Chihuahua, Mexico – “Are you sure about this?”
“No. Are you?”
“But, we’re gonna do it?”
Five days into our trip and we were echoing the words we had said to each other as my dad dropped us off at SFO to catch our flight to Chihuahua, Mexico.
This time we were strapped into harnesses on the ridge of a canyon that we were about to fly across on zip lines.
There is a certain amount of fear that comes with doing these long trips. Fear of the unknown, the language barrier, the constant quest for food, lodging and transportation. It didn’t help that we decided to start this trip in Chihuahua – a state so plagued by drug war violence that the US State Department has barred it’s staff from traveling to the entire state. But most of that violence is in Juarez, near the US boarder, and most violence is not directed toward tourists. So we strapped on our money belts and headed to Chihuahua.
We were the only Gringos on our flight from Houston – also the only Gringos in our hotel, and it felt like the only foreigners in all of Chihuahua.
After a couple of days tooling around the city and taking in some sights like Pancho Villa’s home (including the bullet ridden car he was killed in) we hopped on El Chepe, the last passenger train in Mexico, which winds its way up and down the Copper Canyon.
We finally spotted some Gringos on the train – seems most other people that take El Chepe do it with a tour group.
Copper Canyon is actually seven canyons and is deeper and covers more area than the Grand Canyon. El Chepe makes its way from Chihuahua along the Canyon to Los Moches on the cost. The ride takes about 14 hours, but we decided to stop at a couple places along the way.
We did a whirlwind stop in Creel. We got off the train around noon, took a five hour tour of nearby Tarahumara settlement, some funny looking rocks, a lake and a waterfall and then it was back on the train the next afternoon.
At Paseo Barranca we got off the train, and so did all the tour groups – and everyone but us got into vans to go to the fancy $200 a night hotel, except us. We were left feeling a little like, “uhh…. how do we get to the place that we want to stay?”
But things seem to have a way of working out and a guy asked us where we were staying and he called the owner to come pick us up.
We took a hike out to the canyon ridge and got our first glimpse of the ziplines over the canyon. They were long and high, and terrifying,
Stuart met a guy in Creel who had done the ziplines and talked about crying women and suspension bridges with missing planks and men who were shaking after they finished the longer of the lines. Needless to say, as we found ourselves the next morning strapped into harnesses listening to a 20 minute safety lecture – that we did not understand a word of – we were scared. And maybe I cried a little.
We did eventually get some instructions in English and after the first line we weren’t scared at all – ok maybe just a little. The longest zip line was over half a mile long and we had to go in pairs so that we gained enough speed to make it across the line that inclined at the end. We got up to speed alright – 65 miles per hour.
As for the trembling men, crying women, and missing bridge planks, we saw none of that. The whole experience was very safe – and Stuart wisely surmised that a lot of money was invested in this park – if they even had one accident they could kiss their investments goodbye.
We rounded out our day in Paseo Barrancas with a horse ride along the canyon ridge and then rode El Chepe the next day to the the coast – a lot more relaxed and a lot less afraid.