Mexico, Sinaloa and Chihuahua

February 3 – 12, 2016.

Mazatlan or Topolobampo?

After more than 2 months into the Baja, we arrived on Mexico’s mainland on February 3rd, 2016 via the TMC ferry from La Paz. For 2 adults and our truck camper the cost was $4,230 Mexican pesos ($235 USD). After much discussion and research we decided to go to the Port of Topolobampo instead of Mazatlan which is further south and apparently safer. We could not pass up the opportunity to see Copper Canyon, that consists of six distinct canyons, larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. So we took our chances.


We got off the ferry around 9:00am and were driving on the road to Los Mochis (Yes, where El Chapo was captured in January) when we experienced our first “shakedown” which is the term used when the authorities exercise intimidation tactics to get money from you. In our case it was the municipal police of Topolobampo. As we drove through a large intersection we made the mistake of making eye contact with a the police unit sitting in the middle of the intersection. They swing around and pulled us over just past the light, we were almost already stopped. The officer was insisting that we were speeding, he said he was going to keep Joe’s drivers license and kept on showing us his ticket pad. Joe even politely mentioned he was a retired Customs and showed his badge but we don’t know if it helped or not. We told him we were going to the police station. The officer was impatient and was receiving no help from his partner who remained at the rear of our rig. After 5-10 minutes of back and forth nonsense in broken spanglish he shoved back Joe’s license and gave us a warning and let us go. As we drove off we noticed him and his partner in a big heated discussion. It was our first but certainly not our last shakedown but at least the ice was broken.

El Fuerte, Sinaloa

El Fuerte is a beautiful colonial town, part of the *Pueblo Magico program. It was founded in 1563 by a Spanish conquistador and served as a trading post for silver miners and gold seekers from the mines in the nearby Sierra Madre.



*Pueblos Mágicos or Magical Villages is an initiative led by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism, in conjunction with other federal and state agencies, to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a “magical” experience – by reason of their natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance. (Source: Wikipedia)

So far we have visited a few of the one hundred plus Pueblos Magicos (Loreto, Todos Santos, Creel, Mascota) and were never disappointed.

El Fuerte’s Central Plaza.
El Fuerte’s Palacio Municipal (city hall).  A bit more grand than Blue Sea’s municipal office!
The courtyard of the Palacio Municipal where all official business is conducted. Every door offers a different service.
Apparently this Hacienda converted into a Boutique Hotel was the birthplace of the Legend of Zorro!!! He still shows up every night for happy hour!
Joe got a Mexican cowboy hat in El Fuerte. Now he blends right in!!!
We left our camper in the backyard of this wonderful old lady, Esperanza, while we took the train to Copper Canyon for a few days.
Her house was across the street from El Fuerte’s train station. We slept there the night before we took the train and when we returned. $100 pesos per night.

Copper Canyon – Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua

The most popular way to explore the Copper Canyon is by train. We took the train from El Fuerte to Creel where we stayed three nights and took the train back to El Fuerte where we had left our camper.

Land of the Tarahumara

The Tarahumara or Rarámuri how they called themselves are Indigenous people of northwestern Mexico, they are renowned for their long distance running ability. Originally inhabitants of much of the state of Chihuahua, they retreated to the high sierra and canyons such as Copper Canyon on the arrival of the Spanish explorers in the 16th century.  They have kept their traditional way of life but today they struggle to protect their land from being taken by the Mexican army, drug lords or corporations wanting to exploit their mineral resources. Tarahumara women wear the traditional brightly colored clothes and sell their crafts around the Canyons and the town of Creel. We saw a few men still waring the traditional Huaraches (car-tire-soled sandals) that inspired barefoot running.

El Chepe or Chihuahua-Pacific Railway has been in operation since 1961 and runs every day between the town of Chihuahua and Los Mochis with many stops along the way.
It’s 418 miles (673 km) of rails, 39 bridges, 86 tunnels and rises as high as 7,900 feet (2,400 m) above sea level near Divisadero (continental divide).
Just taking in the spectacular landscape.
Our first view of the Canyon in Divisadero.
Gorditas on a wood burning fire. YUMMY!!!
As you can tell by our clothing it was considerably colder than the coast!
Parque Aventuras Barrancas del Cobre: We took the Cable Car halfway across Urique Canyon, the trill seekers can choose one of the zip lines or rappelling down.
One of my favorite photos.
We bought a shawl and bracelets from this Tarahumara lady and she let us take a photo. They usualy look away when they see tourists with cameras.

Creel, Chihuahua

We got off the train and stayed one night at Villa Mexicana in this nice log cabin.
They had a main lodge with a nice restaurant. We sat down for dinner thinking that our meals were included, that’s when we found out we were at the wrong hotel.
The next day we moved to Plaza Mexicana, where we had made reservations, a bit more modest but quite charming.
We got a nice clean compfortable room including breakfast and dinner for 2 for $600 Mexican pesos ($34USD).
Walking dow the main street in Creel.
They still use horses as a mode of transportation but he checks out his Facebook on his smart phone. Not so remote after all!
This Tarahumara lady gave up the traditional colorful clothing but she still lives in a cave.

