Roger had business in
Austria and I had an
invitation to stay with my friend Gabriela in Guadalajara. Gerrado, the marina manager very
kindly offered to look after Beaujolais and run the engine each day to keep the
fridge and freezer cold, which was a weight off our minds.
Gabriela met me at
the airport and we drove south to her summer home in Chapala on the shores of
Chapala. It was a beautiful
house in a beautiful area. Lake Chapala is 80km long and 30km
Just a couple of kms
down the road is a little town called Ajijic. It is very Mexican, with lovely
cobbled streets and brightly painted houses.
The region of
Michoacan is very mountainous and it seems that there are 3 modes of transport,
car, quadbike and horse.
It was surprising,
after only having seen the Caribbean coast of Mexico, to see
people riding into town on horseback.
My trip, it turned
out, coincided with a Fiesta in the town. As I was wandering through the little
town one day I saw a large crowd and heard a lot of noise. Me being me, went to
investigate. I had stumbled upon the last day of the Fiesta, which was the
parade. There were floats and a band.
But the real spectacle were the
Rancheros, all dressed in their finest, riding their horses through the streets.
Little girls and small children were on horseback too.
Every now and then
they would stop on a corner and proceed to give a display of horsemanship that
was impressive. Their horses danced and pranced and all with what seemed like
little effort from the riders. The levels of machismo was very amusing, as each
rider tried to out-do the others.
Some years ago I
remember watching a documentary about the migration of Monarch Butterflies. It
was so amazing. They migrate in their millions and winter in the forests
of…….yes, you guessed, Mexico. So you can also imagine how
excited I was to learn that the forests were in the same region as myself and
that they were about to depart for their migration North. So Gabriela, booked an
hotel in Angangueo, which is in the centre of the 12 sanctuaries in the
It is surprising just
how big Mexico is. For some reason I had
never thought of it as the huge country it is. However, after the five and a
half hour drive (all on fast motorway) to get to Angangueo, I was left in no
We were up in the
mountains and had expected it to be colder than in Chapala, but I never imagined it would be so cold we would
need a fire in our bedroom…..of course we did. The little night watchman lit a
roaring wood fire for us and we sat for a while enjoying the peace of the
mountains and the heat of the fire, before retiring (wearing more clothes than I
have had to wear for a while now) to bed.
The next day we hired
a driver to take us up to the San Rosario sanctuary. 45 tortuous minutes later
we arrived after having climbed several thousand feet along, what can at best be
described as a dirt track. We had passed through several little communities,
where old women carried huge bundles of fire wood on their backs and mules were
used to carry both people and produce. The amazing thing about the mules is that
they are not on reins or tethered to each other and yet they walk along very
obediently in little mule trains.
Once we had paid our
$35 entrance fee we met up with Serge, our guide.
One thing I forgot to
mention is that the butterflies only eat certain plants and live on certain
trees. The pines they live on are at 11,500 ft. Which I believe is either the
same altitude as the Matterhorn, or the Kleine
Matterhorn (not sure but I know it’s one of those). So we were told to take our
time and drink plenty of water on the way up.
The first part of the
ascent was steps, 670 to be precise.
omitted to mention this on the way up. 2 gentlemen on their way down took pity
on us and gave us their staffs to help us, I will be eternally grateful to them
and passed mine on to some other deserving person when we got down.
The steps led to a
plateau, then it was a dirt track up through the forests for the final part. We
climbed 1000mts over 1.5km, up to the 3500mts where the butterflies
The photos I took go
some little way to showing the marvel of this forest, but it no way does the
It was truly magical.
These tiny creatures fly 4000 kms at an altitude of 3500mts, covering up to
120kms a day.
There were millions
of them everywhere. As you walked
you had to look down to avoid trampling the ones who were dying on the path.
I will put just a few photos on to try
and give you a feel of it. I have to say I feel honoured to have witnessed what
I consider to be one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.
It will be hard to
beat the Mariposas Monarcha that’s for sure.
We headed off to
Morelia to the evening.Like many Mexican cities,
Morelia has been
spoilt by its growth, but when you get into the historic part of the city, you
can see the former beauty. Magnificent architecture and a nightlife that I can
only equate to Leicester Sq on a premiere night make Morelia attractive to many.
But for Gabriela and
I it was all too much after Angangueo, so we had dinner and headed off to
Patzcuano is unique
in all of Mexico. It is a totally unspoilt
little town nestling on the shore of a lake by the same name..
People from the
surrounding areas go there to sell their traditional handicrafts. Many, in fact,
sit at their market stall making the items as they sell
Everywhere you looked
there were beautiful traditional buildings and people enjoying the
Now before you start
thinking what a wonderful time I was having while poor Roger was in Austria
working, let me put the record straight. Yes, I admit I was having a wonderful
time. But those of you who know Roger well, will know that a/ working is fun to
him; b/ working in Austria is even more fun for him; c/ he was partying, sorry
networking, when not working and d/ he went skiing. So I hope that dispels the
myth that Roger is a martyr.