The view down into the canyon is spectacular from above and this is all many see not wanting to venture down the steep roads some of which are just dirt tracks to the bottom when often there is no choice but to back track.
Batopilas, México!Motorcycle Diaries
Riding in Northwestern Mexico many motorcycle riders are familiar with ‘Barrancas del Cobre’, or in English ‘Copper Canyon’.
Batopilas, a small village at the bottom of the canyon is a popular ride for motorcyclists who know of its existence, 136 km (85 miles) from Creel. Do not leave here without filling your tank, there are a few opportunities, but all are to fill from a barrel or containers at the side of the road.
For around a decade the road has been paved and now the small little town of around 1500 people is a lot more accessible. It was also recently deemed a Magic Town so there needs to be certain upkeep so tourists can get there easily.
Coming from Creel and towards the Copper Canyon through alpine forests, it is home to Mexico's most longstanding indigenous Indians; the Rarámuri, commonly known as the Tarahumarayou.
They live in small encampments in the mountains with widely dispersed settlements, the Rarámuri have developed a tradition of long-distance running – up to 200 miles (320km) in one session over periods of several days through their homeland of rough canyon country, for inter-village communication, transportation, and hunting.
They are easily recognized with the men wearing the traditional loin cloth and the ladies wearing brightly colored long skirts.
Just a 136km ride from Creel, at roughly the halfway point you’ll take a turn headed to Batopilas. The first half of the ride is a quick traverse, but the second half after this turn could take you the rest of the day for many reasons.
You’ll understand once you leave the tree lined section, and the expanse of the Copper Canyon is in front of you. Photo opportunities are many and every few meters you ride changes the view and the severity of the drop you are about to take.
Always a difficult thing to make others understand how steep a road is when showing a photograph, this is one area of the world that that is not a problem at all, this road is VERY steep in certain sections.
Take your time, stop often not only for the views but also to stop your brakes from overheating!
A large bridge was added at the bottom of the valley, this now eliminates having to make a river crossing and a second bridge a little later, formally a train bridge to transport silver will take you into the town.
Brightly painted colonial buildings greet you as you ride the very narrow streets, head to the main Plaza Principal and in the far-left corner as you enter the square look for ‘Hotel Juanita’s’.
Juanita will welcome you like an old friend and ask you to ride your motorcycle through the main door way and continue through the small hotel lobby until you enter the courtyard where you can park your motorcycle…you won’t be needing it again everything is within walking distance.
If it’s a hot day, ask for a room at the back overlooking the river for a cool breeze in your room for your stay.
Get out of that hot motorcycle gear, change into something more comfortable and go and explore the town.
There is a lot of history of Batopilas starting from when a Spanish explorer found silver by the Río Batopilas around 1632. Sadly, detailed records were lost in two major fires in the next two-hundred years.
Ask Juanita to point out the small museum across the square and for recommendations of where to go, for a very small town there is a lot to see, and a great depth of history. Mining silver was the main output for the town and it has seen extreme wealth over the years.
Batopilas was inducted as one of Mexico’s ‘Pueblos Mágicos’ or Magical Towns, due to what some consider the severity of the drive to reach the town it is not busy and overrun with tourists. Most likely any non-Mexicans you meet will also be riding a motorcycle, and likely headed to or staying at Juanita’s!
There are two options when you decide to leave, to go back out the way you came to Batopilas and the chance to ride the amazing road again and most likely head towards Guachochi.
If you are feeling a lot more adventurous head out of town in the opposite direction towards Choix and the coast…but before you race off there are two things to do!
Ask Juanita to speak to other locals and make sure the road is passable, a lot of it is unpaved and can be affected by flooding and landslides on a regular basis. If the response is positive and you are up to the challenge, the next thing you need to ask her is where you find fuel.
Just around the corner a man sells fuel from his house, this is the ‘local gas station’ and easily missed if he is not filling a vehicle from a large barrel outside his house. I have filled up here many times and the fuel is good, otherwise locals wouldn’t use it.
Enjoy your time here, it is a very special and unique place, outrageously hot in the height of summer but the rest of the year it is one of the most idyllic places in Mexico in my opinion!