Friday, December 6, 2019

El Fuerte to Areponapuchi, el seis de Deciembre, 2019

Sandy, my friend from Hong Kong and I took a cab to the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico or El Chepe train station and it arrived almost on time at 8:19-

There were about 10 passenger cars so room for everyone to have a right side window seat.  We were told to sit in specific cars based on where we were going.  It cost $42 for the regional train compared to $73 for the tourist class and the difference?  They have access to the dining car-

I sat in many different seats as I moved to avoid all the chatter and then eventually forward to be in the right car for my exit at Pasado Barrancas.  The trip travels through the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range.  The canyon system is larger and in some places deeper than the Grand Canyon. The majority of the landscape in inaccessible but in the mid-1960s, after nearly 60 years of on and off construction, the painstaking process of laying railway tracks through the canyons was completed.  The route is 653 km of track, a journey that takes anywhere from 9 to 16 hours.  It crosses over 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels. It climbs to an elevation of 2400 m (7900 ft) and descends to sea level.
Along the way-

One of the 86 tunnels-

When we left El Fuerte, we were at around 490 meters altitude but we got as high as 2100 meters.  The track we have just come on can be seen below-

And then poof, we were in pretty flat land-

The route is quite amazing.  Just thinking of the human power it would have taken to build such a track is mind boggling.  So many tunnels, up, down - it’s quite a feat and for so few people living in the area.  It was probably built to haul the copper and silver out of the canyons so worth every penny.

The villages are pretty rubby and the train I was on stops at 13 of them-

 People sell what they can-

I have no idea what este hombre would do with that gigantic pumpkin/gourd.  The black bag on the right had to have been filled with rocks because the first man who tried to pick it up couldn’t lift it.  He found a ride, threw his stuff in the back of the pickup and was gone.  No luggage restrictions on El Chepe-

The owner of the Esmeralda in Posada Barrancas met me at the station and we drove the 400 meters to the hotel.  I had lupper: enchiladas and fries. They wanted to serve it with frijoles and arroz but-

My room is nice-

I went walking in the tiny pueblo-

and found the church-

but no cerveza.  I climbed 150 steps up to a fancy looking hotel with a view over the village and had my first margarita of the trip-

Tomorrow I’ll walk up to the top of the canyon and go to the adventure park.  One nice thing about travelling this time of year is there are few tourists.  There are 15 rooms at the Esmeralda and I’m the only huesped.  The hotel up the hill has 80 rooms and only 4 are occupied.  I shouldn’t have to fight crowds!  

Thursday, December 5, 2019

El Fuerte, Mexico, el cinco de Deciembre 2019

What to do today?  Well, I could sit in my room and listen to the chickens cockadoodledoo while the dogs bark and bark or .....

I had breakfast again at the market - same, same - cerdo asado (roast pork) on a couple of small tortillas with fried cebolla (onions) and cabbage.  Muy rico!  I then walked to the Malecon, believe it or not there is one in small El Fuerte-

It’s probably about a mile long and very peaceful.  I kept walking around the city and ended up at an ice ream shop.  I’m not sure why- I don’t even like ice-cream unless it’s in the cup of a Blizzard.  However I tried two flavours and they both tasted like cold cream.  Calories for nothing!

I came back to my room to continue reading a great book called The Alice Network.  It’s about women spies during WW1 and very good!  Later, I went looking for a couple of historic hotels I hadn’t visited yet.

At first, I thought Hotel Villa del Pescador was closed-

but no it’s open only there are no guests.  It’s very run down and should be closed but the hombre working was very friendly.  It must be hard to entice visitors to your hotel.  There are so many to choose from and from what I’ve seen, I’m one of two white people here right now.  A third visitor in town is Sandy from Hong Kong.  She’s my next door neighbour and catching El Chepe in the morning too.  She just arrived in Mexico two nights ago after a gruelling two day flight.  She’s travelling into South America, to Montreal, Spain, Morocco and France and flying back to HK March 17.  She’s feeling torn about being here - glad to be seeing new things but wishing she were in HK to join the protests.  She says there’s going to be another big one this coming Sunday.

Another hotel I visited is the Torres del Fuerte-

It’s gorgeous with seating areas next to the rooms and courtyard-

and a seating area by the bar at the back of the property-

Once again, I didn’t see one huesped!  So sad.  

I went to Mansion de los Orrantia for lupper.  It’s number two on TripAvisor which I only look at to get ideas of what to do and where to go.  El Meson del General, where I went yesterday is number one.  I ordered a cerveza and of course nachos and salsa come with it-

The nachos are homemade and so much better than not. The salsa on the left was delicious - tomatoes, onions and chilies. The salsa on the right was quite piquante and is a darker colour even though it has the same ingredients because the tomatoes were grilled.

