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.