Friday, January 25, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

USA border

Apenas unas horas atrás dejé América. Grande y hermosa. Cuando cruzaba la frontera, a pie, desde México a USA, en su paso de Sonoyta, se me encogía el corazón y a la vez latía con fuerza. Cruzar fronteras para aquellos que nos es sencillo y permitido tiene su parte romántica y de otro tiempo; otros, menos afortunados, se dejan la vida en ello.
La frontera del norte de México desde Sonoyta a Tijuana va paralela a la carretera, a tan solo unos metros, visible, cercana, alcanzable. Los mexicanos la llaman la línea, porque de hecho eso es, tan sólo una línea caprichosa que separa y divide. Tiempo atrás esa línea estaba mucho más al norte dejando del lado mexicano a estados como Nuevo México, Texas...
Sólo un vasto y temible desierto separa realmente los dos países en esta zona. El Gran Desierto del Altar. La línea o frontera es tan sólo una ridícula valla con unas estacas de madera de apenas un metro de altura en muchos de sus tramos. Cualquiera, lo suficientemente desesperado, se aventuraría a cruzarla en busca de una vida mejor.
Casi todos los que lo han hecho y con los que he tenido el inmenso placer de platicar estos días dicen lo mismo, la vida en México es más suave. Como suaves y dulces han sido mis experiencias en estas casi dos semanas por el México, en realidad, menos lindo pero sí bien querido.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

de mexico a la luna / from mexico to the moon

En los años 60 la NASA entrenó a los astronautas de uno de sus Apolo en el Gran Desierto del Altar y el Pinacate, a tan sólo 52 kms de donde me encuentro, por ser, según la agencia, la zona de la tierra más parecida a la superficie lunar. Un desierto árido e inhóspito poblado de grandes cráteres y de los cactus más altos que jamás imaginé.

El desierto, como el océano, hipnotiza, amansa, traspone. En el sol del mediodía hivernal las siluetas de los cactus recortadas contra el horizonte se confunden con personas, imagino que en el verano con las altas temperaturas algún visitante desorientado gritará desesperado a estos gigantes inmóviles en busca de dirección para salir del duro desierto lunar.

Cuentan los locales que más de uno y más de dos se perdieron y nunca regresaron. Los alacranes, arañas, víboras, serpientes de cascabel son compañeros de viaje aterradores en esas situaciones.


Back in the sixties, NASA trained some of their astronauts on the Pinacate and Big Desert of the Altar, 52 kms away from where I am now, because they claimed this was the most similar place in the world to the surface of the Moon. An arid and inhospitable desert packed with massive craters and the tallest cactuses I ever imagined.

The desert, like the ocean, hypnotizes, tames, calms down. In the sun of the winter midday, the silhouettes of the cactuses resemble people, I guess that during the summer with the high temperatures a disoriented visitor would shout to these immobile giants in search of directions to get out of this lunar desert.

It is said that some enter the desert but never come back. The spiders, snakes, scorpions and so on are scary companions on those occasions.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

puerto peñasco, el pueblo fantasma

En un día cruzamos Arizona de norte a sur, pasando la inexistente Ruta 66 y llegando a Puerto Peñasco, México. 12 horas de coche. De la nieve al desierto. De -10º C a 21º. De USA a México. Cruzar la frontera desde USA a México no es ningún problema, el problema es al revés.

Puerto Peñasco es un pueblo que tiene el honor (si es que acaso lo es) de tener el mayor índice de desarrollo urbanístico del mundo en estos momentos. Esto en otras palabras significa que se están construyendo auténticos monstruos en primera línea de playa para los gringos que vienen a pasar gran parte de sus vacaciones a este lado de la frontera.

Otros honores que distinguen al lugar son el hecho de su cercanía al Pinacate y el Desierto del Gran Altar (donde la NASA entrenaba a sus astronautas) y ser el lugar donde se alojó Gael García Bernal durante el rodaje de Babel, rodaje que se llevó a cabo en parajes cercanos.

A parte de estos hechos aislados, Puerto Peñasco es un sitio de los que se puede obviar; si no fuera porque aquí vive Sara, mi amiga.
Aquí pase un día antes de salir en busca de aventuras hacia Tijuana y Baja California...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

crossing arizona, baby!

Next morning, we woke up early, at 6:30 am, and we drove off heading north towards the Grand Canyon. It was a fun long drive through Arizona. We stopped along the way what seemed a thousand times to buy coffees at petrol stations, to take pictures and shoot silly videos of ourselves. That's what traveling with friends is about, about being with each other and having fun.

