Altar 2002 Day 6 07-11-2002

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Return to El Gulfo and an Encounter in the High Dunes

For breakfast, Kathleen cooked French Toast.  After cleaning up, we packed and headed back along the beach to the fish camp.  From the fish camp, we retraced our path to the abandoned railroad village.  Along the way, we encountered another resident of the Altar.

The abandoned village was not much, just the standard issue railroad housing.  Very well built by the local standards, but since the train does not stop there anymore, it was basically raped for parts.

We followed the railroad path for over 50 miles.  Along the way, we saw the Altar equivalent of a crop circle.  This was taken as evidence of higher life forms.  We stood in awe and wondered "who could have done this and what does it mean?".  The answer was never revealed.

Guess what?  The patch installed at the llanteria did not hold.  So Dan was back to running to the spare.  Here the boys load that big ass tire into the back of Dan's truck for the final time.  They have backed into the bank since I had the ramp.

Our path along the railroad took us to another nearly abandoned village called Lopez Colada.  There is one fellow and his wife that live here.  He is a retired railroad brakeman.  It seems that the trains stop here both to visit and to inspect their brakes.  The 25 km to the east of his place are very sandy and there are signs on the railroad that say "sand possible on tracks next 25 km".  Below, the fellow explains to Kai where the road to the south goes.

Life in Lopez is pretty basic and like all other things in the desert, totally dependent on water.  Below, you can see how he handles that situation.

Since it is hot most of the time (and fucking hot the rest) the family kitchen is actually outside, under the tree.  While you cannot see her, his wife is over there in the shade.

From Lopez, we headed south to the salt mine.  Below, is a salt flat that resulted from the mining operation.  In the Altar, a salt mine is a bay where the sea is trapped and then allowed to evaporate in the broiling sun.  Bright white and smooth as a mirror.

As we reached the beach, we consulted the tide chart to see if we could make it the 30 miles or so to El Gulfo before the tide trapped us against the cliff.  We decided to make a run for it and proceeded at a rapid pace.  Note the mud being thrown by Dan's tires.  At the last high tide, a few nights previous, the water came all the way to the edge of the cliff.  If we were caught there, the trucks would be toast.  So, we hurried as fast as we could.  All the while, I was remembering the carnage that this same path did to my tires on the previous trip.  The beach sand is soft, so low pressure is required.  But haste is required as well.  Somewhere in between is sanity.  We traveled at 35 MPH which was too fast for that low air pressure.

As we sped along the beach, we disturbed the rest of huge numbers of sea fowl.  There were thousands of them roosting in the sand.  Here is a small group.

One ever present consequence of high speed operation with low air pressure is side wall damage.  This tire is an Altar veteran.  Indeed, the tube in this tire was installed during the last trip.  This crack, while probably due to abuse on the previous trip, clearly was not made any better by the high speed run to El Gulfo.  The sidewalls of the tires were too hot to touch and were clearly subjected to additional abuse on this trip.  This tire was my spare spare (I carry two after the experiences of the last trip).

We stopped at the Pemex for a refill on diesel, but they were dry again.  Some things never change.  The good news was that we had filled everything in Rocky Point, so we were ok and could make it back to San Luis with plenty of margin.  The plan was to head out of El Gulfo on the pavement, then take the turn into the sand and work the dunes back toward the cross for the evening camp.  We headed out of town at full air pressure at 35 mph.  As we passed the north end of town, we encountered some unusual houses.  I am sure that it is a hotel or something like that.

At the turnoff from the main road, we took one last look at the Gulf of California and the delta of the Colorado River and headed directly into the high dunes again.

We were moving along smartly, at a reasonable pace.  Since I was cooking a pot roast this evening, I wanted to get to camp before it got too dark.  We stopped on the crest of a big dune to check out the situation and scout for a camp site.  As I got back into the 1300, I noticed some black spots on the horizon.  They were moving.  They were people.  They were coming toward us.  At first, all of us were confused, but then we realized that something was up.  Perhaps they were illegal aliens making their way to the boarder.  But that did not seem reasonable.  This path was too far and too difficult.  Then it dawned on us "what are people on foot doing in the dunes"?  There must be trouble.  So, we decided to drive to them to see what was up.

What was up was the Mexican military on patrol, chasing us thinking we were drug runners.  As we approached them, they fanned out and raised their weapons.  They must have thought that we were attacking them.  But once we got close it was clear that we were no threat to them.  Nancy, with her superior Spanish, explained that we were "turistas" and were "aqui en vacacion".  Tourists here on vacation.  I love stories as much as the next fellow, but I did not need to have them popping a cap into my mog.  So we attempted to be nice.  As I was talking to the officer, the tall handsome one, it was clear that he understood that we were what we stated and everybody relaxed.  Here, the boys pose for us in full battle gear.  Yes, those are automatic weapons and yes they are loaded.  Only one question remained "why were they on foot?".  Answer: they got their American-supplied hummer stuck in the sand.

Interestingly enough, when I asked the officer if they were stuck he said no.  But the sergeant who was the driver and would have to do the work of extricating the hummer told Scott in sign language that he wanted to use the winch.  So, we positioned for an extrication and then did the deed.  It was an easy pull.  As we were setting up for the extrication, I got my tire gauge and checked their pressure.  17 PSI.  Reasonable in a wide tire, but too hard for the 16.5's that they were running.  When the officer saw me checking, he said "menos aire"  Less air?  Si.  But at the risk of de-beading, of course.

We pulled them out and then headed off over a set of dunes where we were sure they could not follow.  Dark was setting fast and we needed to get cooking.  Nancy chose the camp and it was a good one.  We setup and did the pot roast thing - with Tecate and limes, cocktails and more red wine.  Kathleen also had a plate of smoked salmon stowed deep in the cooler, so we had that as appetizers.  We lit the fire and waited for the roast to cook.  As dark fell, we were treated to another high quality Altar sunset.

Tomorrow, we would head back to Cesar's, cross the border and then to Yuma.  From there, we would head back to San Diego and the real world.  Or was this the real world?  I am still not sure.

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