Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 8 January 2007

The Desert of Altars

Pinacate Desert, Mexico – January 8, 2007

The desert is named after the Pinacate beetle, known for standing on its head and emitting foul odors.


As we leave the sandy wind-blown town on Puerto Penasco on the Sea of Cortez in the morning, we see billowing black smoke from a tire fire and packs of wild dogs in the street.

There is a run of 60 miles north though the desert to the Mexican town of Sonotya on the border below the Organ Pipe National Monument. The desert gets so little rain that it can’t support cactus…only sand dunes and volcanic cinder mountains. This area is so like the moon that the Apollo astronauts trained here…some think the moon landings were filmed here.

We pull over for breakfast at a small altar. There is a large pile of apparent trash near the altar. I see inside the altar a statue of Jesus and several candles burning inside glasses in the windy morning. The wind whistles, obscuring the morning sun in a sandstorm.


I look closely at the trash pile and see that there are thousands of candle glass containers with pictures of Jesus…spent candle glasses dumped in the desert to make room for new candle glasses…

There are dozens of small roadside altars on the road to Sonotya…but no people…it’s too dry with less than five inches of annual rainfall….white crosses are erected on the volcanic cinder peaks…

This desert has been described as, "the bleakest, flattest, hottest, grittiest, grimmest, dreariest, most useless desert of them all." I find an unusual beauty and strangeness to the sand beach and cinders that stretch hundreds of miles in all directions from the Sea of Cortez.


The last 20 miles before the border we begin to see cactus again. I Google to find examples of the cactus we see flying past.


The customs and border patrol agents treat us much better this time. We came though in ’72 with a VW bug decorated with peace symbols and they dismantled the car before passing us though.

Here are some pictures of cactus…We are familiar now with Organ Pipe and Saguaro, but there are others…

And some more pictures of the altars

1 comment:

  1. That's fascinating!

    It's a pity they didn't have blogs weren't around in 1972...

    "Aw, man! Look at what they are doing to my car - hey, dude, don't open the glove pocket."

    ReplyDelete