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USA to Mexico drive, part two

Thursday, June 21, 2007

After visiting the UFO town of Roswell in New Mexico, Ben and the crew headed down the highway to the Tularosa Basin. The high desert area, averaging 1200 metres in elevation, is subject to harsh and sometimes rapidly changing climatic conditions.

Rising from the heart of the Basin, between Las Cruces and Alamogordo, is the White Sands National Monument, one of the world's great natural wonders — the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 443 sq km of desert and created the world's largest gypsum dune field.

Most of the animals of White Sands have developed nocturnal habits to escape predators and desert heat. Due to the white sands, some have evolved with lighter colouration — and unless they move, you can't see them. There are 44 species of mammals, 26 reptiles, six amphibians and almost 100 species of insects recorded at the monument.

Driving in is pretty much the only way to reach the monument. It is open every day but when missile testing is being carried out on the adjacent White Sands Missile Range, the Dunes Drive is closed. Those on tight schedules should call the day before arrival for further information.

Around 46,000 missiles have been tested in the park, including the world's first atomic bomb in 1945. The extraordinary heat it gave off melted hectares and hectares of sand. After some serious contemplation about how that resulted in changing the world forever, the crew decided to head to the conjoined towns of El Paso in Texas and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. Three hundred and fifty million people cross the US-Mexico border every year, and the gateway between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez is the busiest of them all. El Paso stands on the Rio Grande and is Texas's sixtieth largest city.

Four bridges link El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Hire cars aren't permitted, so if you want to visit Mexico, you need to take a taxi there and back. Authorities on both sides search for drugs, guns and illegal money. Everyone is on the lookout for people attempting to illegally enter the United States to seek a better life. Each year more than a million people successfully make the crossing.


White Sands National Monument entry is $3.50 for adult. Children under 15 are free.

Air New Zealand has flights to Los Angeles. Connections to Albuquerque are available.

Fares from;
  • Sydney, $1766
  • Melbourne and Brisbane, $1851
  • Brisbane, $1851
  • Adelaide, $2067
  • Perth, $2252

Valid for travel between November 1 to December 9, 2007.

Prices quoted are correct at June 21, 2007


The south-west of the United States and into Mexico.

For further information

White Sands National Monument
19955 Highway 70
Alamogordo, NM 88330-1086
Ph: 0011 1 505 679 2599
Fax: 0011 1 505 479 4333

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