@VisitMex: Visiting Valle de Bravo to See The Migration of the Monarch Butterflies! @SECTUR_mx

Horses + Hiking = Monarch Viewing

Horses + Hiking = Monarch Viewing

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.

The going was rough, and V had the right idea!

The going was rough, and V. had the right idea!

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.

Little hands and lots of butterflies

Little hands and lots of butterflies

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. IMG_7603

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.

Butterflies on trees, stumps and leaves!

Butterflies on trees, stumps and leaves!

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.

This Girl Scout can ride! I've got the badge to prove it!

This Girl Scout can ride! I’ve got the badge to prove it!

Despite my expectation that the going would be rough, I was shocked at the steep terrain and the amount of physical hiking involved. Hiking with three kids was game-changing.
One of the dirtiest, steepest hikes.

One of the dirtiest, steepest hikes.

We put the five year old and the 11 year old on horses. I hopped on and the guide lifted the three year old up to me.

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?

The horses only take you so far. The rest is up to you.

The horses only take you so far. The rest is up to you.

After we left the horses, the hike up–and by up I mean straight up– was another 30 minutes.

I doubt this photo captures how steep the climb was.

I doubt this photo captures how steep the climb was.

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.
The orange in the trees are butterflies.

The orange in the trees are 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.

Why walk when you can ride?

Why walk when you can ride?

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.

There is no water in the rest room.

There is no water in the rest room.

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.

As I reflect on our visit, it’s wonderful to know we had the opportunity to witness one of nature’s spectacular miracles. Valle de Bravo truly is a Pueblo Magico–a magical city! IMG_7602

About Orange Marigolds

Welcome to "Orange Marigolds". My name is Kim, and I am the editor of this blog. I write food, travel and lifestyle articles. I love Halloween and host a lot of fun giveaways! I live in Michigan with my husband, son and dogs. Thanks for visiting.
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