A visit to Batopilas, Mexico with a low peso in the time of Trump
February 16th, 2017 under Features
By JIM GLENDINNING
BATOPILAS, Mexico – We four – Max Moon of Alpine and the Philippines, Tim Pierce of Alpine, Todd Bureau of Terlingua and Alaska, and myself – crossed into Mexico at Ojinaga and found a greatly enlarged Mexican immigration facility. There were new buildings everywhere, but few signs. We located the place to show our passports and get our tourist cards. Immediately adjacent was the vehicle import counter and the insurance salesman. It was quicker than previously but the highlight was surely the restrooms: marble and tile, super modern fittings, spotlessly clean; worth a visit if only for a photo.
A little over three hours later we were in downtown Chihuahua, checking in at El Jardín del Centro. This small hotel is central, has a lovely courtyard with a palm tree, benches, chairs, and cage birds, and a café. Rooms are $30. The first floor rooms are larger, and have been remodeled. El Jardín del Centro, Calle Victoria 818. Phone (from USA) 011 52 614 415 1832.
The next morning we headed for Restaurant Gerónimo, two short blocks away for the buffet breakfast. We were tucking into juice, fruit, cereal, and a wide variety of hot dishes when Todd noticed that a group of businessmen sitting nearby were talking about Trump’s announcement concerning the Wall, which was the headline in the local paper.
Todd, whose Spanish is good, started to talk with them and assured them that Trump’s policy on the Wall was not the sentiment of our little group. To our surprise the businessmen applauded. The bill was $19 for four of us. Restaurant Gerónimo, Aldama 1001. Phone: 614 415 5083.
The road to Creel
We drove in our small Toyota Yaris the 150 miles to Creel (7,694 feet), where the main street is now almost all tourist shops and restaurants. We visited the 3 Amigos, which offers guide services as well as rental mountain bikes and ATVs. There we talked with the owner, Ivan Fernandez, who is the man best informed about tourism in all of the Copper Canyon region. He explained about the choice of zip line rides at the new adventure park in Divisadero, which we would visit the next morning. 3 Amigos, 635 456 0036.
Adventure Park at Divisadero, 30 miles from Creel
This facility is perched where the evergreen tree forests overlook the vast Copper Canyon. Its 7-stage zip line, at 1.75 miles, is the longest in the world and also includes two suspended foot-bridges. We chose the Zip Rider, a single ride adrenaline rush that reaches 79 mph (second fastest in the world) and lasts 2.5 minutes. Two at a time, we got strapped in, and with a surge of exhilaration, we shot out into air above the floor of the Copper Canyon. Max had the sang froid to video his flight en-route. We returned to the canyon rim by Swiss-made cable car. Adventure Travel Park. Cost $30 per person. 635 589 6805 or call 3 Amigos.
The road to Batopilas
It takes three hours to travel the 85 miles from Creel but now the steepest part, and indeed all of the road, has been paved. But beware; there are fallen rocks and even boulders on the road due to slippage of the mountain slopes.
Batopilas (altitude 1,968 feet; population, 1,212
This semi-tropical city has been designated a Magic Town by the Mexican Government. The President of Mexico visited twice recently since this is where the founder of the PAN political party was born. One of the plazas is being spiffed up, there is a new mining museum on the other plaza, and a two-section zip line has been installed running above the town and across the river.
We were booked into the Casa Real de Minas hotel, owned by the ever-helpful Martin Gastalum. We arrived late afternoon and were greeted by Martin’s elderly mother, Lupe. Cleaned up, we went to Restaurant Carolina for a predictably tasty meal.
After dinner, sitting in the warm temperature of the plaza, we got talking to some locals, who seemed very well informed about US politics. The gist of their opinion was, “Our countries have a long history of cooperation and will withstand the policies of one president.” Casa Real de Minas. Room price $50. 614 427 3097.
Martin, who also manages the famous Riverside Lodge, previously the lavish home of the company storeowner during Batopilas’s mining heyday, took us to the block-long historical hotel. While the others took a tour of the antique-furnished rooms, balconies, and courtyards adorned by bougainvillea, I sat in the parlor.
This magnificent, richly decorated room is filled with historical murals, a large nude portrait, a bust of Elvis, a picture of Churchill, a victrola, and armchairs with antimacassars. Cocooned by the past, comfortable in a deep armchair, I fell asleep until their tour ended. Riverside Lodge now accepts individual and group bookings. Contact Martin, 614 427 3097
The next morning, uplifted by the Mexican welcome and a complete change of scenery, food and culture, we squeezed into our small car and drove 490 miles back to Alpine.
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