It is after midnight. The heat is smothering
me. And I am lying on the scorched earth next to four strangers
who, others warned me, "will slit your throat for your water." Just
how soon they will sever my jugular and leave me choking on warm
blood in the hot sand is not certain. But it will be only a matter
of hours -maybe twelve, no more than eighteen - before we run out
of water, and I'm forced to come to grips with that warning.
It is mid-August, and there is no escaping the Camino del Diablo's
deadly heat. We are lying in the same open grave Carlos Cobarubia
Mesa struggled across a year earlier. This is where he stared down
in horror at the first of three bodies he stumbled across during
a daring seventy-mile trek across America's desert borderlands.
Stretched out in the sand next to me are four men who are betting
their lives they, too, can do what most athletes and desert rats
would perish trying: that they can march fifty, seventy, one hundred
miles or more across the deadliest desert in North America in hopes
of finding jobs most Americans shun.
With nothing more than a thin cotton shirt to insulate my body
from the burning salt pan, I stare up at the fiery heavens
and realize that the odds against any of us making it out of this
desert alive are staggering.
We are little more than twenty miles north of Mexico's Highway
2, so we have thirty to fifty miles to go before this no-man's land
is at our backs. But we are already down to one and half gallons
of water each, not enough to compensate for the perspiration evaporating
immediately off our hot skin, not enough to survive a crossing that
has claimed the lives of hundreds of illegal immigrants in the last
decade; we will run out of water long before we reach the safety
of Interstate 8.
Continue to Next Page