L’Observateur : Desierto Edition

Words to the wise: Don’t go on an overnight camping trip to the desert the morning after dehydrating yourself at the bar... When riding in the back of a pickup truck careening down a bumpy cobblestone road not having had your morning coffee, hang on tight...

If the truck breaks down in a one-vulka Mexican desert town, they’ll fix it fast and cheap – but be thankful the truck didn’t break down at the next stop, where the next mechanic is a six-hour trek back through the Chuihuahuan desert.

Being in the desert seems a bit like being lost at sea. Every direction looks more or less the same: Joshua trees, brush, and dirt. If you happen to lose your bearings, buena suerte. If you make a series of specious decisions, your life might be on the line.

You can walk up to a random rancho in the desert and buy goat cheese and (no joke) the best-tasting, most wholesome tortillas you’ve ever laid mouth on. You can also stop and eat some of the vegetation.

Anglophiles use the word “jungle” in a secondary way to mean “there’s a lot going on” like “it’s a jungle out there,” but alternately use the word “desert” to mean “there’s nothing,” like “it’s deserted.” But in reality, the desert is a jungle. It’s buzzing with insects, birds, lizards, snakes, goats, horses, cattle, and humans. All of whom come to the tanque at one time or another to partake of the myriad uses of water.

As Señor High Pants says, “there is only one reason to go to the desert.” If you know what that reason is, good for you. If you don’t, keep guessing.

Shooting a bow and arrow is good clean fun.

On a moonless night in the desert, the Milky Way is a stunning sight.

Sleeping bags can get hot inside even when it’s cold outside, and when the morning sun rises, the desert gets hot in a hurry.

On the way home, we stopped at El Cocuy, an organic farm in the desert owned by a longtime Catorceño named Balz Schurmann. His dog outran us to the gate.

The Huichol Indians of Nayarit have been vision questing to and around a peak in the Sierra Catorce called El Quemado for thousands of years. Theirs is an animistic tradition. Deer are sacred. This photograph was taken in the Tunel Ogarrio on the return trip from the desert. And I always thought my spirit animal was the horse. Go figure.

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