So as you can see I made it to see the butterflies!
I left Morelia and Jose at 6.30am on Friday. Jose kindly walked me to make sure I got a taxi to the bus terminal ok. I had a very chatty driver which I was finding quite hard work that early. My Spanish is lousy at the best of times... I did kind of fathom he was asking me for my phone number though! I arrived at the bus terminal, paid the driver and gave him a fake London number! I had tried to say no but he looked so wounded!
The journey to Angangueo was beautiful. I had to change buses but my bus negotiating Spanish is pretty confident so it was no trouble... Mexican buses are a piece of cake... anyway, we drove higher and higher up into the mountains and my surroundings became increasingly lush and bonito! The second bus I caught was quite rickety... but I liked it the best! The more 'local' the buses the more interesting things you see. It also seems that people pay you less attention. They see you but don`t really give a stuff that you`re there which I like. In Mexico City I was getting pretty used to being stared at. It seems strange that you get to a place where you`re the only white person and people are less bothered about you! They just get on with their day...
So I arrived in Angangueo which was to be my base for visiting the butterflies. I knew from the information in my guide book that the town was small and fairly short of budget friendly accommodation. Plus I was alone so there was no option of sharing the cost of a room. Still I didn`t really care I gonna get to these damn butterflies no matter what it took! I found a sweet looking but basic hotel. The owners were very friendly and showed me to a room. It was fine but a little big for my needs... turns out it wasn`t very cheap either! Still, I was tired and I didn`t have the energy to negotiate... I kicked myself a little for not requesting a smaller room when I realised I was just about the only guest there! Never mind it was too late... I then made the mistake of asking the hotel owner about buses up to the reserve. My understanding of spanish is better than my ability to speak it so I gathered that she was saying the buses had stopped for the day but she knew a nice man with a taxi who could take me... it was again more money than I wanted to spend but I didn`t want to hang around another day as there`s not much else to do in Angangueo. So I agreed the price and got in. As we made our way further up the mountain to the reserve a public bus passed us... then another... I realised that the hotel owner clearly had a racket going with this guy! Again I kicked myself a little! It`s hard not to be a suckered tourist when you`re a) alone and b) have limited Spanish! I will get better at it though.
So I decided to make the most of having my own utterly unnecessary chauffeur and made friends with him. We got along pretty well considering my broken spanish and his non existent English! He dropped me off at the entrance and said he`d wait for me there. I walked up, paid my entrance fee (just buttons fortunately!) and was assigned a guide. He walked at quite a pace, I guess he does it about 100 times a day. Still, after about 10 paces I was puffed and started to get my first taste of altitude sickness! I felt dizzy, sick and thought I was going to hiccup up my heart! Strange feeling. I plodded on though not to be outdone by the 80 year old Mexicans up ahead! We hiked for about 40 minutes to reach the butterflies. I was lucky it`s late in the season. The warmer it is the lower down the mountain they are and the less you have to hike!
They started to appear, in their tens at first. I stopped my guide on the premise that I wanted to take pictures but really I needed to catch my breath! He waived his hand ahead of us gesturing that they were just over the brow of the hill... that may be but I take another step and I`m going to faint... I told him with the amazing communicative powers of my eyebrows! He smiled and we waited a moment before the final slug up the hill... and how right he was. As we went over the brow of the hill there was suddenly a blanket of orange and black over the green of the trees. The air was crisp and filled with the gentle whisper of wings all around. It was utterly beautiful. Literally everywhere you looked there were butterflies. Branches were straining under the weight of millions of Monarchs. They flew all around you, up to your face and off again to reconvene up above in the throng. We continued to walk to the top of the wooded mountain. By this time I had completely forgotten how thin the air was or that I even needed to breath to be honest! At the top the woods opened out to a grassy clearing. I was lucky to be here at this time of year. They settle on the ground when it gets warm and they were sitting like a carpet all around. You had to be very careful where you put your feet. The pictures don`t really convey how magical it was. You had this feeling like they were playing happily around you... like they were in a place they belong. No one really knows why and how they migrate so far and it was amazing to think of the enormous journey that is coming to an end for them but will just be beginning for their offspring.
When I`d had my fill I made my way back down with my guide. I said muchos gracias and adios to him and made my way back to my awaiting chariot like lady muck! We drove back down the hill and continued to try to make stilted conversation. As we approached the town my driver tried to explain a little bit about the history of Angangueo. I could understand him telling me that it was an old mining town... no prizes for my comprehension of spanish really it was fairly obvious as the remains of the mines were clear to see! It became obvious that he was very proud of his home town and offered to take me on a tour. I thought what the heck I`ve paid for it after all! He explained about the metals they used to mine for, how deep they went and told me they stopped mining about 12 years ago... I understood that much hurrah! He was very sweet and I felt like I`d made a sort of friend!
He took me back to my hotel. I said goodbye and paid him. He helpfully told me what time the direct buses to mexico city left in the morning. Feeling satisfied, if slightly stung I took myself back to my room for a mini belated siesta. It had been a long knackering day. It was a beautiful day but I felt quite lonely and a little bit sorry that my spanish wasn`t good enough to be more assertive. Still the I knew I was headed off the next day for a long bus journey to San Cristobal de las Casas. I actually like bus journeys here. The scenery is beautiful and it`s fairly straightforward. I`m glad that I will be taking Spanish lessons when I get to Guatemala. I will be armed with a better understanding of what`s going on when I hit the less developed countries at least.
So right now I`m sitting in a bus terminal in Mexico City waiting for my 14 hour bus ride to San Cristobal. I will arrive in the morning in a new and exciting place. For now I`ve had my fill of struggling to converse with locals... don`t get me wrong that`s exactly what I`m here to do but perhaps without the struggle! I need to meet some other travellers for the time being though and San Cristobal is a good place for that.
So time to go... Jose and his friends made me realise how English it is to have a time for everything! They asked me if we really do have an actual 'tea time' or a 'bed time'... I said it wasn`t that literal but they found it amusing and strange all the same! Mexicans, as I guess much of the rest of the world don`t give too much of stuff about the time! They just go about their day. I like it... well best go or I`ll miss my bus!!! I guess you need a time for some things!