LOS ALTARES MEXICO
It was the second winter we were spending at Victoria Palms. We really, really enjoyed living in the valley.
We heard about this trip into Mexico, we thought it would be fun. It was. Crossing into Mexico at Brown-ville, TX border to tour along Hwy 48 or Los Altares, which means dangerous highway. Our destination was a small isolated village in the Tarahumara Mountains.
The Spanish established silver mines in the region in the 1600’s. I don’t remember the name of the village, but it was one of the few isolated communities that survived in the Sierra after the silver mines closed.
As I recall we went on this trip with another couple but I don’t remember their names.
The guide took us to a cemetery and explained that the elaborate above ground tombs were for the wealthy and had religious after death advantages but most in the cemetery were just markers for common folk.
Along this route there’s a famous rest area called
“Los Altares”, where a series of aztec murals depicted in the rock formations.
About half of the trip was through dry flat are with sparse vegetation.
Los Altares is known for its scenic drive between forest and rock formations.
We stopped along the way to walk around a tourist town. As you can see we are dressed appropriately.
This high mountain road is bounded on
the north and northeast by the United States. As we approached. The mountains the road became treacherous.
Finally when we reached the end of the wide road, the driver stoped and talked to another driver of a smaller bus who agreed to drive us on to our destination.
This road and the road above are similar to the ones on the last leg of our journey. The passengers loaded onto the smaller bus.
As we drove thru a tunnel carved out of the mountain, we understood why a smaller bus was necessary. As we exited the tunnel we found ourselves on a very narrow village street.
It seemed that the driver was in a hurry. So much so that he paid little heed to the awnings covering the vender’s wares along each side of the very narrow village street. The venders were waving and shouting at driver. Again, the driver paid no mind, taking us to our destination outside the village, an amphitheater that appeared to be several hundred years old, like the one pictured here.
Our guide told the history of Northern Mexico in the 17 century when Silver was discovered in the Mountain range we drove through on our way to this village. The amphitheater shown here is similar to the one just outside the small village.As the guide spoke, his voice was understandable even to us standing across the other side of the amphitheater. It was an interesting story of how the locals were forced to mine the silver from the rock.
The rails constructed to deliver the ore out of the mountain, was also a way of escape for the locals who suffered the tyranny of the Mexican Army.
Scenery on the drive back was not as interesting as the way there.
We returned to our original transportation and started back to Brownsville. We had one adventure remaining, The Chicken Train.
On our trip back to Donna, TX, the bus driver diverted our route to a railroad crossing where he stopped and instructed the passengers to disembark and stand by the tracks. He explained a train (called the Chicken Train) would be coming by this spot and would stop for us. About an hour later the Chicken Train stopped and we climbed aboard.The train was fully loaded already so we found a place to stand. A quick look around revealed how the train got its name. Apparently this was the high market day for chickens.The train started and maintained a slow pace as we were jostled around by the un Waiting for the Chicken Train A Mexican lady explained that the tracks were loose and the conductor must go slow. As she was talking the conductor came to us and asked if we would like to go up front. We did. I think there were four of us chosen to go forward to the conductors cabin. The way forward was along a metal mesh walkway on the outside of the train. A hand rail kept us from falling to the ground.
Inside the cockpit was a blast and was the highlight of the trip. The conductor described each of the control handles and showed us the loose rails we were riding on. He slowed down frequently and explained that certain portions of the tracks were worse than other loose areas and required a speed of less than 10 MPH. We asked if it was dangerous riding on loose rails. He chuckled and replied, “yes”. Phyllis got to toot the whistle, a fitting end to this adventure.
Los Altares means dangerous road Highway 48. To that we might add, ” and Crazy driver.” Both the bus driver and train conductor.