gorgeous mining town home to where Corona is made so I didn’t have to think twice about coming here. I did couch surfing with a lad called Edgar who turned out to be a complete legend. On our first night we went for beers with his friends where I was introduced to the Mexican delicacy mescal (similar enough to tequila but nicer). I then had some tofu ceviche with the most spiciest piquante of my life. I ended up getting a migraine from it. It was outrageous stuff. Even the Mexican lads were in sweats. The next day Edgar took me to all of the street vendors  where we sampled lots of local Zacatecas dishes. We climbed up to the most stunning view points and hiked for the rest of the day. We then took a drive out to the mountains to watch sunset and to sample some surprise surprise tacos. These were in fact my best tacos to date. Delish.

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Mexico in a nutshell: Tacos y Micheladas
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View of Zacatecas
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The sombrero on its second week (record!!)

Edgar was a complete gent. He was living with his parents and gave up his room for me. This guy has backpacked before so understood how precious a bed is while travelling. Edgar warned me about his two dogs one a German Sheppard and the other a poodle (quite the combo). Anyway he informed me both dogs were vicious and would probably bite my legs so I wasn’t allowed leave the room without protection. So if I needed the loo in the middle of the night I had to wake him up.  This was a bit of a disaster as I generally need the loo every morning at 4 am.

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Edgar in one of Zacatecas’s caves
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Stunning views of the valley
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Trekking in Zacatecas

Anyway post tacos I wasn’t feeling the may west (at all!!).  I said good night to Edgar and prayed the feeling would pass. I felt so so guilty for waking his entire family but had no choice because of the dogs.  Anyway the night was a rough one and I was in ribbons. 4 am came and I felt violently sick, not wanting to wake Edgar/ not knowing if I would make the bathroom in time. I ended up frantically trying to empty my food bag to get sick into it. Food bag was conventionally ripped so sick ended up all over me and the floor. I then tried to do a tidy up job using some of my clothes. I was a little bit panicked/delusional that I ended up gathering up all the sick and putting it in my backpack. Delightful.

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The delicious culprits

Anyway the next morning I felt marginally better and managed to eat some grapes and beans (probably the worst combo). I still hadn’t a chance to dispose of the sick monstrosity as it was steaming away in my backpack. Anyway after an excellent tour of Zacatecas myself and backpack full of sick made our way to bus terminal where I eventually managed to get rid of last nights evidence (including some of my clothes). Clothes supply is steadily decreasing yet weight  of backpack steadily increasing?! So once again not my finest moment but needs must. Thank you Edgar for a memorable few days in your gorgeous hometown.

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I absolutely loved this church
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Loved the colours
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Beautiful squares in Zacatecas

Next stop was Chihuahua in Northern Mexico where a few people had warned me not to go because it is notoriously dangerous especially around the boarders with Narco trafficking. The reason I wanted to go here was because of the famous Copper Canyon ( crazily lots of Mexicans have never heard of this place). The journey here was nothing short of nightmare. So from San Luis  Potosi  I had organized a bla bla car. We planned to meet at an Oxxo shop (Oxxi is like the spars of Ireland). Anyway obviously I went to the wrong Oxxo and the driver just left without me. I waited desperately for an hour for him and eventually realized he was never coming. This was v dodgy because my flight was leaving in a few hours. I luckily managed to get the slowest possible bus. There was some serious mechanical difficulties from the get go and the bus crawled through the streets stopping every few minutes to check the engine. We were stopped on 4 different occasions by the police looking for our passports. It was a hideous journey that took 4 hours longer than expected. I had resided to the fact I would miss the flight.

Luck was on my side and we pulled into the terminal at 5.15 am so I got into an extortionatly priced taxi and told him to peg it to the airport. I get to the airport and ques were out the door. Stress was on a next level. Although long bus journeys are sick they are definitely less stressful than flying. I was allowed skip the que given the circumstances. It was no surprise when my backpack was announced overweight and I would have to pay. Obviously I insisted on wearing all my clothes/ sleeping bag and carrying my pot. I looked and felt like a hobo but who cares I managed to get myself and excess luggage through free of charge. I literally have no recollection of being on the plane but we landed in Chihuahua and my next task was to find a bus to the small village of Creel, 6 hours away.

