Mexico Vacation - Day 5
February 16, 2006
Monarch Sanctuary

This was undoubtedly the highlight of our trip to Mexico! Seeing the Monarch butterflies at one of their sanctuaries high in the mountains of Mexico is a wondrous experience. Unfortunately, making any attempt to re-create the experience for others with photos or videos just doesn't begin to do it justice - you really just need to go there!

The sanctuary sites are about 1000' feet above the road, which itself is over 10,000' elevation. We originally targeted a tourist-friendly area at which we would make arrangements to get horses and a guide. Instead, we found good local guides and horses a mile back down the road. Everything about the visit was just right!

A couple of "Extras"

Early in the morning at "Hotel Finca El Reboso". Nice 8-room place that seemed uninhabited on the weekdays, apparently fills up on the weekends.
Doug and Sharon, stopped for a portrait before heading up to see the butterflies.
This illustrates why the police ask drivers to slow to 10 kilometers per hour when driving the highways near the sanctuaries: Hundreds and hundreds of flying Monarchs!

During the day, the butterflies make round-trips down the mountain to the riverbeds and flower-fields below - and they're able to avoid being hit by slower cars.

This is the area where we parked our car and found guides. Notice the "Guias al Santuario" sign.

Up on the mountain now... I spare you the photos of Doug on a horse.

These are trees whose branches are FILLED with monarchs. CLUSTERS of monarchs! We saw some branches that had broken and fallen to the ground - under the sheer weight of butterflies! Something new to think about, butterfly weight.

Nope, that's not tree bark, those are butterflies - so many, that arriving butterflies can't find room, and have to fly off looking for another tree!
Just one... among millions.
Here's another first. When the monarchs take to the air in vast numbers, you can hear the sound of thousands of butterfly wings flapping, like wind. I didn't know butterflies could make any sound at all.
Our guides, in business for 21 years from December to March every year. Wanted to know how to say "caballo fuerte" in english (strong horse). I wonder why.
Here's a gathering on a country road down below where we'd parked, where a small stream comes across the road.

The "wallpaper" picture (see above) was taken here, where there were so many monarchs, you could fill the picture frame with them.

Another loner, on a leaf.
A gathering of monarchs on the sides of a tree, and a few in flight (blurred).
Several monarchs around some yellow flowers.
A huge wasp landing on the roadway!

Just kidding. It's on the window of the car, outside.

Most of these wasps were smaller than average. There seemed to be a large number of them hanging out with the monarchs, at lower elevations. Very docile, though - none of them was in the least bit aggressive towards us.

Back home to the Hotel.

This looks like unimproved forest, but no, it's the driveway down to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel after dark the night before, it was somewhat difficult to trust that we were on the right road!

There are some lamp posts along the road, that look so isolated and out-of-place here. They reminded us of the lamp post in the woods of Narnia (from C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe").