DAY 5 – Creel (11/9/11)
Hotel Villa Mexicana was a very pleasant stay. Even though we stayed in their camp/RV grounds, we still had access to their commons area which included a lounge, a restaurant, gift shop, and, most importantly, a bathroom facility with hot showers! This really made it feel as if we were in a hotel instead of a RV park. They charged us 250MXN (18USD) per night for the three of us. We told the receptionist that we had two vehicles but she must not have heard us. After we paid, she came out to show us where to set up camp. When she saw we had two cars, she said she should have charged us more but never asked for any more money. So, it may actually be 250 MXN per car…
We showered up, sat in their lounge and planned out the details of the rest of our trip, ate dinner, and hanged out until we were dry. Why did this matter? Because, it was below freezing every night in Creel. To illustrate how cold, our 7 gallon water jugs that we left out every night began to freeze at the water line and we had frost on the inside of our windows. Although we were not mentally prepared for the cold, we had proper clothes and adequate bedding (by chance) since we had an extra sleeping bag that my brother’s girlfriend left in his truck!
We woke up at a reasonable hour, made breakfast, loaded my brothers truck with all of the camping gear, and the three of us set out in the Lexus to view the sights around Creel within the Valle de Piedras. These included: Mission San Ignacio, Valley of the Mushrooms (Valle de Ongos), Valley of the Frogs (Valle de Ranas), Valley of the Monks (Valle de los Monjes), and Lake Arareko.
Summary of the sights: mission was cool, mushrooms were unique, only one rock formation looked like a frog, the monk rocks were phallic, and the lake seemed more like a livestock watering hole. Don’t get me wrong, it was worth spending a half of a day especially since we had been covering a lot of miles to this point.
The only other point to note is that the inhabitants of the valley seemed to be really poor. They did charge a park entrance fee and were selling trinkets to tourists. So, at least some money was coming in. Although, we only saw about ten other tourists the whole four hours or so we were there. We talked to a couple of local girls who followed us around for an hour after they tried to sell us some crafts. They were 12 and 14 years old and told us they only went to school one day a week. I hope this was not true and that we simply misunderstood them…
We got back to Creel for a late lunch at Restaurant Tio Molcas. The proprietors were nice people, had good food, and was conveniently located near the zocalo. We ended up eating there agin later in the trip.
We spoke to the guys at “The 3 Amigos” tourist information booth (www.amigos3.com). They were helpful in answering our route questions without pushing their tours too much. They also had some decent, hand-drawn, local sights maps and some Creel to Batopilas route maps.
Some notes on Creel that were not known at the time:
1) They had the only ATM (at least that we could find) until we got out of the canyons. We found none at Batopilas, Urique, or San Rafael. We only, finally, found one in Alamos – well out of the canyons. There may have been one in Chinipas – I can’t remember…
2) The bank had only one ATM that only intermittently had cash. It seemed that the cash would come along late in the morning.
3) Creel had the only Pemex in the area (i.e. none in Batopilas, Urique, or San Rafael) which supplied regular (Magna) only. A new Pemex with premium looked as if it were being built on the way out of Creel towards San Rafael. So, this may be an option soon? We finally did come across a Pemex a bit before Chinipas. Although there was gas available from small store fronts in most of the small towns we came across, we did not need to buy any so I can’t advise on the quality. (As an aside, I’ve never had an issue with Pemex gas in all my 10 weeks cumulative driving in Mexico since 1999. So, I try to use them exclusively.)
I thought I promised each day’s write up was not supposed to be this long!???!