Tag Archives: batopilas

Highlights of Latin America

I had such an awesome time in Latin America it’s pretty hard to pick out favourite moments. But I’m going to give it a go anyway. Here are the best things I’ve seen and done over the past six and a half months, along with links to what I originally wrote about them.

Favourite City: Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso

Runner-up: Guanajuato, Mexico
Hilly cities with lots of colourful houses are clearly the way to keep me happy.

Favourite Capital City: Mexico City

Mexico City Cathedral

Runner-up: Santiago de Chile
Quite a contrast here between enormous, chaotic, slightly crazy Mexico City vs Clean, calm, orderly Santiago. But I could live in ’em both, I reckon.

 

Favourite Food: Mexico
Runner-up: Peru
Best street food in Latin America from the Mexicans, whereas the restaurants were at their finest in Peru.

Best course: Learning Spanish in Guatemala
Runner-up: Learning to Dive in Honduras
Who knew learning could be such fun? Learning Spanish enriched my whole experience in the continent, and diving was way more fun (and way easier) than I ever thought it could be.

Favourite activity: Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru
Runner-up: Cycling tour of the wineries, Mendoza, Argentina

Favourite Hike: The Huayhuash Circuit, Peru

The Cordillera Huayhuash

Runner-up: The Lost City, Colombia
Again, quite a contrast. The Huayhuash took me to the most stunning mountain scenery I’ve ever come across, and was the toughest walk I’ve ever done. The Lost City was less visually appealling and easier on the legs, but made up for it by being with the best group of people I’ve me on the whole trip.

 

Favourite Natural Wonder: The Copper Canyon, Mexico

The road to Batopilas, Copper Canyon

Runner-up: The Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Sorry Colca Canyon, you may be deeper but Mexico’s is way better. It also gave me my favourite journey, along the Copper Canyon railway. Meanwhile, Uyuni was like a trip to another planet.

 

Favourite off the beaten track place: Mexcaltitan

Calle Venezia, Mexcaltitan

I feel like a bad traveller. I was pretty firmly on the gringo trail the entire time. Except in Mexcaltitan, tough to get to, not a lot to see, but one of my favourite stops so far.

 

Best Night out: Sargento Pimientas, Lima, Peru
Runner-up: Mazatlan, Mexico
My last night in Lima was a chance to say goodbye to two good friends I’d been travelling with on and off since Colombia, accompanied by the best music I’ve heard in ages. Mazatlan on the other hand was an entirely random night out with three Mexican women who I was introduced to by a clown.

Favourite Beach: Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Tayrona National Park

Runner-up: Mazunte, Mexico
Sleeping in a hammock on the beach in Colombia was pretty close to paradise. Meanwhile the waves in Mazunte kept me entertained for hours.

 

Favourite Market: San Francisco El Alto, Guatemala
Runner-up: Oaxaca, Mexico
A pretty small hill town in Guatemala with the biggest, most sprawling market I’ve ever seen. Oaxaca was my favourite of the Mexican markets, especially for the crammed, smokey food section.

Favourite weird religious spectacle: Semana Santa in Guanajuato, Mexico

Semana Santa in Guanajuato

Runner-up: Meeting Maximon in Santiago de Atitlan, Guatemala
Catholicism may have its heart in Europe, but the way they do it in Latin America makes our version look pretty tame.

 

Favourite Country: Mexico
Runner-up: Peru
I’ve probably bored everyone I’ve met on this trip to death by going on and on about Mexico. But I don’t care. I love it.

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The road to Batopilas

After the spectacular views from Divisadero, I really didn’t think the canyon get could get any better. I was wrong. The road to Batopilas is even more impressive.

We left at 7.30am on the public bus (in true Mexican fashion, it was blaring frantic Mexican pop music out of all its speakers even at this early hour). The road starts in Creel, at 2,338m above sea level, and drops down nearly 2km to Batopilas in the course of the five hour journey. What this means is a huge variation in climate.

Being so high up, Creel has more alpine vegetation, with most of the surrounding hills being covered in pine trees, and as left there was a frost on the ground. As you descend, and the climate gets warmer and the pines gradually give way to warmer weather plants, such as agave and prickly pear cacti. By the time you get to the bottom, the climate is tropical, with huge, straight-armed seguaro cacti on all the exposed slopes, and concentrations of lush green trees wherever there is water and shade.

Cacti in the Batopilas canyon

Cacti in the Batopilas canyon


Canyon flower

Canyon flower

But anyway, back to the journey. The first section is on a paved road that winds its way along the undulating hills and valleys at the top of the Canyon. That alone was pretty stunning. After two hours, the main road branches off out of the canyon, and the remainder of the journey to Batopilas is on a bumpy, dusty single track dirt road that winds its way down to the canyon floor.

Winding down the canyon walls

Winding down the canyon walls

If Divisadero was breathtaking, then I don’t have adjectives to describe quite how awe-inspiring this road is. After another half hour of winding through the hills, the road rounds a corner and reaches the Mirador de la Bufa, a viewpoint that looks all the way down to the village of La Bufa at the bottom.

View down to La Bufa

View down to La Bufa


At that point the road clings to the cliff-like wall of the canyon and slowly descends via a series of tight hairpins all the way down, each hair-raising turn revealing views across the canyon. At every point, the canyon wall falls away almost vertically from the edge of the narrow road, and there’s only just room for the bus to fit, making it not a journey for the faint-hearted, especially as the driver has to contend with goats and cows wandering onto the road at regular intervals.
Some of the many hairpin bends

Some of the many hairpin bends

Eventually the road reaches the river, and follows it along the canyon to the village of Batopilas. For such a remote place, it’s quite an impressive sight. Formerly a rich silver-mining town, it was rather improbably the second place in Mexico to get mains electricity, and is small but beautiful, its centre packed with pretty colonial buildings, and two charming squares each with a lovely cast-iron bandstand.

Now that the silver is gone, not much happens in town, although the modern world has left one impact: I’ve never seen quite so many brand new American SUVs in one small village before. Rumour has it that these are all stolen from the southern US and driven down here to be used by the local drug cartels that hide out down here, away from the eyes of authority.

I travelled down with a Czech couple and an English girl I’d met in Creel, and the next day we hiked along deeper into the canyon to an abandoned Spanish mission church from the 1600s, in the even smaller village of Setuvo. The mission is in the process of being restored, and the local workmen happily let us climb the rickety ladders all the way onto the roof of the mission, which was quite an experience, and gave yet more great views of the canyon.

Mision de Setuvo

Mision de Setuvo

Sadly we had to leave the next day, after just two nights, as we needed to catch the second class train down to the coast (as the next one wasn’t until three days later). It may have taken quite an effort to get there – ten hours on the bus to Chihuahua, another 5 to Creel, and a further 5 to Batopilas – but boy was it worth it.

(You can see more or my photos of Batopilas here