Copper Canyon Journal
Sept 28 (con't)
September 28, 2003
After wandering through the Hacienda ruins and looking at the local deer kept on the premises, we headed off to downtown Batopilas. Founded in 1709 as San Pedro de Batopilas when the mines were discovered, the town slowly but steadily flourished. The zocalo area (town square) was pretty quiet as it was Sunday. We bought some groceries and headed out to the Jesuit mission of San Miguel de Satevů, about 5 miles away.
This mission is also referred to as the "Lost Mission" as there are no records that describe its existence. This leads to much speculation as its size is larger than any local population could have used. Who built it and why was it built here? I like the theory of the "mad" monk who spent his life building the best church to please his religion.
At Satevo we met some fellow travelers, Luis from Ciudad Juarez in N. Chihuahua who had arrived by bicycle and Glenda and Fred from New Zealand who had walked the 8km (5mi) from town. The mission is believed to have built in the 1760ís, and it is one of the canyonís best preserved. There are no records recording its history and its location and size make it a source of local mystery. In addition to the mystery, it is in a gorgeous setting alongside the river and makes for a magnificent photo. After exploring the mission, we sat on the church steps with the locals and chatted.
That evening we camped alongside the Batopilas River between Batopilas and Satevo. We were camped very close to a homesite and Santana the owner, his wife and his seven children all came to visit. We had a nice chat with Santana about the local area and its customs.
The next morning we headed back into Batopilas to look for a guide to a local mine. The guide was out, but we had a lovely chat with his wife and she gave us directions for the "Porfirio Diaz" mine. We thanked her and left to pick up Glenda and Fred who had expressed an interest in visiting the mine as well.
After a couple of wrong turns, we found the mine and the lady with the key to unlock the entrance. Expecting the inside of the mine to be cool, we were surprised to find it humid. Walking through the large tunnel (7ft tall by 10 feet wide) we followed a straight line into the hillside. This was a silver mine and over the years the area yielded over 20 million ounces of silver. We found several veins of quartz but never found anything that looked like silver. With our flashlights, we went about a mile into the mine. We could still see old insulators for the electricity and rusted pieces of old buckets, etc. lying around. There were several side shafts that didnít go very far and one vertical shaft that was filled with water. We encountered a lot of bats also that were scared out of their sleep by our flashlight beams. They flew very close past us, but never into us. Even though we never came close to the end of the mine (its almost seven kilometers long), the humidity finally forced us to turn around. As we neared the entrance, the bats that we had scared up had to turn around to avoid going outside during the daytime (their eyes are very sensitive). It was a really interesting sight to see them massed near the entrance.
After taking a swim in the river to cool off, we headed north toward La Bufa. We encountered an accident from the night before where a truck had gone over the edge of the narrow, twisting road. There was a road crew and lots of spectators watching as they tried to pull the truck back up the nearly vertical incline. After several dangerous and missed attempts, the truck was finally pulled back up to the road. Because of the narrowness of the road, traffic on both sides had to wait until this truck was up, before travel could continue. This is a very small town and even the police were grieving the loss of the two people in the vehicle. A tragic loss that could have been avoided if the driver hadnít been drinking.
Finally able to continue, we stopped about an hour later when we found a beautiful campsite alongside the river. Deep in the canyon, we were shaded from the sun both that evening and the next morning.
The rest of the day was spent driving back up out of the canyon.
The views were some of the most spectacular weíve ever seen. The road in many spots was only as wide as the vehicle and the view was straight down. Fortunately there were many pullouts because there is a bus once a day that comes from Creel. Of course, we encountered it about two-thirds of the way up. Fortunately, we happened to be able to see it coming and were able to find a pull-out just in time. The bus was moving plenty fast and had riders sitting on the roof. Iím sure they were having the ride of their life!
After about 3 hours we were finally out of the canyon. And just in time too, because the extra gas we took on in Batopilas was just about gone and we hit the Pemex with only two gallons to spare. That was squeaking it just a little too close!
Our day ended as we headed back towards Creel, with us finding another gorgeous campsite and settling in.