Section 8: Fort Hancock to Presidio
Town today! The road we were walking along was wide and empty, despite being the only paved road connecting the Forgotten Reach and the towns of Candelaria and Ruidosa to Presidio and the highway. We walked straight down it’s middle, confident that we would hear approaching vehicles long before we needed to get out of the way. Around noon we saw the first Border Patrol in a while and the only real traffic of the day. Two agents sat on horseback and greeted us with arms sweeping wide, “welcome to Presidio!” They were searching the side of the road for footprints and using the horses to follow any signs into the thick brush.
We stopped to chat and ask a couple questions while they told us about the area. They patrol all the way from Candelaria down to Lajitas, a huge stretch of about 100 miles.
The agents asked, "do you hike at night?"
And seemed reassured when we told them no. Thinking they were about to tell us about the “scary people” that come out at night we were surprised when instead they told us about the rattlesnakes that are attracted to the heat of the asphalt road just after dark. They rely on their horses every day to navigate the tricky terrain. Of all the Border Patrol we’ve encountered on this trip, these two were some of the most relaxed and friendly, offering to give us a ride into town at the end of the day if we were still out here. Thanks guys!
Back to walking. Unfortunately we stared at the ground most of the day due to a combination of intense heat and monotonous scenery. The sun baked the blacktop road and radiated back at us. The Rio spread out to our right and a single pyramid shaped mountain loomed in Mexico. We passed by small ranch after small ranch, just a gate, mailbox and a couple structures. The only things that stood higher than our waists were man made. Not much shade out here.
There were hardly any cars on the road but at one point a truck passed only to turn around and head back towards us. A man and woman sat in the front, rolling down the window as they approached. The man told us that he and his wife were on their way to Sunday mass in Candelaria but saw us and wanted to make sure we were ok. We were touched and reassured them that we wanted to be out here hiking...in the 100 degree heat. Thanks for stopping!
By late afternoon we were close enough to town that we felt good about getting a hitch and coming back another day. Two locals, John and David Spencer picked us up. As Spencers they were related to half the town. (Earlier we passed the Indio Cemetery which is the Spencer family cemetery). They were on their way back to Presidio after picking up a tractor in Candelaria and had seen us hours ago on their way out. We crammed into the cab of their truck and listened to their stories. David lived just over the border in Ojinaga where he said everything was cheaper. The electric bill for two months is only 96 pesos because the Mexican government pays for 80% of the service. Most of the crops are on the Mexican side and are fed by irrigation canals. They've got the water and the labor he said. We could see the difference ourselves, the Mexican side is lush and cool while the American side has almost no green. John lives on the US side and owns thousands of acres. We stopped by his place - a labyrinth of old car parts and imaginative structures of repurposed material - and he insisted we take some chicken eggs. Six beautiful, multicolored eggs still warm from the nest.
Not sure how we'll eat these (we definitely don't have a kitchen setup) but we can try!
As we pulled off his property the city police officer pulled up for a friendly chat. The county election is close and Jose Cabezuela wanted to be elected as city commissioner. John and David assured us that he was the right man for the job. John hadn't registered to vote so Cabezuela pulled out a registration form and handed it over, telling him to make sure to postmark it by tomorrow. Glad we got to see that happen. After wishing him good luck in the election, John and David dropped us off at our hotel, telling us to give one of them a call if we needed a ride again. Friendly people in this part of the world!