10-Jan-2007 -- I decided to plan my vacation around an unvisited confluence in Mexico-- I had never been to any part of Mexico aside from Baja California and it seemed like an interesting area.
The Confluence is near a historic part of Sonora. Nearby towns like Huepac and Baviacora are very old, each with a town square and a very old church.
All of the maps I found listed the confluence as being very close to a place named "Los Alisos." Unfortunately, it seems as this is simply the name of a private ranch and most people in the general vicinity have never heard of it.
I first drove to the general area on January 9. After speaking to several individuals who had never heard of Los Alisos, I decided to try to find Francisco Marti. Francisco Marti was the man who helped the 6 guys who first attempted the confluence in 2005 (but turned around before reaching it).
I drove to La Mora and asked around. Fortunately, Francisco was home and was willing to help. He told me that there was a road all the way to Los Alisos and was willing to show me how to get there.
We drove about for a couple of miles and were stopped by a gate approximately 8 miles from the confluence. However, Francisco told me that he knew the man who was in charge of the ranch.
Together we drove to Banamichi and found a man named Gonzalo Pena. He stated that he did indeed manage the Los Alisos ranch so I pulled out my Confluence.org request letter and tried to sound as official and impressive as possible.
Unfortunately, Senor Pena was not impressed. It seems that a year earlier a woman came to him with stacks of topographic maps and asked permission to drive 10+ jeeps to the confluence. The owner said no.
I was a bit surprised but tried to play up the distinction-- it would just be me and I wouldn't trample nearly as much vegetation as a dozen jeeps. When he seemed unmoved, I pointed out that there were a lot of confluence hunters out there-- if he didn't let me visit it, there would be more people at his doorstep in the future.
Gonzalo Pena agreed to call the owner that night and told me to return the next day. I spent the night in Huepac and bought my dinner from an old woman who lived on the town square. I sat at their kitchen table met the entire family. It was quite an experience!
The next morning I drove to Banamichi but couldn't find Gonzalo. It seems that he had left very early in the morning to drive up to Los Alisos and tend to a sick horse.
It seemed like a hopeless cause but I wasn't ready to give up yet. I decided to drive up to the locked gate and wait. Maybe, just maybe, it would be open or someone would let me in.
When I got to the gate, it was locked. But fate was smiling on me that day because within 10 minutes of me waiting there, a truck passed through it on its way out. I kindly asked the men to let me in, explaining that I was supposed to meet Senor Gonzalo Pena that morning (it was technically true). They wondered how I would get out (they would have to lock the gate behind me) and I told them that Gonzalo would come down with me (at least I hoped so).
Apparently, I was convincing and they let me in. Ignoring the possibility of being trapped behind a gate alone, dropping off a steep slope, or being attacked by angry Vaqueros, I continued along, remembering the instructions that Francisco Marti told me the night before.
Amazingly, although the road went uphill almost continuously, it was in good shape (only used 4x4 in two places) and seemed to go in exactly the right direction. At one point I passed by an individual's house but he bought the "I have an important meeting with Senor Pena" story as well.
The road continued straight toward the confluence until a locked gate crossed the road at approximately 2.75 miles from the confluence. I was already a mile closer than anyone else on this site, and luck had been smiling on me all day so I decide to go for it. I parked the SUV and took to my feet.
Miraculously, this stretch of road was nearly all downhill, and continued to travel exactly where I wanted it to go. At 0.4 miles from the confluence, I saw the center of Los Alisos, a couple of low buildings surrounded by horse corrals. If I could just walk by unnoticed, I would be at the confluence in 20 minutes.
Well, I was noticed. But Gonzalo seemed to realize that the entire discussion of the previous day had become moot and he might as well let me go along. But he insisted that I have lunch with him, so I grudgingly went inside and ate.
There were two men already in the building as well as a woman. The three of them worked in Los Alisos and only returned to the outside world every 90 days or so. I ate their food in an eerie stillness. But Gonzalo was true to his word and after lunch insisted on driving me to the confluence.
The confluence is in a slight bowl, surrounded by low hills covered in chaparral. The road is less than 50 feet from the confluence and Gonzalo told me that the Mexican Department of Agriculture travels to that exact site every year to measure the growth of cattle forage. However, he added, I was the first person he ever allowed to take photos.
The day was cool and comfortable-- unfortunately not the best lighting for photographs. But I was pleasantly surprised that Gonzalo allowed me to take his photo.
Ever the gracious host, he drove me back to my vehicle, followed me back to La Mora, eventually letting me out. He even allowed me to take photos along the way. It turns out that the gate where I parked was at the edge of the ranch, which is why someone else was able to let me in that far.
When we parted I promised him that no more confluence-hunters would attempt to visit the site-- the goal of the Degree Confluence Project is to visit each confluence ONCE, so please show your gratitude to the owner for letting one confluence-hunter in by not bothering them in the future.