Copper Canyons Trip – Part 2
The Road to Urique…
On Friday morning we departed Creel on the way to Urique. This marked my third day of travel to get to Urique. There is no quick way to get there, and normal travel time is two – three days depending on where you live. We left the hotel early in the morning, before the frost was even off the windshields for the day. Creel is actually at an elevation of over 7,500 ft and the night had dropped into the 30’s a stark contrast from the high 90’s we would experience in the canyons during the day.
We departed this mountain town and headed up and over a few passes, stopping to take photos along the way at one of the smaller canyons then headed to the zip line prior to taking the road to Urique. The zip line was part of a greater adventure park built by the tourism board to boost international tourists in the area. We had a fun time and the 7 zip lines were pretty cool. However, for me the experience was sullied when after we had taken the Austrian made tram back to the beginning we found out from a documentary film maker and activist the land had actually been seized from the Tarahumara people and the government was attempting to relocate the people or “create” a village for tourists to visit. Looking back on it I reflected this while sitting in the airport yesterday…
Still I had a really fun time zip lining but after hearing the whole story it leaves me conflicted about the whole experience of the adventure park. Next time I would skip it all together or instead spend my money helping those who live in the area and not the tourism board.
We boarded the van again and continued the 60-70K remaining to Urique. The last 30-40K we descended down a single track road on the side of the canyon walls. Some in our vehicle had their pucker factor increase as we descended over 7,000 feet into the base of the canyon on at time no more than a single track of dirt road literally cut into the canyon walls. The Copper Canyons is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon in the United States. An hour later we hit the bottom of the canyon and finally were in Urique! I was excited to be in the town and finally after over two and a half days of travel arrive.
The rest of the day was meetings and prep for the children’s race and packet pickup the next day.
Saturday morning came too quickly as I left the house I was staying at and met race directors around 6:00am in the morning. The kids race was staffed mostly by international racers helping hand out t-shirts to each participant, pacing the kids on the 3km course, then handing out sandwiches, drinks, medals and school supplies (donated by international racers) to each participant. The race is free to all the kids, of which over 500 ran!
To say these kids are amazing is an understatement. I always love watching kids run as they embody the purity of sport, smiles were huge as they ran through the course at a blistering pace. Their spirit palpable. A highlight was the girl who ran by me with one sandal in hand and one still on her foot. She must have blown a shoe at some point in the race, and was still running at full speed without missing a beat and a huge smile on her face. After the race for the rest of the day, many of the kids wore their t-shirts and medals around with pride.
To say this race is like the Superbowl to this community would be an understatement. Live Mariachi bands played in the town square all day long, as participants lined up down the street to pick up their registration packets. Over 700 participants were registered with over 500 of them being Tarahumara. The way the race works is participation is free for the Tarahumara, they run to earn vale or vouchers which are each worth $25.00 or 100lbs of corn, beans, or rice. They earn a voucher for each “loop” they complete on the course. The international racers fees and sponsors pay for these vouchers.
It was not until watching all the people lined up for registration did it get real. As I looked around I saw the local people dressed in their clothing, the iconic clothing depicted in Born to Run. I had to keep reminding myself this was not a show for tourists or cultural Epcot like event. This was real, there is no show. I watched young and old men and women line up to get their packets among the teched out international and national athletes. Out of the many scenes during packet pickup was watching the Tarahumara see the pictures American Patrick Sweeney had taken and framed for the people. Many I was told do not have a single photo of themselves. Watching them take photos of themselves was an experience.
That evening the pre-race introductions, welcomes and speeches took place for hours in the town square and the crowd was a complete mix. Easily 3,000+ people were gathered around the square and surrounding streets watching the dancers, music, and welcomes. It was not until after 7:30pm that the events would conclude and people would fill the two restaurants in town or head back to their camps to make a pre-race dinner in preparation for the next day.