The last few days in Mazatlan, I spent doing internet searches for info about the Copper Canyon train trip. For the curious, this was in late March, 2013. Yeah, I’m a little behind in posting.
Naturally, I avoid ‘tours’ as those offers are always much, much more then if you just travel by yourself. A guided Copper Canyon trip is a minimum of $895. That doesn’t pay for most of your other expenses, like an RV space. I can see the need of some people to have their hands held on trips like this because you can make some bone headed mistakes and end up in a ‘situation’ but I’ve been pretty successful avoiding problems by myself on trips like this. I do a lot of internet searching, read blogs of people who’ve done the trip and things like that. I also have a pretty good idea of places to stay, internet access, cash needed, etc. The Copper Canyon train is something I’d wanted to do for several years and after a couple days of research, I thought I had a good handle on it all.
My plan was to head north up the coast to Los Mochis, spend the night at the RV park there that bills itself as the Gateway to Copper Canyon, then up to a nice RV park in El Fuerte where I can catch the train and avoid a long boring section of the trip.
So when the day arrived, off I went through the uncrowded streets of Mazatlan. Trip was to take 6 or so hours so it was a short drive, all in daylight. Thought there would be at least 2 RV parks available in Los Mochis so if one of them was closed, I’d have a backup. Then there was always a 24-hour Pemex in larger cities so no worries.
I didn’t think much of this RV park. Really ancient electrical. I parked in the shade of a giant Oak tree and had to plug into the electric over a space since mine didn’t have a ground. No WiFi, no cable, and despite their ads about being the gateway to Copper Canyon, business was so bad they didn’t have any info available. I won’t put a link to their site here as I’m not recommending. While I was wandering around looking at the place with the park host, spotted a rat crawling out of one of the open sewer inlets. The park host sort of scoots the cover over the hole after the big rat had spotted us and scurried back down the hole. But watching the chickens was amusing for a while.
There were a dozen or so chickens and chicks wandering around the park.
I was kicking myself for not trying to make it up to El Fuerte in one day as it’s not that far from here but on the other hand, this place was easy to find, right off Mex-15, and trying to find a park in a small village like El Fuerte at dusk can be problematic as those small villages often have very narrow streets and sometimes lack the most basic street signs. And I figured the road up there would be a typical Mexican side road. Slow going. Or so I thought might be the case.
Next morning, I head north on what turned into a very nice divided four lane highway. Smooth, wide, even had shoulders. Pleasant drive. Turned into 2 lane around 10 miles from El Fuerte. Turns out this town has a population of around 14,000, is a business center for the local farmers, and is the birth place of the real El Zorro. Hah! Didn’t know that. As I was driving into town, immediately noted a newer and large mini-mart and fuel station. Plenty of room to park my RV for a few minutes while I ask questions. No one there at the time spoke English, so I followed my own directions and head for the RV park. Which didn’t seem to exist where I expected it to be. Damn. Wandered back and forth a few times around the area that now has a newer bedroom community but didn’t find any signs for the RV park. Drove back down the road I’d come in on and stopped across the street from the Hotel Bugambilias…which I knew had some RV spaces. While I’m looking at my maps and travel info, the hotel owner spotted me and wandered over. He speaks English and I ask him about the other RV park. He tells me the place has been closed for over a year now. No other RV park in town. So into the hotel park I go. Tight fit getting in between the cement entrance columns. I first try to park under some nice shade trees. The electric box is nailed to the tree and when I plug in, nothing. Even though the guy guided me into the space, he neglected to mention that the last big wind storm that blew through dropped a large branch on the electrical wires. Jeese, why didn’t he tell me that after I’d selected the parking spot and before I’d wasted my time? There is plenty of maneuvering area as the courtyard is huge. The whole place is surrounded by a large cement fence and must cover 5 acres. Lot’s of growing space if the RV economy ever picks up again.
After he finally fills me in on the windstorm damaged electrical, I drive over to just in front of the hotel (actually, in the US, we’d call the place a motel) where I string my cord over to a 15 amp outside electrical outlet…no ground. Well, that means there won’t be any AC during my stay. No MW either. About all 15 amp will do for me is keep the batteries charged up. And maybe allow a pot of coffee in the mornings. Oh, and TV if I want to try to watch Spanish programs. That does have a certain charm, but makes it hard for me to follow anything since I don’t do Spanish. The place, like most tourist supported places in Mexico, showed signs of happier days. Big kitchen where they use to cook for the tourists. Fruit trees, goats wandering around, a couple acres in back where they were, at one time, planning on installing a newer RV section, and so on. Would have been fun in the old days with 10-20 RVs with all those folks to talk to. As it was, on this particular day, I was the only RV’er, and there weren’t any people using any of the 15 motel rooms either.
Note how cool this place is. Nice place. It was pretty hot though. Around 88°F when I arrived.
The staff was the owner and his ‘younger’ wife, then 3 guys that did all the clean up and gardening. I wondered how they could afford to keep 3 people on staff without anyone there most of the time.
They don’t have a RV’ers restroom, but they let me use one of the motel rooms for that sort of thing. Works for me.
