Ay, Chihuahua! A Trip to the Copper Canyon!

Nov. 04, 2008

We left Wednesday night at 9 p.m.  After two stopovers of varying lengths and one confusing time zone switch, we arrived in Batopilas, a tiny city at the bottom of the Copper Canyon, at 2 p.m. Friday afternoon.  We left Monterrey on a rather classy night bus, with fold-down leg rests and everything.  The second leg of our journey, from Chihuahua City to a town called Creel, was taken by a less comfortable but still totally legitimate passenger bus.  The third leg, a five-hour journey from the rim of the canyon down into the very base, was made by an twelve-person van with no seatbelts.  Scary!!

The travel time was totally worth it, though, for reasons including:

  • the fantasically cute and cheap jewelry I found in Creel during our 18-hour stopover. I’m telling myself they’re presents, but I probably won’t part with them.  Sorry, guys.
  • gorgeous vistas descending into the canyon
  • the best tostadas I’ve ever had, in a restaurant on our way back to our guesthouse after a long, sweaty hike up the side of the canyon
  • swimming in and sunbathing on the shore of a river — in mid-October!
  • getting to see an indigenous tribe, the Raramurí/Tarahumara, and how the “real” Mexicans interacted with them. It wasn’t pretty.  For example: as I waited to check out at a tiny grocery store (more like a dry goods store you’d see in old Westerns), the shopkeeper banged on the counter to get a Raramurí woman’s attention, addressed her as “tú” (the informal, disrepectful form of “you”), gruffly took her money and hustled her out of the store as quickly as possible. When I checked out right afterward, the shopkeeper was sweet as could be, using the formal “usted” form with me and waiting patiently as I fumbled for the right change.
  • getting to use my travel Spanish.  My academic Spanish is good, and I am fully understanding the lectures my professors give, but I still sometimes struggle to find the right words to use in class discussions.  It was so nice to get back to phrases like, “Excuse me, could you tell me where the bathroom is?”  Three separate people commented on how good my Spanish was.

The guys I traveled with, two fantastic gentlemen from Iowa and Washington, are both super Christian.  I’m really not.  One of the most interesting cultural aspects of the trip was actually just spending a full week with the two of them, watching them pray before meals and read their Bibles before bed.  On our last day in the tiny town of Batopilas, one of the guys and I trekked out to a deserted mission church.  Inside a 15-year-old girl was waiting for us, holding a laminated letter stating that she was epileptic and needed money for the medicine she takes.  Upon scanning the letter, Jordan opened up his wallet, handed over a sizeable bill, and asked if he could pray with the girl.  Which he proceeded to do, out loud, with his hand on her shoulder, without hesitation or awkwardness.  I was so impressed.  It was honestly one of the most foreign moments of my study abroad experience, and one that has challenged most my ideas and assumptions.

For a fuller idea of my trip, check out the pictures at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2031186&l=569b3&id=1299990023.

UPDATE: The New York Times just published a photo slideshow of the train ride through the Copper Canyon. We didn’t actually take the train, but the slideshow shows the Casa Margarita, a sweet hostel where we stayed for $10 — breakfast and dinner included.  Best deal EVER.

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