Dec 18, 2002, 6:31 PM
Post #1 of 6
These 3 days are part of a longer trip taken throughout the Copper Canyon area. I traveled to El Fuerte, Urique, San Rafael, Batopilas, and Creel. Since Keith is a frequent poster to the board, and our group stayed at his ranch, I thought I would give my impressions of the ranch and of Urique. If anyone would like to know more about the other towns I stayed in, or about the train ride, Iíll be glad to oblige.
3 days in Urique
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We were a group of sixteen, traveling to Urique from Bahuichivo in a small bus, just big enough to fit all of us. It was about a 4 hour ride from the train station in Bahuichivo to Urique. Itís a dirt road, but it was pretty well graded.
Being from Florida, the scenery was very different from what I am used to. I think I took a picture every time we turned a corner. I was so in awe, I thought each mountain view was better than the last one. About an hour away from Urique, you can get a good look at it from above if you stop at the overlook.
We arrived at Keithís ranch around dinnertime, and proceeded to make our rooming arrangements. There are two rooms for three, which are attached to the main house, a bunkhouse that I think holds five, and another bunkhouse for 10, which also has a sitting room. There were shelves full of books in the main house and the sitting room of the big bunkhouse. All the sleeping rooms have cots in them with sleeping bags. They are very comfortable. Believe it or not, they were more comfortable than the hotel beds we slept on.
We get the room arrangements all set up, and then we have a delicious dinner, cooked by Maruka and Victoria, who work at the ranch. They are both very friendly, and answered many of our questions over the next few days.
After dinner we just talked for awhile and then headed to bed, as it had been a long day with the train ride and then the bus ride into the canyon.
On the way to my room, Jack called me outside to look up at the sky. There were millions of stars! They were every size, from teeny-tiny to big ones. If I had held a ruler up in front of me there would have been a star at every centimeter mark. The sky was just blanketed with them! Those of you who live in rural areas probably see this all the time, but to me it was an amazing sight!
Since we had all gone to bed at 9:00, I was wide awake by 3:30 the next morning. My roommate, Donna, woke around 4:30 and we talked for about an hour, then decided to get up and dressed. We went for a walk along the river, and saw a burro and some goats. We got to really walk around the property, and see what it looked like in the daylight. It was really nice, it had lots of fruit trees and many shady areas to sit and read.
Donna and I returned to the ranch at 8:00 AM for breakfast, which was scones, eggs, and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice from the trees outside.
After breakfast some of us walked to town. Loved this little town! We walked by the cemetary. Since it was November 2, many families were there observing Dia de Los Muertes. We decided that we would come back tomorrow to look at the decorations and take some pictures. We didnít want to intrude on anybodyís observances.
Once we got into town, we stopped at a few of the abarrotes. We bought some Urique t-shirts and ball caps at one, and picked up some water and snacks at another. Keith doesnít supply drinking water at the ranch, so you have to bring your own. Everyone in town was very friendly, welcoming, and helpful. They were also very tolerant of my poor Spanish!
We ended up at Titaís restaurant, where we knew weíd be having dinner tonight. Over the next few days, Titaís became our hangout. Any time we came to or through town, weíd stop in to see if anyone else in our group was there, and usually there would be at least one or two.
After a few beers at Titaís, we went back to the ranch for lunch. It was just after noon now, and boy was it getting hot! Some people went to the river for a swim, and some took siestas. I took a siesta. It was amazing how cool it stays in the buildings. They have thick stone walls, and it almost feels air-conditioned.
After our naps, it started cooling off a little in the late afternoon, so some of us went for another walk. We heard there was a swinging bridge, so we took off down the River Road to find it. There were a lot of interesting sights along the road. We saw some kind of chimney structure that had long been abandoned. Two of us walked up the hill to investigate further, and three walked on. When we got up there, we still couldnít tell what the structure was, but we did find some bones! Probably the bones of the last people who tried to investigate the structure! We hurried back to join our friends on the road.
We saw lots of baby animals. And we saw a shrine.
Finally we arrived at the swinging bridge. It looked a little scary to be walking across, but I did make it, and Iím still here to tell the story. There were boards missing in spots, and a couple of crosses right where you get on the bridge. (Did someone not make it?) We tried to cross the river coming back, but we weren't able to, so we had to cross on the bridge again. The river wasnít deep or anything, I guess we could have taken off our shoes and waded across, but were trying to cross it without getting wet, and the only way to do that was on the bridge.
