Monday, May 2, 2016

Boquillas del Carmen

We waited until Friday the 15th to move from Terlingua to Rio Grande Village inside Big Bend National Park. We knew that there was no cell phone coverage and only limited wifi only at the store and we cannot go for long on weekdays due to the clients we support.

It was hot that first day: our thermometer at one point read 102° F. The best plan of action: jump into the air-conditioned jeep and do some preliminary exploring.

Las Sierras del Carmen, El Pico near the center.

Our first views of the beautiful Boquillas Canyon

The Rio Grande, or Rio Bravo depending on which bank you are on.

The town of Boquillas in Mexico seen in the distance.

Our first close-up sighting of javelina in the wild (yes, we were inside of the jeep).

Wire and bead trinkets are placed on a rock and for sale at the Boquillas Overlook parking area. Payment is on the honor system, with a bag or box set at the base for payment. Below you can see the road from town and shelter on the opposite bank from which the vendor can watch. Yes, it is illegal for him to cross the river and set out his wares (and come back for the money). No, it is not illegal to purchase them. Those with passports can go into the town of Boquillas for souvenirs but unluckier tourists can support the residents here.

Sunset on the mountains.

Saturday morning we dug out our passports and headed to the crossing as soon as it opened.

Here's a google map that shows the lay of the land - and river. You don't actually need walk the two miles from the campground to the crossing. There's a parking area by the US Border Crossing building.

The river is wider here than it was upstream. You could probably still wade/swim across if you didn't mind getting wet.

But we preferred to be rowed across. Here you can see trucks lined up on the Mexican bank waiting to take you to town for a meager fare. You can alternately choose to walk (ugh) or to ride a burro (picturesque but slow).

The ferry taking the people before us across.

And here we go.

When you get across you are provided with a guide for the town. Highly recommended as you will learn more about local history and customs.

Enchilada breakfast at the Boquillas Restaurant, one of two in town. The enchiladas were different than we are used to: small tortillas folded in half with cheese and sauce rather than rolled.

View from our table. Burros and a young caballo roaming the streets.

A new visitor center in progress, not yet open.

Most of the lower-lying part of town is abandoned after heavy flooding a number of years ago. Also the town nearly died when the border was close after 9/11. The crossing was only reopened in April of 2013.

There are now streetlights in the town, powered by solar cells. There is a single telephone line to the town. An operator will answer the phone, find out who the call is for, and ask the caller to phone again at a specific time when she can have the intended recipient available.

The children sell armbands in the street. Of course I bought one: how can you resist?

Our guide Chalo Diaz and some of his family (baby son, wife, and nieces) with their wares.

I bought the little beaded road-runner from them. The ocotillo is a story for the next installment.

We walked up to the water tower for a view of town. There are large sand dunes up that way.

Bringing power to the town, resulting in such things as refrigeration, has been a great boon to the residents. I expect that more businesses will open as tourism again flourishes.

On the way down the hill I stopped and bought a bag to hold our "stuff".

Supporting the economy is a good thing.

After the walk, we refreshed with a cold beer. A couple of us also braved the restroom out back which pretty much consisted of a hole to squat over with a rudimentary shack around it.

After that Margaritas were mentioned and we frequented the second restaurant: Jose Falcon's which was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

There is a viewing deck at Jose Falcon's over the river. Chalo joked that it wasn't very Grande and I added "Rio Pequeño". He laughed. 

The desert margaritas are spectacular and I wish I knew what was in them. And there is a liqueur made of of sotol which was reminiscent of a smoky Scotch. 

The food menu is limited (quesadillas above). Chalo explained grocery shopping now requires a trip of 160 miles each way over rough roads to the town of Muzquiz. Use the map I inserted earlier to see just what the people are up against. Before the border restrictions were put on the residents could freely use the store at Rio Grande Village. Not now. To obtain a visa is around 3000 pesos and requires multiple trips to the city. Once you have it, you may enter the USA from authorized points such as Ciudad Juarez. Not exactly convenient.

This is just wrong. If you are one of those who has been mislead by US news sources and/or politicians you need to visit the border and see for yourself. These are just people trying to make a living however they can. It would be a danger to none of us to allow them to buy gasoline for their trucks or groceries for their families legally.

And as to the logistics of building "a wall"? How much of Texas do you plan to wall off and cede to Mexico? This is beautiful but rugged country. The river/border meanders and winds and often changes its course.

Chalo waited while we partied. As soon as he saw we were ready to go he called one of the trucks. Not having cell phones, they use walkie-talkies. Old technology is new here.

While we waited for our transport we watched village children enjoying a slice of cake from restaurant owner Lilia. Yes, the children are selling bracelets and trinkets on the street for a living but they seem to have fun. They are delighted whenever they make a sale. The entire adult population is watching out for the kids. No video games here. In a lot of ways it is similar to our small-town childhood of the 1950's and early 60's.

Village children and village dogs and village horses and burros.

Too soon it was time to leave. As we left I told driver/boat pilot "Hasta la vista" and he replied in kind. Until I see you again, Boquillas. I will be back.