Patzcuaro was one of the towns that Louise and I had such a great time at last year, so with that in mind, we thought we’d share the town and experiences with our traveling companions. One afternoon last year we took a tour through a wonderful hotel that was one block off the main plaza and was so reasonable that we both decided that if we were to come back to Patzcuaro we would stay there. Well here we are and “what the heck happened to OUR hotel”? The doors were shut and locked and nobody seemed to know why… OK, now we’ve got to spread out and find something “nice, clean, and reasonable” quick. It didn’t take Carol, Maureen, and Louise long to find just the perfect place
AND we even had two parking places right at the front door…could we have found anything better, no way. It did seem that I had a little competition for my parking spot. The city market is held daily right acoss the corner AND just were I was to park our car I found a little lady telling me that I would have to move forward so that she would be able to set up her market stand...how sweet and how could I resist but to move forward 5 feet or so...
Well first things first. Fortunately they had a large central patio with comfortable chairs and tables set up so that we could have our “happy hour” before heading out to explore the city and find our evening dinner.
Even tho we had a short drive from Morelia it was still a long day but following happy hour and dinner we still found energy to do a little shopping. About the only thing that we found to spend a few pesos on were CD’s and DVD’s. We could always find good deals on them. One thing that seems to be constant at the CD booths is that they all play their music LOUD !!! One of the advantages of playing the music loud is that it makes you want to dance. Well dance we did, right there on the street with a crowd of locals and visitors gathering to watch those crazy “Gringos” have a great time. I must have really looked ridiculous as I danced to the Oldies but Goodies Rock-n Roll CD wearing my cowboy hat and poncho. With our long drive, drinks, dinner, and now dancing behind us, we had to head back to our hotel and off to bed…we have another long day ahead of us tomorrow.
_After leaving the Monarch sanctuary (which isn’t too far from Mexico City) early the next morning and starting our 600 plus miles back to La Penita, we found ourselves looking for “just the right” place to have a true Mexican meal. We had a good “Taco Stand” lunch the day before at Ocompo the day before but wanted something and somewhere else for this breakfast. Our destination through the morning and into the noon hour was going to be Morelia so our route took us to a little town beside Hwy 15 called Francisco. It was a great find because right as we were going to turn onto the Hwy we found our restaurant. It was just opening up and after getting out of the car we were taken in with the wonderful aroma of handmade tortillas and tacino (bacon)…we had just found our perfect breakfast spot.
_It wasn’t structurally up to “American” standards but it was perfect. The coffee was brewed with the slight cinnamon taste, which isn’t one of my favorites, but it was still worth having my 3 refills. My huevos rancheros were amazing and the others of the group finished everything and couldn’t stop talking about it. We were also treated with a new treat for us. It was like honey but then again, it wasn't...it was sweet, sticky, dark in color, and tasted sorta like molasses/honey mixture but better. What was it, no one could tell us... With our want for food taken care of, we headed east. Our first stop was at the overlook for one of the Parque Nationals (National Parks of Mexico). We were still in “high country” so the views below and across were stunning. It’s great to see that Mexico has set National Parks aside like this for all to enjoy.
_We only stayed for a few minutes because we wanted to see and spend some time in Morelia before heading further west to Paztcuaro for a couple of nights. Morelia is the third largest city in Mexico and a huge college town. It is also boasts one of the finest cathedrals in Mexico. Last year when we were there, Louise and I spent hours sitting across the street from it while enjoying drinks or a meal and admiring the beautiful structure and grounds. This year unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky. We were all walking up the road to the cathedral and all of a sudden traffic came to a halt. The sidewalks started to jam up, and cars started making a “U-turn” right in the middle of town…the teachers had planned a major protest and that collimated just as we were within a block of the cathedral and “THE” place that all that kind of thing takes place. I really wanted to get closer but the books tell us to “avoid ALL protests” if possible, so we turned back and found a sidewalk café about a mile back
_…all turned out good except for not seeing the cathedral. Well now we’ve got a 50 mile drive to Patzcuaro ahead of us, so back on the Hwy and in a hunt a hotel.
_Our next journey from La Penita took us to the town of Angangueo, a little town at the base of the El Rosario Mountain Sanctuary for the Monarch Butterfly in central Mexico. We had talked with other couples from the campground about the Monarch Sanctuary AND where to stay. The most talked about hotel (Plaza Don Gabino)
_in Angangueo and it turned out to be just about perfect…great and proud ownership, clean, and a wonderful but somewhat expensive restaurant. Our traveling companions for this journey were Sol. Carol, Ken and Maureen. Ken and Maureen were handed the keys to the mini-suite which had a living room with a wood burning fireplace.
_Just as night arrived the wood was brought in and the owners son lit the evening fire while we enjoyed a cocktail and a hardy game of “crap-o-la“ (a dice game of chance)…This high up in the mountains we found the fire to be very comfortable and but wished it was in our room as well because we knew when we went into our room it was going to be quite cool...bring on the long-johns. This was going to be our home for the next two nights. Angangueo was at an altitude of 9,000 feet and the sanctuary that we were going to be at in the morning was over 13,000. The first morning we were fed and on our way by 8:30. The morning drive took us through Ocampo and then hooked up with a cobblestone and brick road for the six miles up into the mountain.
_At the bottom of the sanctuary we came upon a small village called El Rosario, which is a “ejido” (the Mexican Indian) community. There they had set up a “toll” station that we had to pay a fee of 30 pesos to enter into their land and the free parking area for the sanctuary. Now we’re all set to experience the “Magical El Rosario Mountain Sanctuary”…Millions of Monarch butterflies migrate to the mountain forests of central Mexico every winter.
_The present Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve was established in 2000, and consists of more than 138,000 acres of high mountain area along the border between the states of Michoacan and Mexico. More than 150 million Monarch butterflies from North America winter in this area and we are about ready to experience them first hand, but first we’ve got to do a lot of hiking. Our hike started out with a steep climb up a wide staircase. Now remember, we’re now well over 10,000 feet and we’re just starting the CLIMB !!! After awhile the cement stairways gave out to a dirt path
_and the CLIMB continued until we reached the roped off end of the trail (at just over 13,000 feet) were HUGE clusters of Monarch Butterflies hanging from the Oyamel fir trees.
_Arriving at the top AND still able to breath, we were taken with the impressive butterflies. As the sun stretched through the tops of the tallest trees, the butterflies would take to the air as that air started to warm. The air filled with thousands and thousands of golden butterflies making it a truly moving and magical moment for all of us.
_Standing motionless, the butterflies would swirl around you and in some cases you would find yourself as a human landing pad or maybe you might find them hanging around the pool were you've stopped off to rest.
_After the long hike up, we knew that we had to make the hike back… All set, let’s go… Finally reaching the bottom we made our way through the mass of stalls most set up and waiting for us. With so many small restaurants to compete with, we found one that met our needs…MUCHO FRIO CERVEZA (A COLD BEER) POR FAVOR !!! (Oh yes, we should grab a bit of lunch too...)
_Looking back on this trip, I must say that we are still excited at what we witnessed. Last year Louise and I started out for the Monarch’s but got stopped because of a major rain storm that shut everything down. Angangueo was especially hit. From a picture, we saw a large school bus sitting on it’s nose and the hind wheels laying up beside the church steeple. The flooding was amazing and the after flood scene is still evident now. We even came upon the bus that sat on the church. The re-construction is underway but will take a long time before all is well. Now, we’ve got another “couple” adventures left before we get back to La Penita.