Yesterday, I had the incredible opportunity to witness Monarch butterflies, hibernating in the forests of Valle de Bravo, Mexico.
The Monarch migration to Valle de Bravo has caused the Mexican government’s department of tourism (SECTUR) to designate it a Pueblo Magico: a village recognized for its natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance.
Let me apologize right now.
I didn’t take many photos, and the photos I did take aren’t great.
Some were from atop a horse.
Others were taken while I was huffing and puffing. I am so sensitive to high altitude and we were up quite high. Thus, my photojournalism was awful.
As you might know, Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico annually. I first learned of their migration two years ago, while watching CBS Sunday Morning. The report on CBS does a wonderful job graphically telling the story of the butterfly migration. Delicate butterflies can’t survive the cold winters of the United States and Canada. Each year, they migrate to escape the harsh weather. Monarch butterflies spend their winters hibernating in Valle de Bravo, Mexico where it is warm all year long.
The journey of the butterflies is a biological miracle. It takes the Monarch two or three generations to make their North. Then, one “supergeneration” makes the 2,000-mile trip to Mexico for the winter.
Imagine something with a four inch wingspan, that weighs less than a penny traveling so far!
As the CBS story shares, the butterflies are in danger. The forests they live in are being threatened. The trees that they hibernate in for warmth are being cut down. We saw many downed trees on our visit and yesterday it was quite cold so many died at our feet, on the forest floor.
While the signs suggested only 20 people be admitted into the sanctuary at a time, there were well over 200 people. As such, the butterflies were a little annoyed because there was a lot of noise. You could hear and see their wings flapping rapidly.
The road to see the butterflies was not for the meek.
We arrived at the preserve: two moms and three kids. The oldest child was 11, the youngest three years old. We agreed that I would take the three year old on horseback with me. Years of camp have made me a respectable horsewoman. And besides, after many outdoor adventures, I knew if horses are being offered, you should always accept one: horses mean uneven terrain and tough going.
When I looked up to ride over to meet the boys, I was horrified to see that my boy had left.
I have prayed more in Mexico than anyplace else.
The boy was not in sight.
After a 30 minute horse ride, I was thrilled to see him. He had unmounted his horse and was waiting for me. He’s been pulling little jerk moves like that a lot lately, and while I was glad to see him (and that I did not have to tell DH I lost our child while introducing him to Mexican culture), I was also fairly pissed off.
Who does that to their mother?
After we left the horses, the hike up–and by up I mean straight up– was another 30 minutes.
We saw some butterflies. Because it was cold, we didn’t see as many as we would have if it were warmer. However, if you look at the photo, the otherwise green tree appears orange, and that’s because it is covered with hundreds of thousands of butterflies. Going up to see the butterflies was dusty and dirty. We were covered with dirt from the steep climb. After we arrived at the top, I was more surprised to discover that two women had climbed to the top in high heels.
On the way down, my little three year old friend decided she had had enough of walking and riding. She told our guide to carry her, and he did.
For those of you planning to visit Piedra Herrada, I would be a horrible friend if I did not warn you about the bathrooms.
I am a tough cookie. It takes a lot to make me sick. But, I am telling you right now, unless you can’t help it, I would never, ever, ever, use the bathrooms at Piedra Herrada.
I decided to visit the restroom before we left. After the long drive and grueling climb. I thought it would be a good idea to go to the bathroom before getting back in the car.
I paid my three pesos to use the bathroom and stood in line.
As I got closer to the stalls, I saw a woman with a large plastic ice cream bucket with a handle. She was scooping water out of a bucket and handing it to people. Each woman took the pail into the bathroom with her. When it was my turn I took my bucket. Apparently, the bucket allowed you to “flush” the toilet as there was no running water. When I got into the bathroom it was amazing: I didn’t have to go anymore. Probably because I thought I was going to faint.
Now this might be bad to say, but, that restroom traumatized me.
Bathrooms notwithstanding, I am in awe that each little butterfly successfully made the 2,000+ mile journey to Mexico. I am glad that we took the children to see the butterflies. The forests that they live in are greatly threatened. Getting up the mountain with little people was a massive pain in the ass (mostly because it was steep, crowded and my son took off), but it was also something worth experiencing.