We ride out of Hachita in the late afternoon knowing this will be our last night in the USA. The road runs straight to Mexico and is heavily patrolled by US border guards. The terrain is flat, with distant mountains, colonies of yuccas are the dominant vegetation.
We ride until dusk and set up camp in a paddock to the side of the road. We are relaxing, after dinner, by the campfire when a border patrol van pulls up a few hundred metres away by the fence. They remain there for some time and we theorise that they are studying us in the darkness with infra-red night vision binoculars to ensure that we are not a bunch of careless illegal immigrants who haven’t considered the possibility that a fire might make them obvious. I have a moment of anxiety, inspired by The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, that they might simply open fire but after a time they clearly decide we are harmless and roar off into the darkness.
Morning dawns and we discover that we have set up camp where the sun must top the highest of the local mountains before warming us and starting to melt the ice crystals on our tents and bikes. I make coffee and porridge on the embers of last nights fire, huddled shivering in the shadow of the hill.
When the sun finally rises we pack and set off to the border post. On the US side we are greeted by signs warning of poisonous snakes and three uniformed officials. Despite an officious demeanor the guards are relatively friendly and chat about other cyclists who have made the crossing here recently, including a couple who completed the Great Divide Ride on uni-cycles and another on a tandem. We spend some time hanging about, filling our water bottles, checking the exchange rate on the office computer and taking photos before the guards remember their official duties and ask us to move on.
We make it as far the actual border, the strangely abstract concept of nationalism embodied in barbed wire and high security fences, and stop again to take photos. The sign on the Mexican side of the border warns of children at play, rather than poisonous snakes.
The pair of Mexican border officials are more laid back than their US counterparts. They are casually dressed in what can only be considered a uniform at a fair stretch of the imagination. When they see Cass on the ground trying to set up his camera for a time release photo of us all in front of the sign welcoming us to Mexico they wander over to assist before eventually we get to business of passports and stamps. Oscar, who appears to be in charge, informs us that since the border post is without electricity – there is no way to tell if this is a temporary or permanent situation – that it would be better for us to drop in at the Immigration Office at Janos, a town some fifty miles distant, tomorrow to get ourselves sorted out there.
We wave affectionate goodbyes to Oscar and his companion and set off, in high spirits, on an unpaved road into Mexico – an environment that seems magically warmer and sunnier than the US only a few hundred metres away.