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Reporters on the Job

Not Dressed for a Crossing : If Richard Blackwell were to give out worst-dressed awards for journalists on assignment, staff writer Sara Miller Llana says she might be in contention for the 2007 award.

She drove north from Mexico City to the small town of El Alberto, Hidalgo, where Mexicans pay $18 for a five-hour "Night Hike" that simulates crossing from Mexico into the US (see story).

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"I had no idea how cold it got at night in this part of Mexico – apparently it's always windswept. I arrived with a simple sweat shirt and shoes that are comfortable. But within two minutes of the tour we were walking through noxious swamp, and my shoes were ruined."

The tour begins at 8 p.m., which in Mexico is about an hour before dinnertime. The admission fee doesn't include dinner, and there were no taco stands on the journey. "I was basically starving, freezing, and filthy," she says.

"I dragged my husband along with me, and we kept marveling about how unlikely it would be for this kind of a tour to be conducted in the US: Too much risk of a lawsuit. I twisted my ankle three times.

"We went over this drawbridge that looked like it was built early in the last century. It was pitch-black so it was hard to see how far one would have fallen, but it was far, and it was swaying back and forth, and creaking. The walkway had wooden planks missing!" says Sara.

Then, there was the stone ledge. "There was a 30-foot drop to the ground below and small kids were going across. It was so dark I could barely take notes. In fact, I'm glad the experience was so vivid because otherwise I'd be in trouble – I can't read half of what I wrote."

Sara also had a hard time fathoming why someone would want to take the tour more than once. "I'm glad I did it, but hope never to go back," she says.

David Clark Scott
World editor