Reserva Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Preserve)

December 7, 2009

Reserva Monarca

Well, my bike was NOT happy climbing the last 1000 feet up into Angangueo, so this morning I sucked it up, and did my first on-my-own chain adjustment. After double, triple, quintuple checking, I thought I had it right, and left this still-sleepy (and really freaking cold!) town at 9000 feet elevation.

Turns out my carbuereted bike likes altitudes UNDER 8000′ the best. It tends to protest anywhere above that–not vociferously, mind you, just like a whiny child in a I-don’t-really-like-this-but-I’ll-humor-you-anyway kind of way. So I ride this really great road up to the monarch butterfly preserve, and I’m pretty damn proud of myself. Firrst chan adjustement, totally empowered to take on the world, energized by the cold (and darned happy I have heated hand grips on my bike!). I pay my 15 pesos to “park”, and ride in. I’ve been told by Francisco in the tourist office in Angangueo that the last 800 meters of the driveway are a little rough, and I figure he knows what he is talking about since he owns three bikes (turns out they are scooters, not bikes).

Easy road, pass some huts on the left with no signs of life (houses? ghost town?), keep going. And going. Hm. longer than 800 meters? Then the road dips down, steep down, and I think to myself “this is not right–the butterflies like elevation”. So I get myself turned around, and tke my next right UP. Groovy.

Up. And Up. and UP. OK, Altimeter says 10,000′, 10,200′, 10,300′ etc. until I am over 11,000 feet, and remind you my bike dosn’t like to be very high up, so it’s protesting more and more, and just about the time the altimeter says 11,200 feet (really now, how high do these butterflies really like to live anyway?) and about the tiime that the road turns into a billy goat path about as wide as my bike, and about the time that the heavy dews make the mud in between the rocks totally slippery, and about the time I almost pass out from holding my breath, the bike will not move forward (too little power, too much gear, too high up, etc.) I realize I think I may have made a mistake.

My heart is beating frantically, my bike is stuck on a path about as wide as it is (which seems exceedingly narrow at this point), my rear wheel is stuck between two rocks, and I am beginning to think I may hhave made a wrong turn…

Oh well, I am in the middle of nowhere, in a beautiful lush forest, my motorcycle stuck and I have come to see the butterflies. So what’s a gal to do?

Put the kickstand down, get off the bike, lock the helmet onto the seat, and decide to deal with the motorcycle later.

I have come to see the butterflies, and I WILL see the butterflies. I must have been quite a vision in reflective motorcycle gear to the high altitude cows chewing their cud along the billygoat path. So I continue up the cow-and-billygoat path, and after a half hour of steadily climbing, in full-out motorcycle gear (hey, at least I am not COLD anymore!) I am rewarded with a couple of butterflies.


There MUST be more.

Then I get lucky, and realize the orange moss on the pine trees? BUTTERFLIES!

Butterflies EVERYWHERE!

I walk towards the butterflies. They are on everything. Cover practically everything. It’s the coolest thing I have ever seen.

And the Sound? The sound of rain in a lush rainforest? No. The sound of MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of beating butterfly wings.

May I present to you these delicate creatures that have flown across the Gulf of Mexico, to do their butterfly thing here in the high mountains of Morelia, Mexico.

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I have to be very careful not to step on them as I move around

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They are everywhere! feeding

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I am in awe.

I take my time walking amongst them, listening, wondering, taking pictures.

Here is a video –LISTEN!


And then it is time to face the music.

I try to remember the way I came through the forest…Up, down, around, um? where are teh marks I put imteh mud every time I made a turn?


walk, walk, walk, then I hear something…

weird. lots of hoofbeats.

Oh! Hey! A person–I’ve read about these guides that take you up to the reserva on horseback. Why couldn’t I find one when I needed one?

I ask if he’s seen my Moto.


Si, Moto.

Nope, but if I wait for him there, he will come and help me look for it.


But I have to pee, so I march off trying to find a private spot…in a forest that suddenly does not seem so private…and I spy my moto!

oofa. I forgot that I was stuck.

The path

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I cannot get traction

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Where my wheels just skid on damp earth

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My wheels get caked with mud

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And I hear the sound of thundering hooves…

it is the horseback guide, running his horse, and leading another, like a wildman, and he has come to save me. He ties up the horses, and we decide on a plan of attack…He wil stabilize the back end of the bike, (yeup, downhill of a 400 lb. bike, in mud, with a girl he doesn’t know at the controls) and help me back down the billygoat path tile we get to a place where I can turn the bike around…

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This accomplished, I realize I do not have much money–I give him everything I have–a few dollars’ worth of Pesos– and apologize profusely that i do not have more, yet I am very appreciateive, etc.

I do not even have enough money to go and pay for my entrance now, so I ride back down the access road

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and sneak out of the reserva.

Turns out that the deserted village is now full of life, and that must have been where I should have stopped. I’m an early riser, and I guess I beat the workers there.

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