Walking like we still had horses in-between our legs, we jumped in the car and left San Antonio. We headed south to Big Bend National Park. It’s still in Texas and just north of the Mexican Border. It’s in the Chihuahuan Desert and because of that, we were looking forward to the hot, sweltering sun. Hot and sunny weather calls for one thing…more camping. Yay.
The further south we headed, the more miserable the weather became. It wasn’t like we could stay in a Motel 6 if the weather got worse; we were going to be staying in the middle of nowhere. But fingers crossed.
Halfway there, the land became deserted, hilly and very empty. We were soon pretty much the only car on the roads apart from the odd border-patrol vehicle zooming around. In the middle of nowhere, I decided to pop the GoPro on top of the car for some shots for the holiday video. On it went and after filming a few scenes, I parked up and took it off. No problems there. After pulling away, we were greeted with a border patrol car coming towards us at speed with its sirens on. I watched it zoom right past me. Boy were they in a rush. Then it swung around. Wheel screeching sound effects included. What the hell – it had been one of the only times I was actually obeying the speed limit!
It came right up behind me, flashing its lights like there was no tomorrow. I had plenty of gas and the road went on forever, however, I chose not to put my foot down for a high-speed pursuit and instead I pulled over. Before I’d even realised what was going on, there was another cruiser behind them. Obviously they’d seen how rough Stef looked and called for backup!
I looked in my side mirror and could see the officer walking towards me. He was wearing jeans, a cowboy hat and had his hand on his handgun by his waist.
He asked for my license, which I promptly handed over. He then started questioning me as to why I was out of my car a few miles back. I explained about the camera and frantically signalled to Stef to get it to prove it. After a few more grilling questions, he was happy with my answers and seemed to calm down. He disappeared to behind our car and I could see him talking with his buddy who was waving his arms around. God. What was he telling him? He came back to the car and with no danger present; he sent the backup away.
It turned out we’d only gone and stopped slap bang in a big drug cartel area. There I was, fiddling about on the roof of a car, which would be suitable for any drug dealer, in an area where weapons, drug trafficking and gang action are rife!
He saw the funnier side, as did we. He was even nice enough to let me take a few photos!
We headed into Big Bend National Park where the mountains surrounded us. It resembled New Zealand a great deal. But it wasn’t just the sights that were similar. It was cold. And now it had also started raining. At least we had the tarpaulin to put over the tent.
Mountains surrounded the Chisos Basin Campsite. It was like something out of Lord of The Rings. The rain was soft as we set the tent up. Whilst doing so, Stef informed me of the various animals that populated the Park. They included bears and mountain lions but there was a new kid on the block. The skunk! Apparently they have also learned to unzip tents with their noses. Imagine waking up to one of them squirting stink in your face! A park ranger came up to us to welcome us to the park. We talked to him for a while. Apparently, they were not the only animals that we could encounter. We could also be saying hello to rattlesnakes AND tarantulas. He also was nice enough to inform us that the rain we were experiencing was the back-end of a hurricane that had passed nearby recently. Nice.
The night was pretty uneventful and we woke the next day to find a skunk-free tent. It was still a crappy day. It had started raining at 7am and didn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. We headed to the visitor centre and found a good trek for the day. When we left the grounds, you could see the whole camp and see the fog moving in. It was like something from a Stephen King film.
We drove the 45 miles to the river Rio Grande and to the Santa Elena Canyon Overlook. It separates Mexico from America. Over the many years, it has cut a big canyon through the land. Although it was miserable weather, the view was still amazing.
We parked up and decided to put our hiking boots and coats on. That was probably one of the best decisions we made that day. The trek started off having to walk through a very muddy riverbed. When I say muddy, I mean muddy. Some of the footsteps in it were a good few inches deep. Within a few steps, the amount of mud that had accumulated on the bottom of our boots made us at least 2 inches taller. But as a result, we had no grip. We were slipping and sliding all over the place.
The first part of the trek was up some stairs, but after that, we were on our own through the muddy trodden made path. It started raining even more but we decided to keep going. We had to fight our way through bushes and climb over rocks. It was quite challenging but we made it. You could see right down the canyon. That was enough, we were wet and our trousers and boots were covered in mud.
We fought our way through, back to the car. We were filthy. I think there is now more mud in the car than on the trek!
On the way back to the tent, the views were quite spectacular. We even saw a few roadrunners. They actually resembled the cartoon character a lot! They would run across the road at speed with the heads down and their little legs moving too fast to see. They were so fast, we couldn’t even get a photo. I didn’t even know they were real birds. Google it. You’ll be surprised.
It started to rain heavily when we returned to the campsite and we saw a small river flowing under our tent. This was going to be an interesting night. The wind had started to pick up. The tarpaulin was flapping all over the place even though it was pegged down in every possible place and had big rocks on the corners. It would still slap up against the tent. With that and the rain, the noise was horrendous and was so loud. Was the hurricane coming back? I bloody hope not.
The wind and rain only got worse. It was impossible to get out of the tent. One second outside and we would have gotten soaked. We tried watching a film but with the volume at maximum, we still couldn’t hear it over the sound of nature. Every now and again, the wind and rain would die down. A minute later, it would come back even worse. Mother Nature can be so cruel.
Then the weather went mental. Forget the back-end of the hurricane – this WAS the hurricane. The wind was so strong. So strong that it would bend our poor little tent. The walls of the tent were bending so much; it was folding down on to our heads! We had to put our hands up and move it back into place. On top of that, our waterproof tent was also letting in water. After propping the sides to our “all weather” tent back up for an hour, we had to make a decision. There was no way that the tent was going to last the night. We had to leave. But where to? The car was calling.
We gathered up our stuff and looked towards the car. It felt like it was miles away. The rain wasn’t going to be kind. After strategically planning our escape, we rushed frantically towards the car, with our hands full of gear. In just a small amount of time, our jeans got soaked. It was that bad.
It was so quiet in the car, almost like the wind wasn’t uprooting trees and the rain wasn’t flooding the camp. If it wasn’t for the extremely uncomfortable seats, we could of had and a good nights sleep.
The wind and rain continued all night and all morning. Because of the condensation on the windows and trees surrounding us, we couldn’t see the tent from the car. We just hoped that it had survived. At 7am, we left the car to evaluate the damage. It was a good job we didn’t spend the night in the tent.
The tarp had been ripped clean out of the ground. If it weren’t for the fact that it was tied to the tree, it would have flown off out of the campsite. One side of the tent, where our heads were, had collapsed. It was a mess.
I opened up the tent door to find a small lake in there. The water poured out, creating a river of it’s own.
I decided there and then that the tent and tarp were going in the bin.
That was it. I’d had enough of camping – especially desert camping! Who camps in a desert and gets kicked out of the tent by flooding? The only good thing about the experience was that 36 hours of rain had created massive waterfalls in the cliffs surrounding us.
And to think…at the start of the experience, we thought the worst thing that could happen was that we could wake up next to a skunk!