I find myself back on US soil and there are only 3 months till I start the Great Adventure. It’s time to make decisions.
One of the most troubling segments of my trip has always been northern Mexico. Mexico as a whole is a very safe, friendly country (in my opinion) but along the US border the drug war rages on and it can be extremely dangerous to foreigners.
My planned route takes me down the Mississippi River. I start in mid June and aim to reach New Orleans by Hallowe’en, allowing a leisurely pace. I expect crossing the US to be relatively safe, with “relative” being the crucial word.
After dallying in New Orleans I’ll head down the Gulf coast through Texas. In this area, if all goes well, I’ll meet up with fellow adventurer Mitchell Roth. (That’s right, if the Great Adventure becomes a video game it will have a two-player mode.)
And after New Year’s we’ll cross to Mexico.
By following the Gulf Coast we won’t hit the very most dangerous spots, but we’ll go through some bad stuff. Friends have begged me to take a bus from the border to Tampico or San Luis Potosí, effectively cutting 500 miles off my walk. I know there has to be another way.
So Mitch and I brainstormed.
Bear in mind that the rule for the Great Adventure is that everything needs to be powered by my own muscles. That doesn’t strictly mean walking-only. In fact, I plan to bike part of it, because biking is fun.
So what about paddling?
The vision that Mitch and I now have is to buy two sea kayaks. We’d have to take some time on the Texas coast to be trained and put in a lot of practice. Then, when we’re ready, we’ll sea kayak along the Gulf—always in sight of land—all the way to Veracruz.
We’ll still need to go through customs when we cross the border. There should be a way for small vessels to enter port legally; if it doesn’t apply to kayakers we’ll need to find a way to cross by land at Matamoros. These are the kinds of details we’ll work out a hundred miles from the border.
In a way we’re trading one set of risks for another. But the dangers of the sea can be tempered by gear, training and attention. There’s something about it with a powerful appeal: every afternoon we put ashore in a different pueblo, find a place to sleep, and enjoy the beautiful evening. In the morning we go out with the tide, or take a week to bask on the beach before going on.
That’s the plan. Two kayaks, salt in my hair and the final tan I’ll ever need. My readers are my brain trust, and if you have thoughts or suggestions I’d love to hear what you think.