The Unimog Wherehaus

E-mail Dirk Rautenberg

 
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Barrancas Del Cobre 2002, November 16-30.

We are still hoping to go to Guatemala some day but given the current world situation, we decided to head into Mexico again. After all, Guatemala will still be there next year................ 

Having heard so much about Copper Canyon, I rang up our trusted guide Frenchie from the Baja Millennium trip and this is what he suggested. (And he should know, after all, he does this trip every year.) Copper Canyon is about four times larger than Grand Canyon and is actually a combination of 20+ canyons. The railroad that crosses this part of the Sierra Madre from Chihuahua to Los Mochis is often described as the most scenic in the world with altitudes varying from 500ft to 8,000 ft. 

We will meet in Douglas, AZ on Nov. 15 in the afternoon/ evening and have a relaxed dinner at the Gadsden Hotel and cover some last questions and get acquainted of course. Early arrivals will go through the border crossing procedure beforehand.

We will meet in Douglas, AZ on Nov. 15 in the afternoon/ evening and have a relaxed dinner at the Gadsden Hotel and cover some last questions and get acquainted of course. Early arrivals will go through the border crossing procedure beforehand. 
 

Day 1: 
We will leave the next morning for the border crossing at 8.00 a.m. sharp. The border will take a while and we hope to actually leave from Agua Prieta around 9.30 a.m. We will head East on Route 2 and cross the Sierra San Luis, covered by dense oak-juniper woodlands, and the continental divide at 6,000 ft. We should be able to reach Nuevo Casas Grandes around 1 p.m., fuel up and continue to explore the ruins of Parquime', a complex of adobe structures, partially excavated and restored so the networks of crumbled walls now resemble roofless mazes. A water system carried hot water from thermal springs and acted as drainage. At its peak around 1,200 A.D. its estimated population was 10,000 people. A little further West as we continue, we will leave the pavement and look for a spot to camp. We will have a few options. Time permitting; we may even have a chance to reach Mata Ortiz, a small town known for its pottery. Here, you will certainly feel like you are in a different world. 

 

Day 2: 
We will break camp around 9 a.m. and head for the hills. Our first climb will be easy and scenic leading us into the remote areas of the Sierras through valleys and meadowlands, rock formations and tiny villages. We will have plenty of opportunities to gather firewood and make a camp in the woods. We will try to get an early start the next morning and continue on dirt to Lagos. 

 

Day 3: 
Destination: Madera. Surrounded by rugged mountain scenery, it is high enough to receive snow in the winter. Despite the local timber industry, it retains a lot of forest. The surrounding area has some archeological sites. Madera is on an important waterfowl migratory route, so bird watching will be possible. We will have lunch here, regroup and refuel. A bit West of town, Cueva Grande (Big Cave) sits behind a cascading waterfall, and houses some ancient Indian dwellings. More cliff dwellings can be seen nearby. There might even be a chance to throw a lure into the water and catch dinner. We will camp at the hot springs and do some swimming. 

 

Day 4: 
Depending on how close we are able to stick to the schedule of the previous day, we will have time to explore some more in the morning, refuel and then continue South to Basaseachi Falls, the third highest waterfall in North America, at 900 feet. Some hiking will lead to the falls and a trail also continues to the pool at the bottom. Again, we will camp out and this one might be cold, since we will be about 6,000+ feet high. 

 

Day 5: 
We will turn to the other side of the canyon and actually have a full view of the falls as we then continue to Creel, the commercial center of the Tarahumara Indians. Famous for their running abilities, more than 50,000 Indians still live in the canyons in caves and log cabins. Their hand made crafts are sold here and we will have a chance to refuel and restock supplies and maybe even have lunch. We will then continue to Divisadero via paved road and have a beautiful view of the canyon land. The train actually stops here to let tourists out for this spectacular sight. We will camp nearby the viewpoint and may enjoy an afternoon drink at the fancy lodge. 

 

Day 6: 
Returning to Creel and camping at the KOA, we will have a good day to hang out here and watch life in the "big city". Plenty of shops to browse or nearby sights to visit. Certainly a day to relax and time for............laundry maybe? We will definitely refuel here because we will not have another chance for the next six days!! 

 

Day 7: 
Only 90 miles away, but a daylong trip to Batopilas, so we will try to break camp at 8 a.m. Deep in the heart of canyon country, this quiet 19th century silver mining town is reached by thrilling descents through the canyons from 7,000+ feet at Creel to 1,600 ft. into the warmer, semitropical climate where mangoes, bananas and other tropical fruit are grown. This might be the most scenic road in Northern Mexico. We will either camp out by the river or visit Satevo, a 350-year-old Jesuit mission, whose dome has been repainted and work begun on the interior. Supposedly, the acoustics inside make even sore roosters sound pretty darn good. I shall volunteer for the test and prepare... how about opera? Bring earplugs, just in case. That could also be a camp spot for us. 

 

Day 8: 
We will stay in this subtropical climate and follow the river through the canyon. A newly opened road will lead us to Urique. This used to be a hike/horseback only trail with small settlements along the way. We will take it slow and enjoy the views of the canyon land. There will be plenty of time to play along the way and we should easily find a suitable camp along the river. 

