View the Live Expedition
by John Annerino

"The Tinajas was a vast graveyard of unknown dead ... the scattered bonesof human beings slowly turning to dust ... the dead were left where they were to be sepulchered by the fearful sandstorms that sweep at times over the desolate waste." ~Don Francisco Salazar, 1650 on the Camino del Diablo

 

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.


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