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El Chepe
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-10-18 16:24:46 | Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico
Keywords: attraction, canyon, train
Mexico, partly due to its geography, doesn't have many passenger passenger services; there are only 2 or 3 train liaisons in all the country. By far the most famous is 'El Chepe' ('Chepe' stands from 'Chihuahua El Pacifico'), which runs between Chichuahua (city) and Los Mochis on the coast. It's been qualified as the most scenic train ride in the world, because it goes by one of the most famous natural wonders of Mexico: Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon). That canyon is deeper, wider and larger in size than the USA Grand Canyon... and it's green!

Throughout the way, the train zig zags on the sides of the canyons, making loops, passing through tunnels and over bridges with dramatic views. It is very spectacular. The train makes a 15-min stop at Devisadero and right next to the train station there's a view point from where you can see the Canyon. It's worth the time to get off the train and take some pictures. Make sure you listen to the whistle to invite you back onboard though. There are also lots of food and souvenirs vendors waiting for the train. You can buy about everything from fresh fruits to tacos, from indian-made crafts to China-imported t-shirts to commemorate your passage there.

Divisadero is the middle point of the train ride and it's at a crossing of many canyons, making it a wonderful attraction point. However, there are few hotels in Divisadero, and all are very expensive. Most tourists stay in Creel, a more touristic city located East from Divisadero, where hotels are plenty and where you can get tours to go to Divisadero and explore many other portions of the Copper Canyon. While I was there, I was sick, so I didn't venture far from my hotel. I could have stayed a few extra days to visit... but I was anxious to leave the altitudes and come back to sea level, to ease my recovery. Divisadero and Creel are at 2 300 m (7 590 feet) of altitude: days are hot and nights are cold.

The whole trip takes about 16 hours, and leaves from both ends at 6 AM and arrive at the other end around 10 PM. You have two classes. One is the Express Primera class while the other is the Economico. There used to be two trains where the Express would skip a few stops delivering you at the other end about an hour earlier, but now the 'Express' cars are just the first 2 or 3 cars in front of the train, so you do get there at the same time as the 'Economico'. The prices for the 'Express' are almost double the economy class. For what? Not much... you get carper in the car instead of vinyl, your own snack car and a more constant presence of the special policemen patrolling the train. Yes, there are many armed (with automatic firearms, like M-16) special government forces making regular rounds in the train.

I took it from Chihuahua to Los Mochis. In Chihuahua, the train station is right in the heart of the city, but in Los Mochis the train stops basically in the industrial park. There are tons of cabs waiting for passengers. With the large flow of people getting off the train, they pack cars with as many parties they can fit in... and make many stops. There's kind of a dispatcher grouping passengers going roughly in the same area of the city.


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