Got back with a little time to relax, then we were off to Titaís for dinner. She served us several types of tacos. They were very good, but the salsa was hot, hot, hot!
After dinner, we headed home. It was about 9:00 PM, and it seemed that the town was starting to liven up more than we had seen it yet. Back at the ranch, we hung out on the porch for awhile and relaxed.
We saw a tarantula, which was quickly scooped up and carried to safety. Itís amazing because I am really scared of bugs, but the tarantulas fascinated me more than scared me. Maybe because they are so big theyíre more like little animals, haha.
Liz and I decide to get up early the next day and hike over to the next town, Guapalayna, which is 4.7 kilometers away. I think we stayed up pretty late this night, almost till 11:00, before falling into bed exhausted.
The next morning, I woke up at 6:00 AM. Liz and I were on the road by 7:00, on our way to Guapalayna. It was so early that as we were walking through Urique, we saw a fresh killed cow, still whole, being delivered to the butcher shop to be cut up. Itís a 4.7 kilometer walk, along the river road, so we figured it would take us about an hour to get there and we would have breakfast there.
It actually took us about an hour and a half, but thatís because we kept stopping to look at things. At one point we had to cross the river. There were some rocks sticking out so we just hopped from rock to rock until we got to the other side.
Finally we got there! What a teeny, tiny little town! And we had thought Urique was small. The topes cracked me up. They were large round river rocks, buried ĺ deep in the road about 2 or 3 inches apart. Effective enough.
We walked into one of the abarrotes to ask if there was someplace to get breakfast, and they said yes and sent us down the street to Abarrote Yeni. This was named after the little girl in the family.
We told them we had been sent over for breakfast, and they told us to come on in. They introduced themselves, but I can only remember Yeniís name and the father, Pedro. They seated us at the kitchen table, and gave us coffee. I canít remember the motherís name, but she cooked us a wonderful breakfast of beef hash, tortillas, and some sliced tomatoes.
While we were eating, we were cracking up, because it seemed like half the town had made up some excuse to parade through the house, just to see who the visitors were. I guess word spreads really fast when two strangers come to town. Finally, a man came and sat down at the table with us. He introduced himself as the "presidente" of Guapalayna, which we took to mean something like the mayor. He was very nice, and we talked with him for awhile. He seemed to have a million questions for us! Then another friend of his came in, who said he was the chief of police. How big of a police force could they have in this little town? LOL
Remembering how early it had gotten very hot yesterday, we finished up our breakfast, said our goodbyes, and started walking back to Urique. We hadnít gotten very far when a truck came roaring up behind us. It was El Presidente, offering us a ride. We gratefully accepted, because it was getting hot already. When we told him we were staying at Keithís ranch, he got a big smile on his face, and said "He is my amigo!". He was very proud to be able to call Keith a friend.
Back at the ranch, we read for awhile, then had lunch. Maruka and Victoria are great cooks! And they were also very helpful. They answered our incessant questions about the area, helped us find books to read and games to play at the ranch, taught us how to make tortillas and how to eat papacha. Papacha is a very weird fruit. It has a hard spiny shell, and when you crack it open there are brown seeds inside. You suck the coating off the seeds, then you spit them out. They taste a little like a strong bitter coffee. I thought they were good, and quite interesting.
At lunch, we found that while Liz and I were adventuring in Guapalayna, the rest of our group had gone on a mountain hike with one of the workers at the ranch as a guide. They said it was very enjoyable, about 2 hours long, and they also visited his house and met his little boy.
After lunch we took our siestas, then some of us walked into town and some went swimming in the river.
In town, we took some pictures of the Dia de Los Muertos decorations at the cemetary. We saw the Urique air strip, which looked more like a wide dirt road. Of course we made our customary stop at Titaís for beer, hung around the zocalo for awhile, then headed home for dinner.
After dinner, we sat around on the porch as had become our habit. Roy told us a couple of campfire stories, and Ursula sang us the entire Spanish rendition of La Cucaracha. We didnít see the tarantula tonight, but after we went to bed, I did hear some animals running around on the roof for a little while. Maybe that was Bob, the cat, LOL.
Tomorrow morning we would be leaving. We had all been making jokes over the past few days about how primitive everything was, but truth be told, we all loved it there, and I think we were all a little sad to think about leaving, but excited thinking about whatever new adventures lay ahead.
If you would like to know more about the Urique area or Keithís ranch, he has a website at http://home.attbi.com/~ramsay52 (there is no www). I would definitely stay there again.