Jacob’s latest report from the North American Epic bicycle expedition:
The U.S Mexico border is the most frequently crossed international boundary in the world. It is also one of the most hotly debated and monitored areas between two countries anywhere. A frequent topic of contention between politicians, most recently with the inflammatory remarks made by Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who has made repeated exaggerated claims of the threat of Mexican migrants to the United States, and the need to build an impenetrable wall the entire length of the border.The most common associations with the border are drugs trafficking and illegal immigration for work. Half a million such illegal crossings are made each year, often in remote desert or mountainous regions, leading to several hundred deaths in the attempt to reach the U.S. The eastern end of the border in Texas follows the natural geographic boundary of the Rio Grande, whereas the western side, where we cross, was decided by drawing straight lines on a map. Hundreds of miles of border through empty desert with no discernable geographic features. Roughly 600 miles of the total border is fenced off, mainly in the busier population areas in California, Arizona, and Texas. Whereas the rest is patrolled or monitored by an army of border security guards.
Our experience of this border actually began about 50 miles north of Yuma, where a checkpoint was set up on a long empty stretch of the desert in Arizona. This is a buffer zone that acts as a double check for border officials to search and detain illegal immigrants. On the horizon whilst riding into the border town of Yuma, fighter jets and helicopters could be seen running patrols near Mexico. Giving and eerie sense of tension and danger. The reality on the ground was much more mundane and uneventful than was expected beforehand. We were waved through with smiles, and almost made it into Mexico without being stopped to sort out our immigration stamps. Guards wearing combat uniforms with large rifles patrolled the U.S side, whilst friendly and less intimidating personnel supervised the Mexican side. The change between the two countries was immediately noticeable. Things are a bit more rough around the edges, roads are more bumpy and cracked, but people are very friendly. On the very first street there was a multitude of dental and healthcare businesses offering low prices for their services. Further into the town there were numerous hospitals offering services in every kind of ‘ology’ in the words of American rider, Tom. This is clearly the place to come for cheap medical and dental work!
Baja California is already distinctly different from the border town of San Luis where we entered Mexico. It is very dry and mountainous, with fantastic vistas of landscape and the sea of Cortez. There is clearly a strong tourism industry here from the U.S and Canada, and it is easy to see why with the the great scenery, beautiful sea, and colourful towns. Our ride into the seaside town of San Felipe was long and scorching hot, but accompanied by great views of salt flats to our left, and mountains on our right. With a couple more weeks on the peninsula before mainland Mexico, it is finally time to put away the warm weather gear for good, and enjoy the warmer climate that we have been looking forward to for so long.
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