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Sun Jan 20 2013: Butterfly Sanctuary in El Rosario

Uruapan was a really nice week-long break, especially since we had only intended to spend a couple of days there! From there, we rode through Morelia on our way to the far east side of Michoacan.


Faint moon over the Cathedral of the Divine Savior of Morelia

Morelia is one of the largest cities in Michoacan and the architecture of the downtown core reminded me very much of Durango. Like Durango, many people in other parts of Mexico have warned us not to go, stating lots of crime and violence, but when we got there, it seemed like any large city. Seems that most people are always afraid of their neighbours, even when they're in the same country! Pretty much everyone in Canada says Toronto is a cesspool of pollution, criminals and lowlifes. Which isn't true, that distinction belongs to Oshawa, which is just down the highway... :)


Music is always in the air in Mexico

We only spent one night in Morelia, as we are just passing through. We got a chance to spend some time in the historical part of the downtown, lots of colonial style buildings, expensive cafes and restaurants, the main cathedral and the plaza just outside.


Jardin de las rosas

Someone has to guard the flowers

Birds flee the fountain in the main plaza

The next day, we set out to Angangueo, nestled in the mountains of eastern Michoacan. It's about a couple of hours away and the smooth asphalt twists and turns through the green terrain and we stop a few times to admire the scenery.


Between Morelia and Angangueo

Bikes resting in Michoacan

We arrived in Angangueo in the early evening and found a place to park our bikes and ourselves. The forecast called for rain so we're holed up for a couple of days to wait out the wet weather. Angangueo is 8400 feet above sea level, so the temperatures have gotten close to freezing overnight! Our hotel didn't have any heating, so we piled on the blankets and shivered all through the night and into the morning! No one told us it gets so cold in Mexico!!!


Bikes are under cover and secured for the night

Next day, outside our restaurant, we hear bikes! Local riders doing the twisties in the roads around Angangueo!

When the weather finally clears up, we ride up another 30 minutes to El Rosario. The cobblestone road rises up another 3,000 feet above Angangueo, taking us well into the forested mountains.


Banditos put up a roadblock in front of us! No, actually a schoolbus trying to make a 3-point turn on the narrow road up to El Rosario

El Rosario is one of several butterfly sanctuaries in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which covers the area around Angangueo. Every winter, almost a billion Monarch butterflies migrate 4,500 kms from Canada. Kinda like us!!! :) It takes 4 generations every year to make the trip from Mexico to Canada and back. Um, the butterflies... not us...


Parking lot in El Rosario

The entrance fee to the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary also gets us a personal tourguide. In actuality, the guides are more like security guards. They make sure that we don't disturb the butterflies as they wait out the winter. We are cautioned not to make excessive noise and not to stray away from the roped-off path leading to the resting spots. This path is actually an endless staircase, what seems to be another 1,000 feet further into the mountains. It takes us almost an hour because we have to stop to catch our breath and rest a couple of times, meanwhile our guide (who we find out is 70 years old!!!!) is barely breathing hard and tells us this is his second time up today! *shame*

It's lucky that we stayed a couple of days in Angangueo to acclimatize ourselves to the altitude before this hike. We're about 12,000 feet above sea level!


The branches are drooping thick with orange Monarch butterflies

As we approach the area where the Monarchs rest, we notice all the trees seem to have grey and orange leaves. Those aren't leaves, they're butterflies! Millions of them! Our guide says that in El Rosario alone, there are over 250 million butterflies. It's not uncommon for the branches to break off the trees because of the weight of the butterflies! SO COOL!


Neda spies some lively butterflies

In the morning and early afternoon, the butterflies are sluggish because of the cold, but when the afternoon sun warms up their wings, most of them take flight and blanket the blue skies with a Monarch cloud.


Neda has become quite the Instagram artiste

Some loners stray out into the sun

This little guy needed some warming up

Mid-afternoon sun brings the Monarchs to life!

When I breathed on the butterfly on my hand, he flew up onto my sweater
and then walked all the way up to my ear! It tickled!

This guy seemed to like Neda's backpack

We made tons of friends that day. Muy hermosas!

Someone told the villagers that Ewan and Charley were in El Rosario.
Our ride back down to Angangueo was met with a lot of disappointed faces...

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