Marvels of the Copper Canyon and Beyond

 

 

Who says there’s no free lunch? Not the Secretariat of Tourism of Sinaloa, as they recently invited a group of media types to take a tour of the northern part of Sinaloa into Chihuahua, including the wondrous Copper Canyon…on their peso. Would I like to go? Are you kidding? The following series of articles are my impressions of one of the most adventuresome and fascinating areas of Mexico. Enjoy.

Sparkling Clean Los Mochis and the Pristine Bahía Topolobampo

Mazatlán is my favorite town. As a sailor/writer, it makes a perfect cosmopolitan home port as it lies in the center of a wildly variable part of our adopted country. Beaches, deserts, jungles and mountains. For those of us who love to explore the countryside, it is perfectly situated for short jaunts or longer trips. From here we can grab a bus to most anywhere and within a few hours at most, be in a new and different world.

A world older and more colorful than the Mayflower folks ever imagined. A world more advanced than Cortez could envision. A world that has since managed to maintain its classic ‘old world’ character as it adopted the comforts and ease of the ‘new world.’ An ideal combination for this traveler, I happily realized as we headed north up the modern toll road through the lush agricultural bread basket of Sinaloa.

We had boarded a TuriStar bus that can only be described as a combination rolling B&B and the first class cabin of a 747. Not a bad way to go if you enjoy individual movie-viewing, music-listening, book-reading and window-ogling at the reason why America has fresh vegetables in the winter time. Six hours later we pulled into the thriving town of Los Mochis.

All I knew about Los Mochis was that it had a heck of a baseball club. Their games played against our local Venados nine are classic. And now I see that their town is too. The first impression is one of spotless beauty. The wide plazas, traditional colonial style architecture are one thing, but it took me a moment to realize…the town is spotless. Not a scrap of paper, not an errant dulce wrapper. Nada. Spotless. This was my first sense of the depth of pride the people of this flourishing region take in their towns.

Los Mochis, in a sense, is the economic gateway to the entire northern Sinaloa area, and it shows. The town reminds me (I hate it when other gringos do this…) of Santa Barbara in California. It is a special place. A place of wide boulevards, towering palms, first class hotels, restaurants and shops (including most of our favorite American franchises), centered around the largest, most beautiful botanical gardens this side of Central Park in NYC. It is ultimately a people’s park and families and couples flock to the shady paths, ponds, exotic flora and grassy swards day long and into the evenings.

The huge park was created by Benjamin Johnston, an American who first came to the area in the early 1900s to build a sugar refining plant. He and his wife, Agnes, also practiced their passion for trees and plants by traveling around the world and collecting two of everything they could find for the increasingly vast gardens around their home. From Royal Palms to Banyan trees to exotic India Ficus, their garden grew. And the town naturally grew up around their highly successful sugar venture and today the park is deeded to the city. It is the center piece of Los Mochis.

While there I met several park folks involved in creating for this fall what can only be described as a live music and 1900s costume drama concert extravaganza to be held in the park. I am definitely going to be there. Stay tuned.

From Mochis it is a short hop to the deep sea port of Topolobampo. (I have sailed past this harbor many times on my passages up and down the Sea of Cortez, but had never ventured inside. I won’t do that again.) The extensive harbor, or bahia, is rife with wildlife, both above and under the clear waters. Its many coves and estuaries contain an amazing amount of birds, fish and my favorite swimming mammal, the dolphin.

As a life-long sailor, I have spent countless hours draped over my boat’s bowsprit talking to these delightful characters when they stop by to play in my bow wave. (Well, at least I talk. Hey, I’m a single-hander. It gets lonely out there.) However, here in Topolobampo there are three families of dolphin that seem to live inside the bahia. Year round. And when you board one of the sport fishers to go after the “big one,” or a sightseeing boat to view the Bird Island sanctuary, many of them will come by and check you out. Eyeball to eyeball.

By now you’re hungry. Don’t miss going out to this nearby sand spit at the edge of the bahia. Isla del Maviri is dotted with palapa style restaurants serving the freshest, most delicious mariscos dishes I have ever tasted. (I fell in love with this place and could have eaten my gluttonous way through the entire island but they said it was time to go. Something about a schedule. Geeez.)

Nearby, on the way back to Los Mochis, we saw a huge cave from which black clouds of bats pour out every evening on their way to supporting the area farmers and those of us who can do without mosquitoes. Bless their little hearts.

Back in my palatial, air-conditioned suite for another pampered night, I look forward to further adventures. Tomorrow we will be heading east to El Fuerte, the birthplace of the fabled El Zorro. Hunkered under an ancient fort atop a riverside hill, this beautifully traditional town is where I imagine Humphrey Bogart and his two buddies provisioned for their foray into the mysterious Sierra Madre mountains. (There is where I’ll want to keep an eye out for an ancient apache war party threading its silent way down a shadowed arroyo, or maybe I’ll imagine a long, dusty line of U.S. Cavalry riders in their fruitless search for the bandit, Pancho Villa.) For here is where the following day we will board the train leading up and into the jewel of the massive Sierra Madres, the land of the ancient Tarahumara tribe, the Barrancas del Cobre… the awesome Copper Canyon.

I can’t wait.

For information on this and all other places of interest in Mexico, plus how to get there in comfort and style, please contact Mr. Iván Pico at: Secretaria de Sinaloa, Paseo Olas Alta Sur #501, Centro Historico, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, CP. 82000.

Tel: (669) 9818883 ext: 87 – Fax: (669) 9818890 – Email: ivan.pico@sinaloa.gob.mx

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