Across Continents

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Angie’s cafe

December 29th, 2011

Angie’s cafe. Early morning in Fort Hancock, forty or so miles east of El Paso, Texas. Faded cutting on the wall suggested it had gotten a brief mention in National Geographic a couple of decades earlier. And it was a decent breakfast. Strong coffee. Initially the only customer, I found myself reflecting on the previous day. Doodling in my small pocket book.

Could I lend him two bucks? I’d smiled. Alas, I said, I had just the same problem. Never seemed to have any money on me. An obvious lie. Tornillo, little more than a gas station and convenience store. I’d been approached by a man in his early fifties, of Mexican descent, whilst stowing the few provisions I’d bought in the shop. Friendly enough on the face of it, but he was getting a little too close. And I disliked his mirror sunglasses.

A curious encounter. He reminded me a little of a chap I’d met back in Central Asia who’d made a living – of sorts – pilfering from passing travellers. Obliged to curtail his operations for a while. It was the offer to come and take a nap at his supposedly nearby home that had struck a chord of similarity. I’d politely declined, explaining I’d already arranged to stay with someone else. Fumbling in the panniers as I spoke, making quite sure he saw the canister of bear spray. Adding it was something I still carried. Just in case I ran into the odd miscreant. Grinning as I said it. Said he knew Tiquando. Doubted he could even spell it.

I’d left El Paso earlier that day. Pleasant northern suburbs soon replaced by industrial sprawl and tatty shops and cafes catering for the steady influx of Mexican day-trippers. The border crossing point resembling a maximum security prison. Tucked amongst the concrete fly-overs Border Patrol vehicles. Overhead the odd helicopter. I’d pressed on, eager to leave.

I’d eventually found a small cafe for lunch with a vacant window seat. Clientele all looked Mexican to me, a presumption reinforced by the Spanish news channel on the large TV screen. The Andre or Diego burger didn’t sound appealing, so I chose the chicken sandwich. The forlorn presumption that white meat would be the healthier option. Served in a bun rather more generous than the filling. Fortunately it was mostly downhill to Fort Hancock.

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Downtown El Paso

December 28th, 2011

Downtown El Paso. Major border crossing into Mexico…

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Bordering Mexico

December 7th, 2011

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Much of California, Arizona and New Mexico had, explained the storekeeper in Boulevard, once been part of Mexico proper. But, if the border had ever been on shifting sands, it was now firmly fixed. A stark, high fence. But not continuous. Gaps on some of the steep hillsides.

Heavy US Customs and Border Protection presence. Vehicles frequently parked up in the scrub. Part detection part deterrence. Accounting for close on half the traffic on the highway. Roadside checkpoints. Whether the focus was counter-narcotics or people-trafficking I wasn’t sure. Either way, it didn’t bear well for wild camping.

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View into Mexico

December 7th, 2011

Ken catches a glimpse of Mexico. Looks just like Southern California. But a bit poorer..

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Ken catches a glimpse of Mexico. Looks just like Southern California. But a bit poorer..

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Borderline sunset

December 7th, 2011

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Sunset over the Mexican border. Close to Jacumba, Southern California

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Along the border

December 7th, 2011

Ken stumbles upon the Mexican border. Eric Honecker would be proud… Probably…

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