On Friday we headed off west from San Antonio

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aiming to get to Big Bend National park.  Tim really wanted to see the Rio Grande, and it’s probably the best place to see it.  The drive was, for the most part, extremely dull.  

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although there were a few things that caught our attention on the way

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but you can tell you are bored when you start taking photos of clouds

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(Oh look, an angel!)

Well, it’s not quite as unvaried as northern Sweden, where you get really excited if you see a house, but pretty flat and repetitive.  After a couple of hundred miles, the scenery started to become more interesting.  

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You could just imagine the Apaches lining up along the ridge and we had a sudden urge to circle the wagons, although, how you can do that with one Camel, we were not certain.  It was too far to travel in one hit so we broke the journey in Fort Stockton.  We found a cheap, but surprisingly nice motel and then headed into town to find somewhere to eat.  We ended up at steakhouse, which had very nice food, but no wine.. It turned out that, despite the drive through beer place, the town was dry!  You can not drink a glass of beer or wine with your food at any restaurant, but you can buy beer at the local drive through.  We spent ages trying to work out what this bird was when it was dark.  Was is a chicken or a turkey? It turned out to be a road runner, the local symbol.

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Next morning we headed down to Big Bend  through increasingly arid and empty terrain, finally realising we were in the Chihuahua desert.  

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As we entered the Big Bend National Park, there was a worrying sign saying that all of the campgrounds had been full at four pm the previous day and, as I couldn’t find any other campgrounds near by, it looked as if we might just have to wave at the river and move on.  We pulled up at the National Park Ranger Station, hoping to book a pitch there.  We bought an $80 pass for all National Parks, but the ranger could not assure us that we could find a pitch in any of the campsites- we would have to go to one and chance our luck.  We hightailed down to the Rio Grande Village campground and managed to find a reasonable pitch for the next three nights.  Phew!

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Big Bend national park is right in the middle of the Chihuahua desert and the Rio Grande Village campgrounds are right next to the river.  We pitched the tent and headed off along the trail from the campground with high excitement.  We had seen all those old westerns.  We imagined ourselves on our horses, galloping away from the law to cross the Rio Grande to escape punishment……. When we saw the river, what a shocker. 

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It was pathetic.  It seemed to have less water flowing through than some streams around Bognor.  You can almost touch Mexico and you could easily wade there.  So easily that there are loads of places where you find these Mexican trinkets for sale, with their owners watching from across the river, hoping to gain some US dollars.

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Our walk took us up to a really good overlook and we got chatting to the other people that were wandering about.  Despite the beauty of the scenery, we ended up discussing how awful American beer is. 

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I think Tim is on a mission to improve the beer over here. We met Mark, a professional photographer, who was planning to stay up on the hill and do a time lapse of the Milky Way.  

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He ended up coming back for beer and food and we had a great evening chatting with him. (Oops, someone else we led astray) His wife could not be with him because she had to work, but she is happy for him to go off and take photos as long as they can travel in the summer.  He was delightful, helping me to try and take pictures of the stars.  (I really ought to practice with my camera before I am presented with perfect views of the Milky Way).  The results were the best I have taken so far, so a huge thank you to Mark!

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The time we spent in Big Bend was wonderful.  We have never camped in the desert before and we loved it, despite the stupidly high February temperatures.  It seems that it is usually about 21 degrees centigrade at this time of year, not 32 that we have been experiencing.  We have explored canyons……

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This one was called Santa Elena and the wall on the  the other side was in Mexico (best echo EVER…sorry all those people who were hoping for a nice peaceful walk)  and these people were nearly breaking the law

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(although it is perfectly legal to swim in and float along the river, just not to enter Mexico that way). There was the most fabulous scenery

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(this is a wash, not a dry river and is produced by the intense rain during thunder storms)

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 hot springs

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and the Picos mountains.

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We have seen road runners

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(that didn’t  go ‘Meep Meep’), red tailed kites

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wood peckers,

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and kangaroo mice

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and heard coyotes.  You can (literally) see things more than a hundred miles away in some places and you can see the Milky Way every night.  What you can’t do is have a shower, so we were more than ready to move on after three days ( we weren’t too smelly, as we did wash!) (honest).

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