I managed to hitchhike from the airport  where the man dropped me off at a massive supermarket. As per usual I got seriously overwhelmed and bought enough food for a small army. The man packing my groceries ended up dropping all of my tomatoes and stood on them (?). It was a sign of how stupid the shopping expedition was. The subsequent 40 minute walk to the terminal was hell on earth with the big family grocery shop and 25 kg backpack. Anyway en route a lad called Pedro felt sorry for me and carried my groceries to the terminal where I got the last seat on the bus. Things were looking up. Until…….the bus broke down. We were all told to abandon the bus and wait on the side of the motor  way for a new one. Trying to organize all my stuff was a nightmare and all of my food bags ripped. I was literally walking around the motor way with tomatoes, tins of tuna & sweetcorn,  a pot , a sleeping bag and a sombrero. An hour later I realized I had forgotten my entire back pack luckily I found bus man and it was retrieved. In fairness losing the big backpack wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world.  I am starting to look and feel more like my Uncle Joe as the days go by (not that that is a bad thing he is a legend). Delirium levels were reaching an all time high.

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Scenes….

At this stage I had almost been travelling for 24 hours. When the new bus came I made mates with a chap called Guatalupe and the rest of the journey flew in (Guatalupe was also extremely delirious so we hit it off immediately). We arrived into pissing rain. I had planned on camping but considering the abysmal journey I treated myself to a room (this place is not touristy at all that no dorms exist). I was disheveled to say the least and was so grateful to have my pot, stove and abundance of food. I cooked up a mushroom pasta dish and a cup of barry’s teas in the room and k-od for the next 12 hours. The only other backpacker in town was an Israeli chap I met on the bus so we planned on going mountain biking the following am.

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24 hours and still going……
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Room service (backpacking style). To be fair the freshly ground pepper in luxurious

Luckily the weather was amazing the next day.  One of the must sees here is Valle de los Monjes. It is a formation of rocks where you can climb to the top and see the most amazing views of the nearby canyons. The place was deserted and we had it to ourselves. Definitely a highlight. It was clear the horrible journey was completely worth it.

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Mirador at Valle de los Monjes
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Valle de los Monjes
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Me on top
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I could look at this view for days

A personal favourite was valley of the mushrooms where they had loads of rock formations naturally shaped as mushrooms (v random).

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There were mushrooms everywhere
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Just  another mushroom

The next day myself and Eres rented a scooter and decided to visit the nearby Cusarare waterfall. This was a stunning drive and the waterfall was seriously impressive (and empty!). We met a local who showed us how to get up close to the waterfall. This was probably a bit dodgy but definitely worth it. Isreal wasn’t to keen on me driving the scooter but I insisted and loved every minute. One of the most spectacular drives I have ever seen.

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Cascada Cusarare
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From this point we saw a complete circular rainbow. 
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Rainbows and waterfalls

Afterwards we decided to make the most of the scooter and venture to a nearby town that someone had recommended to me. Eres was getting really ancy with me when there was no sign of any village. I was delighted and really enjoyed the amazing scenery.  It was honestly jaw droppingly beautiful. We were getting slightly worried (Israel more so than me) as we were dangerously low on fuel and at the bottom of a canyon. Anyway we decided to turn around and managed to reach a tiny village near the waterfall where we figured we could get petrol. There wasn’t a dribble in the whole village. We definitely weren’t going to make it back to Creel. I got chatting to a lovely lad and  explained the situation and he suggested taking fuel out of his car. This worked a treat and he didn’t charge us a penny.

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The drive…
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Our shitty scooter just about making it out of the canyon
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Operation get fuel!

En route home we stopped off at the most stunning lake to chill for a while. Eres is a professional spoon maker and is an expert at carving wood so that’s how we spent our afternoon.

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Lake Arareco, Creel

That evening when I got back to my hotel I realised I had locked myself out.  I wasn’t too concerned and figured the hotel would have a spare key. There was no spare but there was a machete so the owner  without hesitation literally cut the door open without batting an eye lid. Only in Mexico!! My room was right beside the train tracks so anytime a train passed the room would shake violently. It was actually kind of scary as the hotel I picked  definitely wasn’t the sturdiest. Creel is an up and coming place and definitely in 10 years time will be different and presumably a lot more touristy.

Myself and Israel planned on making our way to a village called Batopilas the following morning. It is located at the bottom of the canyon. It takes 5 hours to reach by bus.

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The indigenous people here were scared of tourists and kept running away from us
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Bird shaped rock
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Beautiful Creel
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Artesanias