Into a Desert Place: A Talk With Graham Mackintosh | Travel | Smithsonian
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Into a Desert Place: A Talk With Graham Mackintosh

In remote fishing camps along the shoreline, a few older fishermen remember a red-haired Englishman who tramped through 30 years ago, disappearing around the next point.

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Graham Mackintosh and his burro Bonny arrive in Cabo San Lucas while trekking in the early 1980s, when the resort destination was still a quiet village.

In 1979, a 28-year-old Englishman named Graham Mackintosh visited America. He rolled west to California and, on a whim, slipped south across the border. He was stunned by what he saw, a wild land of sun, sand and sea that would dramatically change his life: Baja California. Mackintosh spent a month here with just a backpack and, to start, $150. He hitchhiked and walked and went as far south as Cabo San Lucas. Mexican locals astounded him with their hospitality while the bewildering, undeveloped landscape captured his imagination like no place had before.

“What’s over those mountains, I would ask ,” Mackintosh later wrote in a travel memoir Into a Desert Place. “’Nothing,’ was the usual reply.”

Many adventurers have received this answer to the same question—but adventurers know better. Mackintosh returned home. He took up a teaching job, spent evenings at the pub, had a few romantic flurries—but he couldn’t forget Baja and those distant mountains. At last, he chucked everything, abandoning the life path most of

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