We’ve done this before, border crossings that is, but still a little nervous. Our last night in the US was spent in the border town of Douglas, Arizona in a 100-year old restored hotel with magnificent Tiffany stained glass. It was the first time at a hotel where we had to trust our bikes to a parking lot out of direct control and Mike put every padlock, chain, and security device in his collection on the bikes. Everything was fine. The night before we entered Mexico Shannon kept asking Mike what was wrong and he just said it was nerves. She thought he was crazy until the next day about 50 feet from the border and she commented her mouth was very dry, her nerves were just on time delay.
The crossing was smooth as silk with Ducati neatly toted across in his duffle dog bag (looks just like a purse/messenger bag). Having done all our vehicle documentation online ahead of time made all the difference and we really wish this was possible for all borders. We were able to get our tourist cards and validate our vehicle import stickers (we didn’t know if they would need stamps or not) within 45 minutes. The last thing the US customs agent said before we crossed into Mexico was “watch your stuff and stay off the mountain roads at night”. We were also told that the road we were taking right after the border was a known narco body dumping area – but, that is at night and not during the bright light of day.
Everything was absolutely fine and the road was beautiful all the way to Nuevo Casas Grande – our first stop for the night on our way to the Copper Canyon. In route to Creel (the jumping off point for all things Copper Canyon if headed from mainland Mexico and not Baja), we passed through a strange little area that has been settled by German-speaking Mennonites that came to the area some 100 years ago. If you didn’t know any better it looked and felt like the middle of Iowa.
Made it to Creel to the one known campground close to town that was listed in guidebooks and what we found online. It was published as having 71 RV pull through sites with additional tent sites. We figured this sounded like a fairly large and well-established location that would work well for a night or two. Well – it has seen its day and currently while there are 71 RV pull through sites the grass is nearly 2 feet tall, the picnic tables are rotting, and it is has clearly been many years since an RV has come to stay. The cabanas and restaurant however were hopping and they said yes, you can camp anywhere – so we did. We were the only campers and we shared the vast lot with wild dogs and horses. This is where Ducati met his lady love – see his post:Ducati’s blog
Not too much Copper Canyon to see from Creel as it is high elevation, on the rim of the canyon and reminded us of the pine forests of northern California. We got some additional bits of information about the roads ahead. There are towns that can be found deep within the Canyon: Urique and Batopilas. We believe they are connected by a road (to be confirmed) so we opted to start at Urique as we had learned about an intriguing option for camping with communal kitchen and we anticipated a multi-day rest period in Urique. Off we went in the morning light thinking an easy day of only 95-miles. The first 52 were a piece of cake – paved, twisted, and scenic. Then the road construction started and a detour to the old dirt road for the next 6-miles or so and then it got really interesting when we turned off the main road and headed into the Canyon. The next 37-miles were steep (yes, an old man waved us the right direction saying go up and over the mountain), treacherous, rocky, narrow, and some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen. It was straight out of the Hobbit movies – absolutely incredible. See our one-minute video of the drive: Copper Canyon
We made it to the bottom where we were greeted with tropical temperatures and flora; a complete change from the cold nights at the 7,000-foot canyon rim where we started. The camping at Entre Amigos in Urique, while a little hard to find, is spectacular. It isn’t “season” here yet so we are actually the only ones on the vast property other than the caretakers (owner lives in Oregon) so we have our tent set up under some lovely shade trees and full access to the communal kitchen/lounge house that includes a hard-wood Ping-Pong table as well as the lush gardens on the property providing fresh produce every day complements of our camping fee. It is like getting our own house in Mexico for the price of camping ($10/night). It is so comfortable that we have stayed six nights. Ducati thinks we live here now and has developed a routine that after waking up, eating breakfast at the tent, he walks up the path to the kitchen/living area and lounges on an outside couch for most of the day. Only stirring to bark occasionally at a lizard walking by (or the caretaker, Tomas).
Mike’s spirit guide, the noble donkey, has visited us every other night in Urique but has kept its hee-hawing on the QT, only munching grass can be heard from inside the tent after dark.
While very comfortable in the mornings and evenings the mid-day temperatures are very hot and humid. When we first walked through the village (around 4pm) we thought the place was mostly abandoned and boarded up but upon later inspection (around 7pm after the sunset) the place was lively. It seems everyone in the valley goes into hibernation from 11:30-4:30 to beat the heat.
Tomorrow we leave this bit of relaxing paradise to head into the unknown. At this time we have heard that the road to Batopilas from Urique is similar or worse than the one we road in on, it is either 31 miles per GPS, 60 miles per the gas station attendant, or 90miles per Google maps on my phone. We don’t have a clear map that shows the road but we have been assured there is a track from Urique to Batopilas. Wish us luck – of course this will get posted from Batopilas as we have no access to the internet from our campsite.