2012 Mexican Roadtrip: Chihuahua, Chih. to Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre)

We left Chihuahua around 8:45 a.m. and drove to Creel, arriving around 12:30 p.m. The periferico around Chihuahua was quiet-ish on Saturday morning. It’s kind of like a highway but definitely not limited access. Garmin got us to Hwy. 16 and we took it for many kilometers. There were patches of irrigated land but mostly desert with the Sierra Madre Occidental in the distance--and then we were in them. We went through an apple growing area with irrigated orchards. We were on a 4-lane road that was divided and paid a M$81 toll. Then the road turned into a 2-lane road. All of the roads were in good condition.

We drove amongst pine trees with big bushy pine needles (we think called Apache Pines), ascending and curving and then descending and curving. We climbed to 2284 m from 1497 m in Chihuahua. We turned onto Hwy. 24 into San Juanito (we think) where we encountered a Saturday market that took over every road in town (practically). When we got to Creel, we looked at the Best Western and thought it was awful--small rooms that were dark and expensive. We also looked at a new hotel, Quinta Mision, Av. Lopez Mateos 69, that had big rooms with kitchens. But we decided, however, to continue on towards Divisadero and Areponápuchi (Posada Barrancas).

Our total kilometers were 309 and we arrived at 1:51 p.m. We looked at the 3 hotel choices nearby, all with spectacular views of the Barranca del Cobre and all requiring that you pay for 3 meals a day for 2 people (1. Hotel Mansión Tarahumara (quirky, with small rooms and reviewers said spotty hot water) where we were quoted a rate of M$1700 for #9, a small room, 3 ½ long flights up after driving to the top of a vertical road; 2. Hotel Divisadero Barrancas which quoted a rate of M$1950 for their honeymoon suite room #52 and which was more accessible; and 3. Hotel Posada Barrancas Mirador, a part of the Balderrama chain, which quoted a rate of M$2520 for their Suite Wakajípare. We decided on the most expensive because Posada Barrancas Mirador felt like a real hotel and the room was big enough for us to bring in all of our suitcases.)

So we stayed 2 nights at Posada Barrancas Mirador (Hoteles Balderrama), Estacion Posada Barancas, Areponápuchi, tel. 01 635 57 8 3020, e-mail: info@hotelesbalderrama.com, web: www.mexicoscoppercanyon.com. We fulfilled Dimitri's fantasy of staying at the rim of the Copper Canyon (where he had been 25 or 30 years ago before he met Audre). Our room was nice but without a fan (it was hot). We loved all the hummingbirds, spectacular views, nice balcony and the TV with music channels. The hotel's architecture is colonial and it has thick salmon-colored walls that glare out from the monochromatic canyon. There was a fireplace in room, vigas in the ceiling, a 53 gallon water jug for all of the guests and it was very quiet except when the people having a conference of ecotourism arrived and stayed over.
At the Posada Barrancas Mirador hotel, Dimitri got his wish of a balcony at the very edge of the canyon. This was the view from the balcony of our suite.
The afternoon of our arrival, David, on the staff of Posada Barrancas Mirador took 7 of us on a one hour hike at the rim of the canyon (including 4 children--one incredibly young for a kind of rough hike). We saw awesome views and David told us about the flora. There is a small tree called a madrone, that sheds its bark and becomes red (the original burning bush?) and lots of scrub oak. There is also a small bush that has red branches. It's called a manzanita. The big pine trees with big, long bushy needles are called Apache Pine. It was a fun hike. 

At the rim of Copper Canyon we were at 2282 m in elevation and at 28° N. It was 80° in the afternoon. There was a Happy Hour at our hotel where drinks were half price and they served (fairly good) popcorn (for free). We had 2 beers (M$45 for a beer.) We were the first ones (there weren't many guests the first night) to go to dinner when it started at 7 p.m. We had a wonderful waiter, Tomas. The meal wasn't wonderful but Lonely Planet had prepared us for that. The view from the dining room was spectacular, however.

The next morning we went to do the zip line. It was really, really fun (zip line (volando en la tirolesa) and teleferico M$600 per person = M$1200 (about US$100) in the Parque de aventura Barrancas del Cobre. We zipped around the canyon and had wonderful views. BTW it was 6 at 8 a.m., quite a change from the afternoon before! The canyon is so humungous that the cable car and the zip lines are tiny in comparison and are almost invisible.
Audre and Dimitri on the zip line (or tirolesa) in Copper Canyon (or Barranca del Cobre)
After the zip line we took a 1 hr 30 minute hike down from the rim to the Rarámuri settlement of Wakajípare (the same name as the name of our suite) in Barrancas del Cobre. It was a 3.24 kilometer hike in total and we went from 2200m to 1700m (1 m = 3.3 ft. 500m = 1650 feet). How does Audre know this? Her Maptaq watch, of course. There is evidently underground water in the village but it was so dry that we saw a huge tank servicing the houses. Audre was surprised to see prickly pear plants the size of trees in the village. They are called nopales and they are everywhere in the arid Mexican areas.

We ate the lunch (provided by our hotel--one of the 3 meals a day we paid for) in the shade of a boulder in Wakajípare.
The view from our lunch spot in the village of Wakajípare
We visited the museum in Wakajípare and talked to the lady who keeps it.
In the museum in Wakajípare with the lady who maintains it
All of the Rarámuri we came in contact with seem quite shy and are not at all aggressive even when trying to sell their crafts.

After our hike, we were back up at the rim of the canyon where the cable car (teleferico) station was. We took that back to the other station where our car was parked (and where we had started our zip line).
A Rarámuri woman shared the cable car with us
We loved our Barranca del Cobre experience but felt we had done it. So we decided to leave the next day and go to Creel to mountain bike (it is the center of mountain biking in the area, we were told).

We gave our hotel this feedback: You have a special hotel in Posada Barrancas but you are not maximizing its potential. You need to employ people who are friendly and hospitable. At reception, when we arrived on 16 June, we were not welcomed—not even with a smile (and the gerente/manager was at the reception desk). After our excursion on 17 June, when we entered the hotel, the receptionist asked us how we enjoyed our excursion. That was an improvement. Next, your policy of charging M$40 for 15 minutes of Internet is outrageous. No matter WHAT your costs are for Internet, we are paying M$2520 per day and Internet should be included in that price. Our Suite Wakajípare is too dark. The light bulbs should be brighter. The chest which looks like it has 6 drawers actually only has 2 real drawers (4 drawers are Fake). This is ridiculous. We were contemplating staying 4 nights but the room does not have adequate storage and all of our suitcase must stay open on the floor. Tomas, our server, is friendly, professional and knowledgeable. We enjoyed him. David (from the tours department) was helpful and pleasant.

This is a view of the hotel we stayed at taken from the canyon below. 
What a special location!