Batopilas - a trip back in time - on a very windy road
Feb 15, 2007
|We woke Thursday morning to frost outside with a temperature of 20 degrees F. The fire in the stove had gone out overnight, but we got it started again and got the room warm enough for a shower before breakfast. Again, the cooks made a fabulous breakfast to send us on our way.
The road down to Batopilas was an experience. It winds around and drops down 6000 feet in 140 km. The first 85 km are paved, the last 65 km are gravel, one lane in most places with hairpin turns and drop offs over the side which seem endless. We were in a 10 passenger van and our driver, Pedro, was an excellent driver. It was a beautiful drive, but definitely not for the faint of heart or stomach. With stops, it took about 7 hours. Where the gravel road started, there was a military checkpoint. Probably to regulate drug trafficking. Shortly before our lunch stop, Pedro stopped to pick up a young boy who was supposedly carrying medicine back to his family or village. He rode on the roof, bouncing on the luggage rack. You often saw people riding in the back of pickups and it seems quite common to give someone a ride up or down the hill. At our lunch stop, you could see the road winding below like a snake slithering down the mountain. The photos we took probably don't do it justice, but we will post them anyway to give you some idea of what we saw. While stopped there, a goat herder came by with his 10 goats, but wouldn't let us take a photo. He was dressed in typical Tarahumara dress, a colorful shirt, with a wrap around his shoulders and waist leaving his legs bare. The Tarahumara are renowned for their prowess in long distance running - 50 to 150 km runs are quite common for them.
Pedro told us that the day before there had been an accident where a truck had gone off the road with at least one death. We dropped the young boy off at a group of mourning Indians carrying a casket which we thought was related to the accident, but maybe empty.
We arrived at our hotel in Batopilas, safe and sound, but beat up from the bumpy road. The hotel had only 7 or 8 rooms, but had a lovely inside courtyard which our group could use as a meeting place.
We walked to the square and next to the church met a lady from the US who ran a shop there who had been in Batopilas for 16 years. Had a very interesting chat with her about how the tourists who came taught the local Indians to beg by offering them money, something they did not do before. She also told us an interesting story about how the local Tarahumara Indians adopted Christanity from the Spanish Jesuit fathers who first brought it to the area. They celebrate all of the holy days, but in their own way to the gods they originally worshiped. For example, on Easter, they make an effigy of a Spanish settler and then they stone it and burn it. I guess that is their way of getting back at the Spanish who first conquered them.
On Friday, we walked out to the local mission. It was about 6.5 km one way, along a river. Beautiful countryside, with farms, houses, burros and women doing laundry in the river. At the mission there were fewer Indians than we thought there would be. But the ladies were dressed in beautiful, bright colors. While at the mission, a heavy lift helicopter flew over carrying what we found out to be a large metal detector, doing surveying for minerals.
On Friday night we ate at a place well known in Batopilas, Don Amicos. It was the front porch of a ladies house, seating about 12 people and you had the choices of what she had shopped for that day. We had excellent chille rellinos there.
On Saturday, back into the van and up the hill to Creel. Creel had the feel of a border town, but with two churches on the square. They had a nice museum with local Indian products supporting a mission school. We found a coffee shop which had an emblem very similar to Starbucks. Also walked by a place with an automated tortilla machine where they were making tortillas for the town.
On Sunday, the train was 3 hours late arriving, so we were worried about Molly and Duffy. At one stop, Mary brought her new basket collection up to 18 pieces. The last purchase was the most interesting. As the train was leaving the station, Mary negotiated a price for a larger basket with handles. The basket lady ran alongside the train handed us the basket and indicated we should throw the money because by now the train was going too fast. So 100 pesos is thrown, and we could see she saw where it landed. Of course, Mary says, "I wish I had gotten two".
The last couple of hours were in the dark, but when we arrived, we found that Molly and Duffy had been well taken care of by Rosalita. They were happy to see us and Duffy hasn't punished us too much for leaving them for 4 days and nights.