El Chepe
November 11, 2023 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Have you ridden this train?

Tell me anything and everything you can
posted by falsedmitri to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have, close to 30 years ago.

My mom had friends that arranged this as kind of a group trip, where they weren't necessarily tour guides, but would set up our tickets and lodging to some degree and arranged a couple side trips that might be difficult to recreate without knowing some people.

We were all based in San Diego, so we took the trolley down to the border, crossed there, and then caught a flight from Tijuana to Los Mochis. From there, I think we took a bus to El Fuerte and spent a night before getting on the train the next morning. From El Fuerte, we took the train to Bahuichivo, got off, and got rides to a town closer to the canyon called Cerocahui, where we stayed a couple nights. During the day, we hired a couple local guys with pickups to drive us down to Urique, at the bottom of the canyon, accessed by a very windy dirt road that switchbacked down the canyon walls - probably not great if you have any fear of heights. Then back to the train at Bahuichivo, and I think we went all the way to Creel, where we stayed for a couple days and took a side trip to Basaseachi Falls. Then we headed back to Los Mochis, stopping for a couple nights at Divisadero. Then Los Mochis for one night before catching a plane back to TJ the next day. This was all during winter break while I was in college, so one of our nights in Creel was New Year's eve.

I don't remember all our hotels, but I think we stayed at the Posada Del Hidalgo in El Fuerte, Hotel Mision Cerocahui in Cerocahui, Hotel Mirador at Divisadero (Divisadero seems strangely unmarked on google maps - there's a stop that's a bit longer than a whistle stop next to an overlook of the canyon with a bunch of street food vendors, so you can hop off the train and take a look and get back on), and some places I could probably never find again in Creel and Los Mochis, but the Creel place was on the main street. Everyplace we stayed was at least decent, the places in El Fuerte and Divisadero were actually pretty nice. The place in Cerocahui was a bit rustic, but it's a small mountain town kind of out in the boonies, so you can't expect too much.

Generally I enjoyed it, went on a couple hikes with people from the group and didn't have any problems doing that, but I wasn't involved in any of the logistics or planning so I have no idea how much was involved with that.
posted by LionIndex at 4:57 PM on November 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

So like LionIndex, I also did this almost 30 years ago. I echo everything they say, except we were sort of vagabonding young adults and we did it on our own as part of a much longer trip (and no plane connections). Fun and very rustic! I'm guessing that it's fancier and more tourist-oriented now...but not by much. You'll still be in a very rural area that's not super heavily tourist-ridden.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:04 PM on November 11, 2023

I took this route in the winter of 2007, so I suppose my experience is slightly more recent than the above posters. In my case, I took the bus to Los Mochis from Tucson, I think, and boarded the train there. There was a once-in-a-decade snowfall, though, and the train was hugely delayed about a day into the trip. I remember wealthy travelers being rescued by helicopter and all the tourists in an absolute panic. Hotel prices in the tiny town we were stuck in shot up to hundreds of dollars a night, but we managed to find a room in a hotel that was under construction and had no electricity but maybe did have a wood burning stove for something like $15/night? Or maybe we just bundled up in our sleeping bags and long underwear and used headlamps? I was traveling with two friends and the next morning we decided to just hitchhike the rest of the way rather than wait for who knows how long for the snow to melt and a new train to arrive.

Hitchhiking in rural Mexico is, or was, fantastic — a pickup truck would pull to a stop and often there were already a few hitchhikers — as in laborers, grandmothers, whole families traveling together, etc — in the back who'd brought more blankets than all their other luggage, and so we'd climb in and pull out our sleeping bags, then nestle down into the blankets alongside everyone else, with our sleeping bags filling in the corners around us and the people nearby. We definitely rode with a couple guys who were obviously narcos and were very friendly and helpful (in retrospect we probably should have been more cautious, but I don't think we were ever in any danger from them), and rode into the canyon in the back of a little white pickup driven much too fast by two guys who'd bought a used washing machine and were delivering it to their families at the bottom of the canyon. (Repeatedly accepting rides with guys like this, who were absolutely sweet and trustworthy but astonishingly reckless drivers probably put us in the most danger we were in.) No one really knew how to drive in snow. One of the first rides we got was at night with a young family, and just as they stopped, a guy driving a small box truck stopped for us, too. We got into the car with the family because it was a bit roomier and we felt a little weird about the safety of riding in a box truck in snow, and about an hour later in the little car we passed by the box truck, tipped off the road on its side.

Ultimately I would recommend the train journey for actual canyon scenery, and hitchhiking for.. well, a completely different type of journey that you're not actually asking about! I guess my advice is to be prepared for unpredictable weather if it's the height of winter?
posted by knucklebones at 1:19 PM on November 12, 2023

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