Return to Big Bend NP
On our first visit to Big Bend National Park in spring of 2012 we couldn’t visit the little Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen. The border crossing was still closed to traffic since 2002. We had heard it was previously a neat little excursion over to the remote little village and were disappointed we couldn’t go check it out.
The events of September 11, 2001, destroyed Boquillas del Carmen’s traditional way of life. In May 2002, the border crossing from Big Bend National Park to Boquillas was closed indefinitely. As of October 2006, only 19 families of around 90 to 100 residents remained in Boquillas. Most of the town’s residents had been forced to move away by the closure of the tourist crossing and destruction of the town’s traditional economy. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boquillas_del_Carmen
I was very happy when I heard the Boquillas border crossing had been reopened in spring of 2013. It was immediately on my must do list during this return trip to Big Bend NP.
Crossing to Boquillas Del Carmen
We headed over to Boquillas on a nice sunny 70’s degree February day from our campsite at the Rio Grande Village in the national park. The border crossing is only a five minute drive from the campground. You go through a very modern new building on the USA side and walk a path down to the Rio Grande River. The river at this point is so shallow and lazy you could likely wade across but a nice young guy in a rowboat picked us up. Five bucks each for the Boquillas International Ferry. Two minutes later we were standing on the other bank in Mexico!
Next we had to pick our mode of transportation from the river crossing up to the town about a mile off. We could walk; get a ride in a truck or by horse or burro. The latter three being another 5 bucks each. After a little coaxing from my wife Anne I was aboard my first burro, haha. She couldn’t wipe the grin off of her face watching me on my little burro named Pancho. It was a pretty cute one.
Our burro leader named Loupe was also to be our guide for the visit. He first led us to the Mexican immigration building to fill out a tourist visa which we returned when we left. Loupe then led us to the main part of town which consists of a few restaurants, a bar and some shops selling touristy knick knacks and clothing. Most folks head straight to the Jose Falcon’s Restaurant, a locally famous Boquillas Del Carmen eatery and bar. But I thought it would be nice to take a walk around and see some of the natural sights close to town before sitting down for lunch and drinks
I asked if it would be possible to take a little walk and explore, specifically down along the river. He said sure and soon we were off hiking through the little town towards the river bank where he said a natural spring occurred and an old Indian cave existed. Soon his perro (dog) Hookha also joined us for the hike. All along the way he was kind enough to fill us in on the history of Boquillas and the surrounding area.
He has lived here for 59 years so was a wealth of knowledge and I quite enjoyed it. The place was a hot spot for mining back in the old days. After the mining wound down a few hundred residents have remained and eek out an existence in this very remote and rugged part of Mexico. It’s a 160 mile journey to the nearest town! They are most pleased the border has reopened.
The walk along the Rio Grande river was gorgeous, what a beautiful landscape and so peaceful. Loupe showed us a small natural warm spring that is often used for bathing and an old Indian cave that visitors sometimes rent to camp out in for $10 a night. Scattered around the town are abandoned homes and buildings from a by gone era. Some looked super run down and disintegrating but you could tell from the flooring and walls that they once were very nice. I imagine given a different fate this place would be a great place to live. Unfortunately located right where it is goods and services are hard to attain.
Tourism is the main source of a Boquillas villager’s income now and all around the town folks are selling trinkets outside their homes. The most popular things are wire wound sculptures of things like scorpions, roadrunners and cactus, embroidered book bags and walking sticks.
We decided to pick up a few walking sticks and Loupe took us to a friend in town who makes some. He harvests the sticks from the Sotol plant; a type of yucca, then lets them dry a few days. Once dry he carves the sticks and hand paints them. They are super lightweight and strong. It struck me as funny when I noticed the solar panel he had propped up against the wall. First world meets third.
After our nice hike and walking stick shopping we finished off our visit with a tasty Mexican lunch and beers on the patio of the Jose Falcon restaurant. What a great view! Funny thing, in this little tiny, middle of nowhere Mexican town eating next to us on the patio we met fellow nomadic RVers from the Road Less Traveled. Or, maybe given the blog name it wasn’t that strange, haha.
With bellies full of burritos and beer we climbed back aboard our burros and headed down to the Rio Grande crossing and back to the USA. We had to clear customs declaring our walking sticks. Normally you use a special electronic kiosk that scans your passport, but the system was down that day so we did it old school with a live customs agent. All in all it was a fun and interesting afternoon and I recommend it if you are down the Big Bend way.
Photos From Our Boquillas Mexico Visit
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