Getting lost …

One of our most memorable experience was the day we rented mountain mikes to tour the main attractions on dirt roads/trails around Creel. A 20 km itinerary that was suppose to take about 4 hours. We were having a good old time until we realized we were lost. Somehow we had lost track of time and took a wrong turn that took us 15 km away from the trail. We went up and down mountains mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape and found ourselves in a dead end in a remote Tarahumara community. Darkness was coming and we did not have the stamina to go back up the mountain.

Luckily we spotted an old pickup truck (the only vehicle in the community) parked near one of the huts and were able to negotiate a ride back to Creel. The young Tarahumara man who immediately offered his hand asked us to wait and went back inside.

He came back out 15 minutes later with his young wife and their newborn baby wrapped in colorful blankets. We stowed our bikes in the truck bed and sat in the backseat. We were so thankful for their kindness we just could not believe it.

The road was so bad that it took more than hour pushing his 1977 Chevy 2 wheel to make it back to Creel. We tried to initiate a friendly conversation, but to no avail. On the way we picked up an old man on the side of the road, he was also going to Creel and strangely enough they did not speak to each other!

Once in Creel, we thanked Ignacio profusely and gave him $500 Mexican pesos ($28 USD) and a bag of peanuts and said our goodbyes.

Our four hour tour had turned into a seven hour journey! Joe even made it back to the hotel on time to watch the Super Bowl! WHAT A DAY!!!


Rock formation of the Valley of the Monks.
San Ignacio Mission.

Mazatlan, Sinaloa

We were a bit apprehensive about driving through the state of Sinaloa so we left early from El Fuerte to drive the 302 miles (486 km) to Mazatlan. We made it under five hours on the cuota (toll road) 15D with no incidents.

Mazatlan is a resort town on the Pacific coast where tourism and fishing are the main industries. It’s the birth place of the Pacifico beer and Señor Frog’s !!! It seems that it has past its prime but we still enjoyed long walks on the Malecon and exploring its restored Centro Historico (old town).

The Malecon (ocean front promenade) is 13 miles (20.9 km) long, said to be one of the longest in the world! We arrived the last day of Carnaval, just in time for a picture by one of there many inflatable temporary culture!
Dramatic cliff!
One of the many beautiful sculptures lining the Malecon.
Old town, Cathedral (1875).
Old town, Parque Revolution.
Old town, Plaza Mechado.
Playa Olas Atlas. Are we there yet? I’m hungry!
$199 Mexican pesos ($11 USD) for a BBQ Rib dinner for 2 in the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone). Can’t beat that!

Next, MEXICO, Nayarit … stay tuned!

16 thoughts on “Mexico, Sinaloa and Chihuahua

  1. je vous suis toujours ….magnifiques photos! Merci de partager ces beaux moments avec nous…soyez prudents!

  2. Sweet…..I’ll be in Matzalan in May to conduct an instructor development class….by then you’ll be further south. Also be in the DF the third week of April..if you are near we can hook up for a cervesa. Ellen Stamey will be my co-instructor. Looks like you are living the life…..great!

    1. Hi Bob, Great to hear from you. We are currently in Guadalajara staying with friends but will be heading south in a few days. We will let you know when we get to DF. Hooking up would be great! J&J

  3. Hola amigos! Thank you so much for sharing this jouney! The photos are lovely and the story a great reminder of staying open to the road. Trust. Raymond’s big barn collasped under the ice and snow. ;-( I’ve sent the book to the publisher. Sugarbush started on Monday. We did 135 taps with another 200 or so to go. Should begin really running this weekend. Love to you both, Rozanne

    1. Hola Amiga! Always great to hear from you! Thanks for the updates on Blue Sea and the sugar bush. That was a chocker for Ray’s barn! Congrats on the book, you have to save us a copy!Big kisses J&J

  4. Wow amazing stories and beautiful pictures!! I had a lot to catch up… I get goosebumps about the crazy stories. We haven’t been able to talk to you guys but things are pretty hectic here in the rat race. Our schedules are to the max but you guys are constantly on our minds and kiddos always have you present. I’m going to send some pictures via email. Not posting much on social media these days. Love you both and happy super belated bday. I thought we would call but days just keep going by.

  5. Thanks for the instructive description of your trip.You are real troopers. Sorry but i cannot open the pictures.

      1. Sadly no!!! Baja is wonderful but we are done with desert! However, picking up family tomorrow for 2 weeks with them in La Ventana. Then driving to San Diego to get our camper fixed after the border accident and then, finally, heading back down into them mainland in mid-late April. We have rented an apartment for 3 months (May-Jun-Jul) in Puerto Vallarta so if you’re still roaming about then let us know and we can finally meet up.

      2. Oh bummer! Maybe down the road! We are leaving Guad in a few days, then visiting family in Ajijic and a friend in San Miguel de Allende. Head south from there. 2 of our grandkids ages 5 and 7 will be joining us in Guatemala for the month of July. We are really exited about that. We really enjoy reading your posts and the black dogs chronicles, so keep them coming! Safe travels!J&J

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