Down at the end of that walkway are several orange trees. With oranges. Oh, and goats. Then in the back were some more fruit trees; mango, some kind of nut…not ready to harvest since it’s too early in the year. That fence in the background goes all around the property. The owner tells me that years ago, back before the ‘troubles with drug lords’ they use to fill that area up with RV’ers. Hmm, I’m starting to think he’s a BS’er. OK, I’ll take everything he says with a grain of salt from here on. There’s no electrical over there and when I point that out he tells me that last week he had nine big class A’s over there and they all used their gensets. Uh huh. Right. For a week, really? Well, he’s a nice guy, and we talked a lot over the week I was here and I ended up thinking that his business is struggling and he’s doing the best he can. Liked his wife too. She’s a sweetie. Even fed me a couple times. Yum, real Mexican food. And good too.
Late afternoon that first day, this neat Mercedes RV pulled in with a nice German couple aboard. They had also headed to the now defunct RV park and like me, backtracked here. After introductions and chit chat, they were happy to help me plan my trip to Europe in ’14. Even invited me to visit them in Hanover if they weren’t out on the road somewhere. They are basically traveling around the world. Shipping their RV to a continent, and then traveling around. Cool. But they often get home and I’m hoping they’ll be around when I visit Hanover.
He shows me around the RV and points out all the custom stuff he’s put in to make it as self contained as possible. It’s a former police vehicle, ’81 with low miles if I remember. He bought the cab and frame and had built everything in the box. Only problems I could find were the small holding and water tanks. Just 20-30 gallons. He has to pull out a small honey bucket to dump sewage and has to do it every couple of days. What a hassle. I prefer mine where I can go 2-3 weeks without having to dump or fill the water tank. But…to each his own I suppose.
One of the reasons he had it designed with metal walls and extra security is because they often travel in, let’s say, unsafe areas and this thing makes them feel safer as it’s kind of a fortress. Bad guys would think twice about attempting a highjacking. Their dream is to travel the world in this thing. Nice.
They told me that they don’t get as much use out of the motorcycle as they expected because the RV itself is small enough that they can just drive it practically anywhere. Small towns with narrow streets aren’t a challenge for it like they are for my 37′ Class A. Also told me that they’d not had any big mechanical issues in all the thousands of miles they’d driven. Irmi and Frieder were very nice and I enjoyed my visit with them very much.
Cool rig. They never invited me inside so I didn’t get a look in there, but they said they have all the features, kitchen, stove, refer, toilet, shower, TV, bedroom. Guess I’ll have to take their word for it. Or I go here for details: Irmi and Frieder, our travel, our car…
So, late afternoon comes around and we’re sitting at their table talking and wearing shorts and short sleeved shirts. Don’t really notice the swarms of tiny mosquitoes that have come over from the giant lake a mile away and who hover just a foot or two above the ground. Sometimes they’ll fly up to eye level or try to land on an arm and we swat them then. What we don’t know is that they are clever little nasties who have some great anesthetic juices so you don’t notice they’re poking your legs like crazy. After around two hours of sitting there letting them stick us, we finally notice and get back in our RVs to escape. No itching at this point…but the next day…yikes, look at all those welts on my legs! Must be a hundred of them. And painful too. Itch like crazy. These must be those mosquitoes that have those little hooks on their proboscis that tear the flesh when removed I’ve read about. Damn little monsters! So, from then on, I wear long pants and slather myself with 100% Deet (which just slows them down a little). I have to use suntan lotion with Aloe in it every two hours to get any relief from the itching.
I use this time to ask around and get info about the Copper Canyon train. The park does not have WiFi so I can’t do my research on-line. Walk across the street to a small Internet Cafe and find they’re closed for several days. Damn. Head downtown to a nice hotel & restaurant that has WiFi available. Take my Android tablet so I can do some more research. Typical downtown Mexican village but with some fairly big buildings. Nice city plaza, nice restaurants, etc.
The village was a Spanish fort built in 1563 by the gold hunting conquistadors. By this time they had murdered over a million Mexicans because they wouldn’t accept ‘the faith’ or worked them to death in the mines and the local Mexican and American indigenous peoples hated them with a passion so attacked them all the time. The Spanish needed a fort. The town sits between two large lakes, which use to have millions of fish. There’s a river right next to the town too, lots of nearby farm land, so you can understand why it was founded here.
The weather was nice and at this time of day, too hot for the mosquitoes to come around.
Some of these buildings are hundreds of years old. On the left are the government buildings. City hall, etc. On the right is a hotel and restaurant, Hotel Posada del Hidalgo, which happened to be my destination as it has a WiFi hotspot across the street and I can surf in comfort with a nice drink. And dinner. Thanks to Havrelino, the owner of the RV park where I’m staying, for the excellent recommendation.
Good food, great wait staff, friendly locals. What more could you want? I didn’t visit any of the rooms here but I’ve read they are really nice.
What a great place. If I wasn’t heading up to Copper Canyon, I’d stay here for a couple days.
Somewhere over there is a statue of El Zorro, up those stairs and under the cupola. Like I said, he lived here.
Great place to stay. During the early ’90′s, this was a regular stop for tour buses. Now they are few and far between. I was told they only get one tour bus per week these days.
It seemed to me in the 4 hours I was here that this place is fairly popular with the locals. It was never crowded, especially not by any tourist other then me, but several families came in for dinner. After I finished my computer work and my dinner, I called the taxi and had him take me back to the RV park. Made an appointment with him to pick me up the next day at 7:30AM. Back home I checked my cash and had over 1,000 pesos. That did seem a little low, but I wasn’t too worried about it. Should be plenty of places to use my card. Or so I thought.
Next time, we board the train for an adventure. See you then, and thanks for reading.