Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Morelia and Mariposas

We are in Morelia. Another (Unesco- world heritage listed) colonial gem with buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th century. Block after block of beautiful sandstone. First night we were here they decided to put on a fiesta for us, complete with traditional indigenous dancers, and fireworks and light show. The fireworks all came from the main Cathedral which was lit spectacularly. We still don't know what the celebration was but it could be the beginning of the lead up to Easter. The catholic traditions are strong and serious. On ash Wednesday, practically everyone we passed had a black cross on their forehead (charcoal) that they get when they attend church.
Yesterday we took a trip to the Monarch Butterfly reserve. We bussed to a small town called Zitacuaro and stayed overnight, The next day we took a smaller bus up the mountains further. It was a classic with many people returning to their village from the market. We didn't quite sit with chickens on our laps but the aisles were full of buckets of strawberries, avacados etc.
Beautiful views and countryside. Not at all like one's stereptypical image of Mexico. We had green fields, rich looking volcanic soil, pines and cypresses.
When we got to the town of Ocampo we had to get a little combi 'colectivo' the rest of the way up to the reserve. At the reserve we then walked about 2 kilometre in a steep climb- but all stairs and trails. The reserve itself sits at about 3,000 metres so we got a bit of hight altitude training for our Inca Trail trip.
The butterflies were an incredible sight to see. It was observing nature in its most wondrous guise. These butterflies fly down from Canada every year, 150 million of them! They lay their larvae on the plants here - then when the butterflies form, they hang around for a while, getting up their strength to make the journey to North America.
We arrived early in the morning when they were all 'asleep' hanging in the trees. The pine tree limbs bend down with the weight of all the butterflies en mass. Then, as the sun hits the branches and warms the butterflies they all fly off to get water and nectar. Millions! Absolutely incredible to see. The pictures we took don't do them justice but check them out anyway on-

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