 

Day 9: 
We are continuing to Urique and this is a cliffhanger drive into the canyon. The 8-mile switch back to town will test your brakes and nerves. Just leave it in low gear and hug the mountain; you'll be fine!! After all, you are in one of the best off road vehicles in the world. We will camp by the river again, so we will have plenty of water along the way as well as firewood. Most little towns will have accommodations to break up the camping routine for those in need. 

 

Day 10
From Urique we’re heading west towards Cerocahi and Bahuichivo. The vista of the canyons should equal what we’ll have experienced on the way to Batopilas. (I remember a section in Baja, we called it "Top of the World” and you just couldn't get enough of the panorama). All along this trip you will be able to sit on a ridge and look both ways down in the canyons. And as the lighting changes, so does the appearance of the rocks. With the morning sun crystal clear and at other times just different shades of gray, layered towards the horizon. We will meet up with the train tracks again and have a chance to restock and maybe refuel in Bahuichivo before we tackle our next mountain. We will camp out again but this time in the wooded hills. 

 

Day 11: 
Continuing West towards the Gulf of California. Chinipas is our destination this time. Probably the most remote part of the trip (it is so remote, you won't even find it on a map). Road conditions vary greatly here, and as it is only 60 miles, it can be challenging and probably will take most of the day. After all, the Journey is the Destination. Somewhere along the way, the group will split up and the Adventuresome will follow the river, oversized trucks will continue along the hills. We should reach Chinipas in the afternoon with enough time to stroll through town and set up camp by the river. A nice place to go swimming and the sandy riverbank may make a good spot for the sand castle competition. 

 

Day 12: 
A very slow climb out of Chinipas after we cross the river. A 4,000 ft. elevation difference within a few miles makes for a slow grind up this last hill, but the reward is the view of the valley and town. We will go in small groups and early risers can get a head start so we don’t have to eat each others dust. To reach the top will take about 2 hours. There, we will recollect and continue on windy roads which will take us past ranchos and fincas into the rolling hills of Alamos. Here, we meet "civilization" again. This small quiet town in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental has been declared a national historic monument. It's beautifully restored architecture was influenced by the Spanish in the 17th century. The facades of colonial mansions line narrow cobblestone streets. Plenty of Norteamericanos reside here in the winter as well as 450 species of birds and animals, some of them endangered. It is nestled in between two ecosystems, the Sonora desert in the North and the Sinaloa Jungle to the South. In 1683, silver was discovered nearby and Alamos became a boomtown of more than 30,000 people. It's rich history is a part of it being a popular tourist town. The locals contribute this "awakening" to Mr. Alcorn, who in the late '40's bought the Almada Mansion to turn into a hotel. Since then, many other great buildings have been restored to original condition. We will try to have dinner at one of the nice hotels and occupy the courtyard for drinks and story telling. A leisurely stroll through the evening town may magically take you back to a different time. 

 

Day 13: 
A morning to relax and enjoy the beauty of Alamos. The Cathedral, the tallest building in town is also one of its oldest. Legend relates that every family in Alamos contributed to the construction of the church and every high ranking Spanish lady of the town contributed a plate from her finest set of china, to be placed at the base of the pilasters of the church towers. And then it’s time to go back. In Navojoa, we will hit the "freeway" and go north to Hermosillo. We may camp but also have plenty of hotels available. Some last minute shopping and fiesta will take place and the inevitable reality is not too far off. 

 

Day 14: 
We are going north on Hwy 15 to Nogales, our border crossing into Arizona. Time to go back to work etc. and to plan for the next adventure. .

 

As there is more work there is also more adventure to come. Maybe Guatemala is it. Maybe the friends newly found will be the companions of choice to go next time

 

If you decide that this might be something you are interested in and can arrange with family and work, remember to have your vehicle prepped and in outstanding condition. Every time somebody breaks down, all of us are delayed. We will not leave anyone behind, even if it calls for 1,200 miles of towing as this trip is about that long. Make sure you bring spare parts and prepare for the worst, and I don't mean just clothing!! As none of us is competent to foresee mechanical failure, all we can do is preventive maintenance. Have your electrical and water systems rebuilt. Some of these climbs are slow and hot. Make sure you are able to carry 60 gal. of fuel and enough water without relying on others for help. There will be plenty of spots to fuel up and get water. Though, I did experience diesel shortages in Baja before and had to use the spare fuel cans aboard. Be prepared for the potential cold weather. Even if you chose to spend the night in a hotel, have extra blankets/ sleeping bags etc. Even though we are only a few hundred miles south of the USA, Alka Seltzer or Tylenol may not be available at the little carryall stores. The roads traveled will be easy, but bumpy. We have a very tight schedule to see all described above. But it’s also a vacation and as there are a good six hours of slow driving every day, there should be plenty of time to “stop and smell the roses”. You don’t need to have all the camping gear in the world. We will share the cooking/ kitchen facilities and each one of us may be responsible for different tasks throughout the trip. Communication is very important and we do require a fixed mounted sideband CB. The trip will be limited to 15 vehicles. 

 

Expenses to expect: 

$400 per truck. This will cover the guide fee and will also be used for some communal dinners. (Payment due as of July 1) 
Tourist visa $ 22 
Temp. auto import permit needs to be paid with credit card (Not sure at this time how much this it) 
Auto insurance for Mexico $ 100 
Toll road from Alamos to Nogales approx. $40 
Fuel prices as of Apr. '02 Regular $2,10 Diesel $1.80 /gal

 

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