It’s a beautiful evening here, somewhere outside Squamish BC at the end of a logging road. The forest is quiet and the cool mountain air is calm, enabling me to hear the rustling of small creatures and the occasional pine needle dropping to the earth below. The sky still has some color but the sun is thoroughly down now, and as I lay nestled in my hammock suspended 12 feet up between two trees (my newest bear/cougar proof camping strategy), I am having a bit more time to reflect on this epic northward journey…(continued from “The Desert”)
The blessed night fell once again. As I passed through Santa Ana, I bought some freshly picked grapes from a woman on the road. I wanted to push through to La Rumorosa and camp there, but my near death experience in the desert had taken a lot out of me. I reached the northern border towns late at night, and with a long stretch to go.
The air was different there, thick with a confused mixture of feverish hope and dark despair, optimistic expectation and bitter disappointment. The Pemex gas stations, which down south had felt like safe little nap havens, seemed strangely unwelcoming. The roads were still good but I drove right over a tire coming into Sonoyta and was grateful that Carlito’s muffler had long since become the kick toy for a group of kids back in Sayulita (for if it hadn’t I surely would have lost it then, and possibly more).
As I rolled into town I felt bleary eyed and in need of at least a short rest, but there was something going on. Groups of federales were gathered at the entrance to town, and there was a heavy military presence. However, my need for a nap overpowered my desire to keep moving, and I pulled into a large truck stop. I parked near the back, in front of a camper truck who was obviously also taking a nap. I was immediately barraged by mosquitos, so I headed to the other, busier side of the truck stop in an effort to get away. What followed was one of the more disturbing moments of my trip.
I began to drift off, feet hanging out the window. Perhaps I got a feeling, or was just lucky enough to crack my lids open. What I saw was a skinny man, stooped and loping silently towards the window. I froze for a moment, until he thrust his hands forward in preparation to grab my feet. I then whipped my feet back into the car and jerked into an aggressive sitting position, chin forward and glaring daggers. He stopped abruptly, and said in Spanish, “Oh, you are a woman?” “Si!” I hissed, glaring at him like his mother probably had before beating him with a wooden spoon. He turned and walked quickly away, repeating, “No, no, no-no-no…” under his breath.
My heart was pounding inside my chest, and as he disappeared into the darkness around the corner I started Carlito and rolled the windows up. To this day I’m not sure whether he was just crazy and thinking to scare somebody, or was intending on a blatant robbery. Whatever the case, it was more than sufficient to shock the exhaustion out of me and I peeled out of that truck stop feeling very awake. I stopped at the edge of town for a very fast and unpleasant taco, before eagerly speeding westward into the dark desert.
There was a long stretch of wilderness before San Luis Rio Colorado, and once the adrenaline wore off I felt my lids getting heavy again. Figuring that out in the wilderness I may feel a bit safer, I pulled off the road and over into the desert so that headlights from passing vehicles didn’t illuminate my position. I laid there for a while with the windows cracked, and drifted off once more.
Immediately I began getting visions in my head of figures in the darkness moving silently, desperately, intently. Running to, running from. Fear. Aggression. Violence. Bodies everywhere, both hidden and in the desert sun. It was absolutely horrible. I snapped my eyes open and sat up, wearily turning the engine back on and returning to the highway. I am convinced that the spirits in that place were whispering to me in my sleep, desperate to tell their story. I pushed on with a very heavy feeling that had nothing to do with sleep.
Only a few miles down the road, I saw a vehicle pulled over in the darkness with the hazards on. As I flew by, I could see two people waving their arms for help. As much as I wanted to pull over, something told me not to; and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was spent, and scared, and with no desire to feel more of that place. Guilty tears filled my eyes. I was still cursing myself for a heartless coward when I saw a sign coming up that had an emergency number on it. With a surge of hope, I slowed down and repeated the number until I could get my phone out and dial it. I made note of the kilometre marker, and have never been more grateful to be able to speak Spanish as I told the operator the situation. He assured me that he would send someone out immediately, and that they would be there to help right away. I felt a rush of relief and redemption as I sped towards San Luis.
When I got there, I told myself that if I saw the hotel Javier and I had stayed at two years before, I would choke up the cash for a room. They had secure parking so I wouldn’t have to worry about Carlito. I needed it, I deserved it, and there was no way I was pulling over at another truck stop along this godforsaken border. Sure enough, I saw the sign and pulled in. I whittled money out of my meagre stash, dragged myself up to the room, and made myself take a shower to wash off all the fear sweat before collapsing into bed. It was 4 am. I fell into a thankfully dreamless sleep and didn’t wake up until midday the next day. My deadline to be in Valle Guadalupe for my show was upon me, and I was looking at another daytime drive through the desert...puta madre! I fired up Carlito and headed out into the blazing sun…(to be continued).
**…on a side note I am now tucking in to sleep, up here in my tree nest in beautiful British Columbia. If this blog gets posted, my bear-proof camping strategy is continuing to pay off. =)