Sara and I hadn't spent too much time together for some years. We've been friends for fourteen plus years. We met at University. At first, Sara hated me, at least, that's what she confessed me when she finally gave in and became my friend. I grow on people little by little. I know that now.

Our first stop was at Sedona. Sedona's main attraction is its stunning array of red sandstone formations, the Red Rocks of Sedona.The Red Rocks form a nice backdrop for everything from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails. The place is full of North Americans who come for a ride on some strange pink jeeps. We, instead, stopped for a coffee, a very expensive one.

After the comforting cup of coffee we resumed our journey and went through the breathtaking Oak Creek Canyon where we first saw snow and continued north to Flagstaff. We arrived at the Grand Canyon at 14:00 pm after paying a 25 US$ entrance fee (that allows you to enter the National Park during one week).

The Grand Canyon is a stunning place although there was too much snow for the outfits we were wearing. We weren't prepared at all for that weather (-10 degrees Celsius at night). After spending the afternoon there, we left the park.

On the way back, Sara gave in and let me drive her automatic car. It was my first time to drive such a car and I must confess: I didn't like it. Not only did it lack a clutch but it also had the speedometre in Kilometres (the road signs are in miles), making the journey absolutely tense as I was trying to work out what on earth 55 miles per hour was in kilometres as well as looking for a non-existing clutch to change a non-existing gear. At the same time, Sara would shout at me ¨Slow down, slow down!¨ every time we went past a police patrol. Once, she even said to me if they stop us, you do not speak English. I could not understand what the reasoning was behind that statement, anyway nobody stopped us. Luckily.

Friday, January 11, 2008

coffee machines, holy bibles & tips

"I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."

Robert Louis Stevenson

I could tell you all the facts and dates and none of the flavour, but I'd rather do it my way. I traveled to Mexico for travel's sake. It could have been anywhere else but, this time, it was Mexico because I was also visiting a friend.

Mexico is a contradiction in terms just like many other countries. Considering its GDP Mexico is the 14th World Economy, although until 2005 it had been the 9th one, however, welfare distribution is so unequal in the country that there are towns with Human Development Indexes similar to those in Germany and some others with HDI close to Burundi's; furthermore, Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, lives in Mexico and at the same time, in Mexico there is the poorest town in Latin America.

So that's where I went. I did not know it at the time, of course. I made up my mind about this trip just a few days before New Year's Eve and it was thought and done. On January the 11th I was at Barajas airport with my tiny backpack and my passport. This was the first time I was crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The first time I was going to America. For those who haven't flown to the USA, I'll tell you: You need have an address, if not, they won't let you in the country. My little hippie way of traveling doesn't fit with the USA immigration law in force, so this was the cause of my first discussion with a ground hostess at Madrid's airport. I don't have an address, I don't know where I'll stay while in the USA, I'll figure it out when I get there *if I ever do get there*.... Well these are the type of statements which are not necessary, just say "Holiday Inn"; it'll be a much quicker check-in . That's what I did when I finally gave in.

I flew to Phoenix, Arizona's capital city. Phoenix is one typical USA city: there are no people on the streets, only cars. So this is why. This is where all that fuss about Iraq came from. This is why, you invaded a country. To provide really cheap petrol for all these fat North Americans, so they'll never have to walk anywhere else.

Sara, my friend, was waiting for me at the airport and so did Arita, a Mexican friend of hers who's been living in Phoenix for seven years, and Aglae, Arita's sister who works with Sara in Mexico. It was a fine welcome.

We went, by car, to get something to eat but it was difficult because it was already ten in the evening. When we finally did find a place to eat I discovered why since I got into the country I had been finding boxes close to the cash desks. To put the waiters' tips into them, tips which are compulsory in the USA. (Traveling is learning, isn't it?) Obviously, I had failed to comply with the non-written law on tips in the USA.

Crossing so many time zones wears one out, so after eating we finally found ourselves a cheap motel and went to sleep. Motels in the USA have two peculiarities: they all have a Holy Bible beside your bed (just for you to read in case of being a little bit lost I guess...) and they all have coffee machines, so you can help yourself any time.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

the traveling bug

When I started my year, way back, in August; I did some resolutions which I have kept *well, most of them*. I also wrote down a list of places I wanted to visit this new year for one reason or another.

On my list of places to visit, there were two special ones: Mexico and Japan. They are special for me because I have friends living there right now.

I have made my first wish come true. I will be traveling to Mexico next week and therefore I will be able to silence my traveling bug for a while; I hope just long enough to keep me going until the Spring...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008