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We started off on an adventure to the Copper Canyon from the Tempe Library in the early morning hours of October 16th. The bus ride traversed down the road to the border and into Mexico while we enjoyed rolling lectures of the historical, cultural, and biotic communities we would be visiting. Our first night stop was in Guaymas, at the Hotel Playa de Cortes, watching the sun set on the serene bay of Bahia de Bacochibampo.
On the morning of October 17th a trip to the Institute Monterrey for the Perlas Del Mar De Cortez was both insightful and educational. A talk explaining how unique cultured pearls are created, finished, and set into beautiful jewelry was enjoyed by all.
Departing to Alamos, a quaint quiet little town of colonial architecture and cobblestone streets found us relaxing in small hotels for the night. This town flourished from silver mining during the eighteenth century, and is now having a rebirth with restored magnificent haciendas.
After local delights for dinner, we meandered back to the courtyard of the Casa Encantada Hotel, for enchanting cultural folk music and song by a group of local school musicians, Estudiantina de Alamos.
In the morning our tour of two beautiful restored Haciendas left us envious of the enriched beauty of Alamos. Included was a tour of the music museum and school, Museo Custumbrista. For lunch, we enjoyed a laid back time in the back yard of one of the local residents, who told of his journey in life, ending in the purchase of the former home of Mary Astor, silent screen star.
As the day moved on, we headed to El Fuerte, Sonaloa, checking into the Hotel Rio Vista. We met our local guide, Gustavo Lozano, who provided a short educational walking tour around the plaza.
On the morning of October 19th, it was "rise and shine" to board the Chihuahau al Pacifico Railroad for our ascension into the Sierra Madre Mountains, from sea level to over 7500 feet, weaving up the mountain with switchbacks, tunnels, and bridges. The views were unmatchable -- very scenic.
With no major roads to our next destination, our bus left us, meeting us two days later in Divisadero, where we deboarded from the train. We traveled in two local vans up narrow, steep roads, ending at the Mansion Tarahumara Hotel on the rim of the Canyon in Posada Barrancas. As the road ended, we hiked up the steps to our rooms. All our rooms had balconies on the edge facing the Canyon with spectacular views of enchanting sunrises and sunsets.
This area is home for the Tarahumara and Ramamuri Indians, living their traditional primitive lifestyle. Emptying our wallets, we bought many of their handmade baskets, arts and crafts from various areas where they displayed their wares.
An evening hike with our local guide into the canyon allowed us to see where they lived on the edge of the canyon walls. On the second morning, before leaving, the indigenous Indians demonstrated local dances and games that are part of their culture.
In the morning, we toured various canyon overlooks finishing with an aerial tram ride over the Canyon. We were some of the first to ride this tram, as it had only been open for 10 days. There was also available a series of seven zip lines into the depths of the canyon. To our disappointment (sort of!),they were not open for rides yet: a reason to come back again in the future.
On Thursday, October 21, we traveled on to Creel, Mission San Ignacio, via a drive during which we observed various rock formations through Valle de Hongos amp; Monjes (Mushrooms, Frogs and Monks). We ended our journey in the afternoon at the rustic mountain Sierra Lodge, in Cusarare, still leaving time for a short drive over rough terrain, through the river bed and finishing with a good hike to the top of the scenic Cusarare Falls. Three brave and energetic souls P, B, and P, made an arduous hike all the way to the bottom to dip a toe in the crystal clear water and then back up to rejoin us for the trip back to the hotel. The Sierra Lodge was in a remote area with only kerosene lamps and wood stoves but still had running water and hot showers thanks to propane. The evening was spent in the main dining area beside a roaring fireplace.
Before and after dinner our evening was enriched by local musicians, and our own guide Greg on guitar, who provided music and ballads to lull us to sleep for the night.
We took a side trip from Cusarare to the Loyola Museum, which has just completed the first stage of restoring valuable works of art one would expect to see in the Louvre in Paris. These 46 paintings represented the life of Christ and many have been professionally restored. These paintings were gathered from 18th century mission churches scattered over the “Sierra Tarahumara.” Of the collection, 12 are by Miguel Correa, dating back to 1713. They formerly hung on the walls of the old church next door, built in 1741.
We got off to a roaring start on the morning of Friday, October 22. We headed north to Guerrero, stopping at the restaurant La Cava, were the owner recited poetic verses to cap off our lunch. Our travels then led us on to Nuevo Casas Grandes for the night. In the morning, we found time to visit Paquime Museum and Ruins, featuring a local docent who explained the many exhibits.
On this last day, October 23, we had an amazing stop in Mata Ortiz, where we visited Juan Quezada, a Master Potter. He started a pottery phenomenon after his discovery in 1976 by an anthropologist from the United States, who bought three pots in a second hand store. His pottery today can be viewed in major museums and galleries in California and Arizona. While we were there, Juan fired some pots in the back yard of his house, which we quickly purchased before they even cooled.
With some wallets empty and no ability to use credit cards, some of us thought our hopes for acquiring this beautiful pottery were dashed. But the Quezada people looked into our eyes and souls, then packed our pots and told us to send them a check when we returned home. We now all have some wonderful pots to cherish for a lifetime at unbelievable prices in today’s market.
Our journey finished with a long ride back to Tempe, crossing the border at Naco, Arizona, and finally arriving late at night in Tempe, with memories to last a lifetime. As one traveler remarked, “There was always something new and interesting to see and do.” Another comment: “I will look forward to where ASURA travels next for a rewarding, enlightening and educational experience.”
ASU Retirees Association
Mailing address: PO Box 873308, Tempe, AZ 85287
Physical address: Community Services Building Room 201, 200 E. Curry, Tempe, AZ