Friday, July 24, 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015 – Topolobampo, Mexico – Mostly Cloudy – 88F

Distance from Puerto Quepos to Topolobampo: 1802 Nautical Miles

Background.  The Pacific Princess will be docked at the container port of Topolobampo, Mexico.  This town, located in North Western Mainland Mexico on the gulf of California In the state of Sinoloa, has a population of about 6400 people. Sinoloa was home to six main indigenous tribes before the Spaniards arrived in 1529 and conquered the locals.

El Fuerte – the fort – is a colonial town (the home to the fictional Zorro) founded in 1563. In El Fuerte, the Posada del Hildalgo Hotel, the inspiration for the home of Don Diego de la Vega, Zorro’s secret identity.

Copper Canyon named for copper-like color of the canyon walls is four times larger than Grand Canyon and 300 feet deeper.  Access is via the Chihuahua-Pacifico Railroad through the Sierra Madre Mountains.  The Canyon is at near 8000 feet above sea level – the train crosses bridges that are 1475 feet above the ground.  The distance from El Fuerte is about 200 miles – the train route follows the contours of the mountains, which mandates many tunnels and bridges.

The ship has arrived in Mexico after calm and smooth night…

We are on tour today – “Copper Canyon” – it is the longest and most expensive tour in our cruising career.  But, based on the comments we have heard, it is not to be missed and it is the crown jewel of this cruises itinerary.


Our Train Route (We stop about halfway)

It is a very early morning.  Our tour to the Copper Canyon meets at 6:15 AM in the Cabaret lounge so I had set a wake up call at 4:45 AM.  I beat the wake up so I reset it to 5:00 AM when room service was ordered for Ellen.  By that time, I had finished my oatmeal and Special K in the Panorama Lounge and was back in the room to get ready.

We made it to the rendezvous point on time and boarded Bus 3.  We passed the nearby town of Los Mochis but our first destination, about two hours away, was El Fuerte.

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Pre-dawn Ride to El Fuerte

El Fuerte is the small town where we will catch the special train - Chihuahua-Pacifico Railroad - that will take us up over a mile and half through the Sierra Madre Mountains to the Copper Canyon.  We hop our train at the station.  There are enough cars that we will have room to spread out and get comfortable.  This is important in that the ride to the canyon will take approximately five hours.

The cars are quite nice (see photo below).  The car is tended by two “waitresses/attendants” dressed in local dress.  These girls will be serving the lunch on the way as well as snacks and drinks. 

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Our car on the Copper Canyon Train

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Getting Comfortable

Although you could shoot pictures through the large windows, if you wanted to get a clear shot, you needed to take it from the back of the train.  This was open and the only thing that kept you from being tossed was a railing.  I took shots leaning against a wall to steady myself.  The picture below shows the train starting its climb.

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We had arranged for a vegetarian lunch with the ShorEx folks and also double checked with the tour guide.  We got a very nice fresh veggie plate along with some tortillas.  The food was OK but what I didn’t quite understand was why our serving girls were wearing both gloves and masks.  The gloves would have met my criterion.

Check it out below.

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Scrubbed and ready for the OR (or Lunch)

The trip up the mountain was very scenic.  The mountains and the canyons were formed by seismic events so some of the peaks are spectacular.  They reminded me somewhat of the Pitons on St. Lucia.  The pictures below highlight some of the geological features we were able to see from the train. 

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The train ride from El Fuerte to Copper Canyon took about five and half hours arriving at the Posadas Barrancas Train Station.   Our time at the Canyon scenic overlook would be short and would consist of lunch and some photo time.

Lunch was served as the very nice El Mirador Hotel.  There were plenty of vegetarian items to eat – served as the table.  We had bass, rice, two kinds of veggie beans (muy bueno), actual veggies, and flan plus good Mexican coffee.  Some kind of fruit juice accompanied the meal but it was a tad too sweet for me.  The meal was delicious.

There was entertainment provided by some of the locals – all in all, a great lunch experience.

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Lunch and Entertainment – El Mirador Hotel

The dining area opened up on to a balcony, from which you could get great views of the massive Copper Canyon.  The color on this day wasn’t as coppery as advertised but the size of the canyon was not exaggerated. 

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The Copper Canyon

I guess you can hike some of the canyon as we spotted some folks on a precarious ledge across the way.  Can you see them in the picture below?

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We were lucky enough to find a passenger to take our picture together.  That’s a new cap I bought from one of the local vendors outside the hotel.

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The El Mirador is a very posh hotel with a lot of wood used in the construction of the building.  We got some additional pictures of the hotel – bar and fireplace.

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The El Mirador Hotel Bar and Fireplace Area

We also walked around the back of the hotel to see some of the actual guest living areas.  It is very rustic behind the hotel and the rooms and suites are very nice.  I didn’t get a chance to see what the room rates were but I bet they are up there.

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El Mirador Grounds and Guest Rooms

We spent a little over an hour at the El Mirador and then we were back on the bus to take us back to the train station.  The Train was waiting for us and we got back into the same cars we were on on the way up.  For some reason, the ride back was a bit bumpier than on the way there.  Also, at one point, the train stopped – we were not sure what had happened but eventually were told that they had to put more separation between this and the train ahead.  After a little delay, we were rolling again.

The serving girls were mostly invisible on the way back except for serving snacks (some kind of Mexican spicy nut) and diet cokes.  Some of the passengers also spent time in the adjoining Bar Car – this car also had entertainment and looked like a fun place.  We opted for the quiet of our car. 

As we got closer to sea level, we got a real nice view of Rio Fuerte.

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Rio Fuerte

As we rolled along to Fuerte and the train station, I caught a glimpse of a very unusual cloud – coming down from this cloud was a rainbow column – not a rainbow but a column of color.  It came in and out of focus and the picture below is the best I could get of this meteorological phenomenon.

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The Rainbow Column

The bus ride back to the pier was in the dark and there was no signal to access the internet.  The town of Fuerte was mostly dark and the closer town of Los Mochis had some places open but looked mostly deserted.  At some point, the bus was driving in near total darkness as they were no street lights of home lights.

We finally got to the ship after almost a 9 hour day.  We grabbed some food in the buffet and that was about it for the day.

Copper Canyon – you had to do it at least once…

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