Lupper was filete flameado which is bass stuffed with camarones and queso, no bacon this time and that was the missing ingredient.  The presentation was awesome and the salad “bowl” was a strip of pepino shappe in a circle like bowl a stuffed with verdura-

A funeral was going by when I left the restaurant.  It’s tradition to walk behind the coffin all the way to the cemetery but this procession used a hearse rather than people to shoulder it-

 More potales-

There are quite a few vendors selling statues of Maria and Jesus for Navidad-

Nightly, the Hotel Posada del Hidalgo-

presents a show with Zorro singing Mexican songs-

There were musicians too who were very good-

Entrance is free, but you’re asked to buy a bebida so I had a beer that cost three times what I usually pay!  Not so free after all.  I was visiting with a waiter who has recently returned to Mexico from the U.S.  He lived and worked in California and Las Vegas for 24 years.  He has two sons who are American but he was kicked out because he’s illegal.  He said he’s over the depression and anger - he lost his business, his home, everything. He had to leave with nothing!  

Tomorrow, Sandy and I will take a taxi to the train station. I’m looking forward to moving on!  

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

El Fuerte, Mexico, el cuatro de Deciembre, 2019

There are 121 Pueblo Mágicos in Mexico.  This tourist attracting idea was started in 2016 when the Mexican government chose these towns because of their symbolic attributes, legends, and history.  They show off the great cultural, natural and architectural wealth that Mexico has to offer and are identified on maps with this symbol.  El Fuerte is a Pueblo Mágico-

Today was a day to wander and there are many renovated Colonial buildings to ooh and aww at-

The Hotel Hacienda St Cruz doesn’t have the fanciest courtyard in town but it’s okay-

I don’t have a kitchen so I had to find the Mercado for breakfast.  I had delicious tacos with chorizo, cebolla and cabbage-

I tried to find El Cerro de Mascas which is a lookout point where there are petroglyphs. Yesterday at one of the hotels, I learned it would cost about $27 to go with a guide, kayak a bit, walk a bit, see the petroglyphs and get back to town in about one and a half hours. They’re close to town- 4.5 km and on my map so I thought I should be able to find them.

There’s a swinging bridge to cross-

and then paths.  A worker told me to go to the right because it was shorter and ran along the river.  So I did-

I walked a long way- up, down, up, down. I came to the path that came up from the left at the bridge. I had seen on the map that it made a big loop.  My phone quit working because it was overheated - wouldn’t work, Google Maps couldn’t find my location and all of a sudden it was 7 pm everywhere!  There were a couple of bright yellow arrows so I followed them along a very rocky road down into a gully so I knew that was wrong but kept walking along the path. I kept saying I’ll turn back at the next bend but then would think what if it’s just past that bend. So on I went even through barbed wire gates that were across roads.  I kept reminding myself that as long as I stayed on the road, I couldn’t get lost and I didn’t think I’d get eaten by any wildlife.  I saw a lot of birds that I scared out of trees and once I heard a humming coming closer and closer and overhead.  It sounded like a drone but when I looked up, it was hundreds of some kind of large flying insects.  Maybe it was a flock of hummingbirds because there sure are a lot of them around.  Eventually I turned around and went back to the bridge.  Serves me right for being so cheap I guess but I did get a long walk out of the deal.

Back in town, I asked the  woman who owns the four rooms where I’m staying for a recommendation of a good restaurant.  She suggested El Mason del General and to have filete relleno de mariscos.  The waiter recommended it too.  It was one of the best meals I have eaten in my life-

It’s a flattened piece of bass rolled and stuffed with bacon, camarones and queso, then baked.  There’s a mushroom and onion salsa on top.  OMG!  The restaurant has an interesting history too.  Don Damien Bastillos bought the house in 1899 and for twenty years hosted lavish parties for the rich of El Fuerte.  However, during the Revolution, he fell on hard times so decided to raffle off the house.  He sold 30 tickets at 500 pesos each and announced that whoever’s name he drew would win the house.  General Pablo Macías was present and said that the only way anyone would participate was if Bastillos put his name in too, but Bastillos said that it wouldn’t be fair if he won the house as well as 15000 pesos.  No problem everyone said, expecting his name not to be drawn.  But, guess what!  It was!  The General immediately bought the house from Bastillos and then sold it again that evening to another woman on the condition that if she ever wanted to sell it she had to sell it back to him. It must have been a nice place!

After lupper, I found a Ley’s supermarket and bought my first bottle of wine since on the trip.  I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow in little El Fuerte.  I could take the El Chepe Express in the morning but it costs triple what the Regional does on Friday and I don’t have a reservation further down the line so I’ll stay here one more day.  I like travelling with the locals anyway.

P.S.  Cheering for the Flyers is a family affair!  Apparently Andi was jealous that she didn’t have a sweater to wear!

El Fuerte to Areponapuchi, el seis de Deciembre, 2019

Sandy, my friend from Hong Kong and I took a cab to the  Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico or  El Chepe train station and it arrived almost...