Thursday, 16 July 2009

El Paso + pictures galore

Back at the hotel and we have mixed feelings about the day. But more about that later - here's a quick recap of yesterday.

As we made our way into the heart of Texas, the landscape changed slowly. From the bushy, relatively green southeast and coastal areas, the ground turned more and more dry. The road from San Antonio to our destination for the night, Fort Stockton, took us across plateaus and arid semi-deserts:

There were very few towns along the way, but here and there you saw a farm, all with the classic windmill:

Some of the fields appeared to be rich in oil, and oil pumps were scattered across the plateaus:

Fort Stockton itself was pretty much a street with some shops, fast food restaurants and motels. It appeared to be there simply because people need to sleep somewhere between San Antonio and El Paso. We went to Wal-Mart for the first time and were shocked at the lack of fresh foods. There was no fresh fruit or vegetables, no freezer section, no meat... You get the idea. Some eggs and milk were stored in a fridge next to the exit, along with some soft drinks and beer. And this was the biggest supermarket they had, aisles and aisles of clothes, vacuum cleaners and tinned food...

So, today we reached El Paso and I think we might have just hit our first real disappointment. The first mistake we made was obviously trying to walk around in Mexico in 40C/105F. Still, we got a pretty good impression of the differences between the two countries. By now, we've learnt that all larger cities have areas where you can't walk around with a camera bag without getting pestered by people trying to sell you things. Mexico was no exception, and a lot worse as well. Like most Swedes, we're allergic to anyone trying to offer you anything ("what do you mean it's cheaper with a meal deal, I asked for a burger AND a drink AND fries... I don't care if it's a meal deal, I don't want it! This must be some kind of trick!") so we walked along in the heat, trying to find the Juárez market. Juárez is the city on the Mexican side of the border, by the way. The Mexican half of this strange twin city has a population of 1.6 million - more than twice as much as that of El Paso. By the time we realized that a taxi WOULD have been worth it, we felt too tired to even think about started haggling at some market place and headed back across the border.

Here's a typical example of a Juárez building - in total disrepair but still open for business in parts.

After what has become our daily siesta, we read about the night-life in El Paso and headed down into what we thought would be a sprawling, glittering downtown, full of music and dancing and cheap souvenir shops. Well, this is pretty much what downtown El Paso looks like after 6pm:

Only missing the tumbleweed...

We wouldn't have thought it possible after the last day's baking hot sun in a cloudless sky, but in a matter of minutes after this photo was taken, a thunderstorm hit the area, and I think it's still going now, some 4 or 5 hours later. The change in the weather happened so fast it was uncanny. What had been some white, fluffy clouds on the horizon turned into a dark blanket, covering the city. We saw some dramatic flashes from the safety of the car and were hit by a strange rain - single, huge drops of water that sounded almost like hail on the windshield. The temperature dropped from 41 to 22 in ten minutes!

So, we had not seen much of Mexico, El Paso was a disappointment and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. Our last flicker of hope was a restaurant near the hotel which was rumoured to be good. Luckily enough, this turned out to be true and pretty much saved the day from being a complete failure. In a cozy, Mexican-inspired atmosphere, we ate so much tacos, enchiladas, rice and beans that we're still wondering if breakfast tomorrow is even possible. So to anyone heading out to El Paso - sod downtown, go to the Bandidos - Carlos and Mikey's! It was so good, and so cheap. Here's the place, in the rain, dark and thunder:

As a bonus, I'd like to include a small section which I'll name "Only in America":

1. A drive-thru ATM (bankomat). I think the motto here is 'if you can't do it in the car, it ain't worth doing'. There are also drive-thru pharmacies and other weird drive-thrus, but I thought this one really took the money.

2. A horse motel. OK, so if you're not driving a pick-up the size of five normal cars, you're probably riding your horse to the motel. Yeah, that makes sense.

3. A guy on some educatuional channel teaching maths with a flamingo on his head. What!? This was on at around 10pm in the evening, so it's not really directed at kids. There was nothing else strange about the program, they had another presenter who looked perfectly normal. The flamingo was never mentioned.

Tomorrow we're off through the south end of New Mexico and into Arizona. If at all possible, it will get hotter there. I'm gonna get myself a hat tomorrow, and possibly a pair of cowboy boots, at Tony Lama's famous shop just outside town.

Until next time!


  1. You're cute. Visit Chicago! Great shopping on the "Magnificent Mile"!

  2. Tack för att vi får följa med på er resa! Ser redan fram emot nästa inlägg :)

  3. Hmm, no pictures of Drive-thru liquor stores?
    I know they exist.