Riding ‘El Chepe’

With a scheduled departure of 07:00, we’d been advised to be at the Los Mochis station by 06:00 in the morning.

Rather than walk, we decided to wait and catch one of the first local buses of the morning. A sound decision given we also had our packs to contend with.

In scenes reminiscent of the ferry terminal in Pichilingue, it was amazing how many people were queued here at the station, attempting to get tickets at the last possible minute… and not a westerner amongst them.

The morning rush at Los Mochis station

The morning rush at Los Mochis station

When the doors to the station platform finally opened at half past six, all semblance of the queue that had appeared orderly disintegrated. Elderly women pushed their way in from the side, mothers used their children as battering rams, and the nice straight line immediately began to resemble something more akin to a fat triangle.

Eventually however, we got through, before promptly finding us in another, slightly more orderly queue (although there remained plenty of pushing in), only upon reaching the front to discover, our queue was at the opposite end (the rear) of the train.

Finally on board, we were issued seats at the absolute rear of the train. Not a bad thing, as it allowed us easy access to the viewing platform at the end of the carriage.

Shortly we were away, however it was a short lived experience, as maybe 20-30 minutes after departing the station, we were stopped.

Why? Nobody seemed to know.

So we sat… and waited… half an hour… an hour… became 2 hours.

Half an hour out of Los Mochis and an unscheduled stop...

Half an hour out of Los Mochis and an unscheduled stop…

The cause of our delay, whilst never confirmed, appears to have been something tragic.

In wandering the carriages, trying to get answers, I’d noticed many policemen arrive, most armed with automatic firearms. Then, in her own snooping, Sarah spotted something worse.

Men in medical uniforms and what appeared to be a body bag.

Shortly after that sighting, we were on the move again, but our suspicions are that there was either a fatal accident or a horrible suicide…

A pretty sobering way to start this lovely journey.

With that behind us, we still had 3 and half hours of lowland travel, before we’d start the climb into the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range.

There were supposedly 37 bridges and 86 tunnels to come, so it promised to be something special indeed.

Making our way through the lowlands

Making our way through the lowlands

Bridge #2 of 37

Bridge #2 of 37

This was magnificent, lush terrain, framed by ever growing mountains and ever deeper ravines. It appeared a mix of the tropics and the desert, with vibrant green trees, living beside thorny cacti.

The day was lengthened due to the unforeseen delay (we’d brought snacks for the trip, but nothing more substantial than a packet of tostadas and a couple of oranges), so thankfully the scenery was stunning enough to keep our minds off our stomachs!

Unprepared to make this drop down into the river

Unprepared to make this drop down into the river

With such a winding path, often we could catch the front of the train from our vantage point at the rear...

With such a winding path, often we could catch the front of the train from our vantage point at the rear…

The ascent began to increase, and as such the train began to slow, but we still powered on (the train, despite the gradient, was only hauled by 2 diesel engines), giving us some even more impressive elevated views.

Looking back down on whence we came

Looking back down on whence we came

By this bridge, I'd lost count...

By this bridge, I’d lost count…

Gradually the view began to change.

We were even higher, but the lush ravines began to give way to needled pines and even the occasional meadow, the whole scene looking very European!

Even that heat (for the day that began in Los Mochis had been hot indeed) slackened on my occasional venture to the back of the train.

Rocky meadows and spindly pines

Rocky meadows and spindly pines

In fact, the changed vista prompted me to comment on several occasions (Sarah will claim it was many more), that perhaps we were now head to the Black Hills town of Deadwood.

Yes, I did begin to imagine Creel as a Wild West town of prospectors and cowboys…

Have we reached Deadwood yet?

Have we reached Deadwood yet?

Eventually, about 3 hours later than we’d anticipated, we pulled into the small station of Divisadero (not actually a town, more just a stop) for our scheduled 20 minute rest, and where we’d anticipated having lunch.

By this time it was 6pm, so it was indeed a late lunch, and we were starving!

The train began to empty, but Sarah decided she’d stay on board with our bags, whilst I was charged with food procurement, and trying to get the only possible sighting of the actual Copper Canyon on the train voyage.

Our (well my) first glimpse of the actual Copper Canyon

Our (well my) first glimpse of the actual Copper Canyon

'El Chepe' at rest in Divisadero

‘El Chepe’ at rest in Divisadero

I just realised, I’ve neglected to explain what the name ‘El Chepe’ actually is.

Nothing too exciting here, simply the Spanish word for ‘The’ (El) and a hybrid abbreviation of Chihuahua and Pacifico gives us ‘Chepe’

Now with task one completed (capture a view of Copper Canyon for us), I started on the probably more important task of sustenance for our bodies.

My approach, was simple, look for the quietest food stall and order some of whatever they had.

It worked out pretty well, as this placed sold fried Gorditas filled with meat and mashed potato (which I was able to add a few extras to) and they tasted sensational.

A quick lunch at 6pm...

A quick lunch at 6pm…

Back on the rails, another couple of hour or two lay between us and Creel, and fatigue began to play a part.

Less interested were we in the scenery, and even less interested did I become in photography.

It was with a touch of relief when we finally reached this mountain town (at an elevation between 2300 and 2400 metres), were able to finally leave the train, and begin our search for some lodgings…

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4 Responses to Riding ‘El Chepe’

  1. traciehowe says:

    What a beautiful, if tragic train journey. What a shame to discover the reason for the delay, but it probably makes you less impatient when you know what has happened. I’m glad that you guys made it to your destination with no accidents of your own.

    • Chris says:

      Thankfully we were fine, and as we’re in no real hurry, the only impatience experienced was late in he day when I began to get hungry!!

      I do love rail journeys, and this would be amongst my favourites!

  2. Yes, rail travel really is civilized, as one of my travel friends likes to say. And so much more relaxing (other than instances like you experienced.) But it looks like the rest of your journey was lovely, and I can’t wait to read your next post!

  3. Pingback: Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Guadalajara! (I was told it sounds cool saying it out loud 3 times…) | theworldwithchrisandsarah

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