Day 19 - Ciudad Acuña to El Sauz

Carlos showed me around Ciudad Acuña and introduced me to his family- his wife and two adorable daughters. One of them is named after the Spanish queen-Isabella and the other after the Mexican artist- Frida. He told me how things had improved in the border town: until a few years ago one could not venture out at night because of the violence between the drug cartels.

Having received so much generosity from a stranger on the very first day in Mexico, I was feeling quite upbeat. Whatever warnings I had received from the rest of the world seemed rubbish until Carlos advised me, “No te confies en nadie!” (Do not trust anyone!)

That led me to tell myself that I was in a border town, I had not seen the real Mexico, and I should not be too cocky. Fortunately, Carlos offered a ride till the next town- Rosita. He was taking his family to meet his in-laws. I thought it would be good to see what Mexico is like for a couple of hours from the safety of a car and in the company of a Mexican family. On the way, he introduced me to the Mexican delicacy-Chicharron or fried pork skin. 

They dropped me off in the parking lot of a supermarket in Rosita- a miners’ town.

See the mines in the distance?

I pedalled on, still feeling a little anxious. I did not have a destination in mind. I did not know where I was going to stay. 

I reached the next town- Agujita, where I stopped to buy Gatorade and something to nibble from an Oxxo. I bought these- the weirdest-looking cookies ever.

The guy at the counter asked me the usual questions. He then wanted to click a picture of me and Brownie. I asked him why. He wanted to share it on Facebook.

The Church in Agujita
A few kilometers later on the outskirts of Agujita but very close to the district of Sabinas, I spotted a stall selling coconut water and fruit salad. I could do with some coconut water in the heat. The kid running the stall quoted 25 pesos for 1 litre. We settled for 20. I struck a conversation with the kid. He said he did go to school but helped his father, who also worked in the mine, at the stall whenever he could. A few more customers arrived. I tried to observe how much he was charging the locals but couldn’t determine conclusively if I was fleeced. One of the new customers was a family in a red SUV. They asked me what I was doing with all that stuff on my bike, where I was from, etc. I told them. Before they could ask for a picture, I sought their permission to leave.

However, a few minutes later the red SUV overtook me and stopped. I had to stop as well. They wanted to click pictures with me. It was a full on photo shoot.

When we were about to part ways, I could not contain my curiosity. I asked them how much the coconut water cost in that stall. They said 20 pesos. Hah, the Mexican kid was trying to fleece an Indian!

Sabinas River
Too many roadside memorials at one spot
The Cowboy Statue on the outskirts of Sabina
About 20 kilometers later, I was on a downhill. I could see a car had stopped on the side of the road about a kilometer away. I was on guard. But as I got closer, I could see it was a family. They started waving at me so I stopped. They said they had seen my picture on facebook. I was taken aback. Facebook made me famous instantaneously in and around Sabinas! Another photo shoot followed. Apparently that family in the red SUV, while uploading my pics, had asked people to help me in whichever way they could. So these guys offered me a portion of coconut cake that they had. I don’t say no to free food. We had a chat for a few minutes.

When they were about to leave, the youngest member of the family, Abel, offered me 50 pesos. He said he wanted to offer cold beverages but since they did not have any I could buy some with that money. In a split second I had to decide: he really wanted me to accept it purely out of kindness/love/friendship. I didn’t want to say no. But where I come from, accepting money is not okay. You don’t just accept money like that, regardless of the amount. But then I thought, “I am a traveller and I should get used to relying on other people’s kindness to cover the long journey ahead. I can’t do it on my own. Besides, I can always pay the kindness forward.” So, I accepted the 50 pesos. I could see it made Abel happy. They left but kept waving goodbye and wishing me luck with their thumbs up, especially Abel.

That happened at about 5pm in the middle of a highway. I ate the coconut cake as quickly as I could. I needed a place to sleep. Moreover, I had been advised not to cycle in the dark in Mexico. Thankfully, a few kilometers later there was a restaurant. I decided to ask the owner if I could camp in the children’s playground next to the restaurant. The owner was not present. But I was not shunned away (Remember what happened to me in Texas? If not, click here.) One of the several female employees telephoned the owner. As I waited anxiously, avoiding the curious stares of the restaurant's customers, I was told that the owner agreed. This is Mexico, after all!

Campground for the night
Later, the night-guard even let me into the facilities meant for the employees so I could take a warm shower. I took a nice, long one. This guard was an old man. When I told him my homecountry, he remembered the Taj Mahal and Indira Gandhi! But he was mostly busy. I ended up talking to another old man who lived behind the restaurant in a shelter provided by the restaurant owner. This old man was homeless. I guess my journey fascinated him because we talked a lot. The next morning when I was ready to leave, he was concerned about my safety. He suggested that I hitch a ride to get to Monclova. I asked him not to worry.

Before leaving, it struck me that I could pay Abel’s kindness forward already. So I extended the 50 pesos to the homeless old man. I don’t think he told me his name. But I do have a picture of him:


  1. This is a great story! I love your instantaneous Facebook-fame thanks to the photo shooting, so funny!
    And the ominous Do not trust anyone... is it really that bad? I mean, is it just "people will try to get from money from you" (which is normal and happens everywhere in the world), or did he mean something more dangerous?
    I have absolutely fantastic memories of Mexico (Yucatan) and I would really love to return there. Although I'm a woman and you're a man, so different experiences, I wanted to ask: did you feel safe?

    1. Merci beaucoup! It is indeed. I don't think I will ever forget that day!

      I think Mexicans are still emerging from the recent period of violence. In north Mexico I saw a lot of surveillance by the Federal police and even the military. So clearly something was wrong recently. In central Mexico I don't see that kind of surveillance.

      However, there is the ubiquitous fear of being robbed. Funnily, once people in a village asked me to be cautious in the region 25 Km ahead. People 25Km ahead said I should have been cautious 25Km before. As a traveller, you would know how people live in fear.

      I have fortunately not seen or even felt any presence of unusual crime. On the contrary, I have only received kindness from Mexicans. The farmers have offered me private rooms and food, hotel owners have discounted or even waived off their charges, etc. But I can only provide the perspective of a solo brown guy. Sometimes, people end up feeling scared of me :p

  2. Me encantan tus post Esteban! Muchos saludos y buena vibra desde Juárez!
    -Daniel Silva

    1. Muchas gracias, wey! Voy a escribir sobre Juarez y nuestra amistad muy pronto!

  3. que hermosas experiencias estas viviendo.. te mandamos bendiciones a donde quiera que estes.. :)

  4. Chanakya! Tu buena onda atraerá siempre buena onda... Mucha suerte por tu viaje hermanito!!!

    1. Eres Elisa? Muchas gracias, hermana! Mucha suerte por tu viaje tambien!

  5. those cookies ar da bomb!!