08/21/2011 10:54 am ET Updated Oct 21, 2011

Nogales, Mexico: Heading North Through Heat (PHOTOS)

Nogales, Sonora is one of the most dangerous towns along the Mexican-American border. The biggest port of legal entry into Arizona's Tucson sector, Nogales is also a drug-trafficking center and a hub for human smugglers.

Coyotes, smugglers who take people across the border, charge individuals $2000 to guide them into the US. The trip is hellish. First, there is the heat: The Sonora desert floor can reach up to 139 degrees, literally baking the humbled masses heading north. Last July, 59 sun-scorched bodies were found in the desert and law enforcement officers estimate that four people die in the desert for every one body found by the border patrol.

Most people start on their journey with two gallons of water even though a person walking 10 miles a day needs a 5 gallon to stay hydrated.

As if the heat wasn't enough, drug cartels use the same dry corridor to head north, which means would-be immigrants are frequently exposed to tremendous violence. The cartels kidnap Mexican workers headed north every day to use them as drug mules. Saying no is not an option. The cartels have a reputation for killing not only those who defy them, but also those victim's families.

I was followed by someone, maybe a coyote, as I took pictures around Hamburger Hill, a notorious crossing area. Later in the day, I was approached by a spotter for a strip club. I told the guy he was wasting his time. The guy said, "No problem, I can get you a little boy to play with."

I politely demurred and found myself looking longingly north.