(Continued from The Desert)…I left San Luis in a cloud of dust. Although sweating immediately, with a proper rest under my belt I felt prepared to tackle the last leg of my journey. I reached Mexicali in midafternoon and again the air was sweltering, although a slight improvement from the day before at…drumroll…46 degrees Celsius (!). This time I had soaked my shirt before leaving and it helped somewhat, although the stop signs were torture (yeah here’s a funny fact for you: Mexicali has a population of almost 690,000, but for whatever reason the entire city seems to be governed by stop signs rather than lights. This, as one can imagine, results in countless close calls with varying degrees of hilarity depending on your outlook). To my utter, nose curling amazement, there were people happily trotting around at the stop signs selling bottled water etc. I had to laugh when I related this to a friend later in Valle Guadalupe, and he showed me a comic strip making fun of people from Mexicali. The comic depicted a scene from a fiery hell, in the midst of which a man is lying on a beach towel with shades and a big smile. The devil is exclaiming something like, “What’s with this guy?” and a demon replies, “Oh him? He’s from Mexicali.” Mystery solved!
After passing through this happy hell, I hit my last stretch of formidable desert culminating in the place they call “La Rumorosa.” This area is considered the Roswell of Mexico, because of the many UFO sightings reported over the years. It certainly has the look of another planet; it’s a wonder they were able to blast a road through such a place. If you google map the area, you will see coming from either direction the smooth, curving lines of a regular highway, which suddenly turn into what looks like a particularly emphatic squiggle around the “POW!” in old comic books. Here's the link:
As I approached the enormous wall of house sized round boulders piled on top of eachother, I began to get a lump in my throat that had nothing to do with dehydration. Here I was, forcing 34 year old Carlito through the near 50 degree desert, and now I was expecting him to carry me up a mountain to boot. Is this too much to ask? Who the hell do I think I am? Too late to turn back now though, and to where? Mexicali?!...I set my jaw in a hard line and swung towards the incline.
Within the first 500 metres I began to see vehicles pulled over to the side of the road, hoods up. By the time I was halfway, I had passed more than a few. I was torn between the razor sharp concentration of willing Carlito to continue climbing, and being in total awe of that alien landscape. This small area of Mexico is one of my absolute favorites; so mysterious, and beautiful in a raw, powerful and desolate sort of way. My first impression years ago was that some ancient giant had thrown piles of sandstone marbles on the desert, piling them up and creating this impenetrable looking fortress. I was told by a friend who doesn’t exaggerate that in the middle of the night, a wind rises that sweeps along between all those innumerable boulders and creates a blood curdling sound; the sound of a thousand souls wailing. For some reason that only increased my desire to camp there someday. I feel an extreme curiosity for the area, and the energy there feels very old and wise; not threatening per se.
Once I was 3 quarters up the mountain, overheated vehicle sightings dropped off and I reasoned that if Carlito were going to die, he would have done it already. I felt cautiously optimistic, and had the presence of mind to take a small video (you may want to lower the volume, it sounded real loud on my computer):
After a long, tense climb we reached the summit, and an almost shockingly cool draft of air greeted us at the top. I cheered like an idiot, stroking the fur on Carlito’s dash and bursting with pride and love for my magnificent white steed, my old gentleman hero. I pulled up to what would be my final tollbooth in Mexico, and was greeted by a woman with a matching wide smile. I imagine she gets to see many an overjoyed expression as people reach the top of that mountain. I stopped at a little store in the town of La Rumorosa for a celebratory road cooler, and was careful to leave Carlito running outside. I texted my old neighbor and friend Alejandro, who would be waiting for me in Valle Guadalupe. Then I continued on my way, floating down the windy highway through a paradise of cool grasslands. It seemed a world away from the boiling desert I had left behind, other than the telltale round boulders strewn everywhere. Despite the extreme rigors of my recent journey, in that moment I felt exuberant, triumphant and full of a precious zest for life. We had made it.