Kathy on balcony
Kathy on hotel room balcony

Brandon and Kathy

"Explorations"

Kathy kayaking
Kathy kayaking

Sea of Cortez Day 1

Sea of Cortez Day 2

Sea of Cortez Day 3

Los Mochis and El Fuerte

Copper Canyon Train Ride

Exploring the Area

On to Chihuahua

Sea of Cortez and Copper Canyon, January 2006

Two totally new areas to explore

(I know this page is way too long. Just ignore the parts that don't interest you.)

On Monday, January 9th, we flew to the airport serving Los Cabos. We were met by the Lindblad and National Geographic Expeditions staff; they showed us our busses and gave us a sack lunch. The busses took us on a journey around the southern end of the Baja Peninsula and up to La Paz. Along the way we stopped in the small town of Todos Santos for refreshments (beer and chips). At the dock in La Paz we boarded the M/V Sea Bird, our home for the next four days.

We would sail through the bountiful waters that were once plied by the Cochimi natives of the peninsula in their dugout canoes. Later the ships of Hernán Cortéz and Francisco Ulloa criss-crossed the region on their voyages of discovery in 1533, 1535 and 1539. Today little has changed in this beautiful and largely uninhabited Gulf.

The Sea of Cortez, Day 1

The next morning, our first day cruising the gulf, we awoke to the sounds of people on deck shouting about dolphin sightings. We went on deck and saw that we were in the midst of a huge pod of dolphins feeding at the surface. Later we saw two humpback whales swimming near by. In the afternoon we hiked up the hills of a nearby desert island. We saw cactus, scorpions, iguana, desert rat nests, and sand flats where the local indians gather salt to use in curing fish.

The first three pictures below were taken by one of the naturalists on board (with his 500 mm image stabilized lens). The rest are ours. You can read the Daily Expedition Report (DER) for the day at this page on the Lindblad site.

Dolphins

Dolphin

Whale

Dolphins

Frigate birds

Beach

Beach

Kitty Coley

Beach landing

Sand Verbena

Berries

Cactus

Cactus

Salt pond

Islands

The Sea of Cortez, Day 2

The morning of our second day found us anchored off of the islands of Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. We went ashore in the Zodiac and hiked up the arroyos, checking out the many varieties of cactus. Later we went snorkeling and saw pacific angel fish, blue star fish, soft corals and many new varieties of tropical fish. In the afternoon we went kayaking where Kathy got several good pictures of pelicans. The DER for the day is on this page on the Lindblad site.

Mother ship and zodiaks

Cactus

Cactus

We saw more types of cactus than you can imagine.

Cactus

Cactus

Cactus

Flower

Canyon

Fish

Soft Coral

Star Fish

Pelican

Pelican

Pelican

The Sea of Cortez, Day 3

Our last full day on the M/V Sea Bird was the most interesting. We were anchored near small islands (Los Islotes) that are home to hundreds of sea lions. We first took the zodiacs over to the islands and took pictures of the sea lions from the boat. Later we snorkeled with them and tried to take pictures of them swimming underwater. They move very fast and it is incredibly difficult to take their picture. I have shown some of the "throwaway" pictures below (just a fin or part of a head). I did get a couple of good shots. Lindblad used one of mine on the DER, which you can see here.

Zodiak

Sea lions

Sea lions

Sea lions

Sea lions

Sea lions

Sea lions

Sea lions

Sea lions

Crab

Sea lion swimming

Sea lion swimming

Sea lion swimming

Sea lion swimming

Sea lion swimming

Sea urchin

Soft coral

Fish

Puffer fish

Orange cup coral

Sunset

Los Mochis and El Fuerte

On Friday morning we got up at 4:30 a.m. and left for the La Paz airport at 5:30. We caught the 7:30 plane from La Paz to Los Mochis, over on the mainland. In Los Mochis we had breakfast at a local hotel and then explored the town. The fish markets and butcher shops that we saw were definitely for the locals - this is not a tourist place. Later we continued on by bus to El Fuerte (where we would catch the Copper Canyon train the next day) and checked into the Hotel Posada del Hidalgo. In the afternoon we took a bird watching float trip down the Fuerte river.

Los Mochis fish market

Los Mochis fish market

The Los Mochis fish market shown in the pictures on the left was the real thing, not a tourist attraction. The hotel and river trip shown below were in El Fuerte.

Hotel courtyard

Hotel pool

Hotel front

River trip

River trip

River trip - birds

Copper Canyon Train Ride

Saturday, January 14th - finally we get to see the Copper Canyon. Here are Kathy's notes on the trip:

"Today we boarded the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad where we ascended 8,000 feet in about 6 hours. It was a spectacular ride with many bridges and tunnels. We ate lunch on the train. We spent the night at a lodge on the canyon's rim - Posada Barrancas Mirador. The view from this hotel was spectacular. We had perfect weather and a full moon over the canyon. The Tarahumara Indian women and children were selling their beautiful baskets outside our hotel. I bought several baskets to bring home for family and friends. The large baskets are made of "sotol" and the small ones are woven with Apache pine needles. There were 4 young men who sang and entertained us during happy hour."

Train

Train

Tunnel

Looking back from the train

High bridge

Crossing the bridge

Leaving the train near the hotel

Hotel sign

Posada Mirador Hotel

View from our balcony

Canyon Rim

Canyon Rim

Canyon Rim

Canyon

Canyon

Kathy with Tarahumara woman

Tarahumara baskets

Full moon

Exploring the Area

The next day, Sunday, January 15th, we explored the area at the top of the canyon. Kathy went for a sunrise hike with a few others along the rim of the canyon (I had done this hike the previous afternoon). We took a bus to a Tarahumara indian village, museum and church named Cusarare. Next, we went to the Sierra Hotel Lodge where we hiked about 3 miles to a waterfall. We had lunch at the lodge, a lovely place (with no electricity). Back at the hotel, the local musicians entertained us again.

Tarahumara dwelling on hike

Tarahumara dwelling on hike

Waterfall at end of hike

Waterfall at end of hike

Local entertainers

Local entertainers

On to Chihuahua

On our last full day we watched the sunrise over the canyon, and then took the bus to Chihuahua. Even though this is a desert area of Mexico, it is high enough that there had been snow during the night. Some remained along the side of the road.

At noon we stopped for lunch at a Mennonite farm. Then it was on to Chihuahua, a larger city than I had imagined. Our hotel was next to the cathedral. That night for our farewell dinner, we were entertained by local folkloric dancers. Then the next morning it was over and we had to fly home.

All in all it was a most interesting trip: cruising the Sea of Cortez, taking the train up through the Copper Canyon and experiencing life along the rim of the canyon.

Sunrise over the canyon

Sunrise over the canyon

Sunrise over the canyon

Cathedral in Chihuahua

Cathedral in Chihuahua

Cathedral in Chihuahua

Cathedral dome at night

Chihuahua at night

Folkloric dancers

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C. Brandon Jones
email: Brandon "at" cbjones.info
updated June 2, 2006