*Where are the Butterflies?
Sunday I was standing at the top of Mexico (the country) and had a decision to make. Would I play it safe and head to Guanajuato to settle in, find a place to stay, and make sure I had a good internet connection in time to work on Wednesday or…would I try to book it down to Morelia to see the Monarch Butterfly migration? Yeah, that’s what I did. I hopped on a first class bus for the 15 hour ride down to Morelia. I got there Monday morning around 8:30 after a good night’s sleep in the luxury coach seat, a ham & cheese sandwich and soda courtesy of Primera Plus (bus company) and a wicked line/crease on my face from where I’d slept on my pillow.Â
I walked off the bus into a crisp, clear morning ready to find those butterflies.Â It turns out that I was still quite a ways away from the Monarch Sanctuary. I will admit that I was finally starting to really feel out of my comfort zone. I hadn’t seen or spoken to anyone who spoke English in 24 hours and none of the people at the bus station in Morelia a) spoke english or b) could tell me if the Monarch Sanctuary was still open and c) where exactly the sanctuary was located. I was leaning heavily on the guidebook I was carrying around and found a really cute guy who helped me figure out that I needed to catch another bus to San Felipe (2.5 hours, 105 pesos=$10 US). The great thing about the Mexican bus system is that it is clean, comfortable and there is ALWAYS a bus leaving RIGHT NOW for wherever you want to go. Megan does a great job of describing the ins/outs/ups and downs of bus travel in Latin America and so far I agree with her observations.Â The bus to San Felipe was more of a regular bus (US Greyhound without the crazy folks) and it was packed so there was always someone right next to me, leaning on my hip or elbow digging in my side. These folks were people heading to/from work or coming from celebrating Semana Santa with family last week. So mostly everyone was asleep. The sun was shining and the ride through the countryside was peaceful and a nice way to wake up to the day.Â I was starving by this time, but saw no options for food in sight.Â We got deeper into the countryside where the human population are outnumbered by cows, horses, sheep and corn.
We got to San Felipe around 11:30am and I psyched myself up to see the butterflies, find some lunch and try to get to Guanajuato by dinner time. Oh if I knew then what I know now…I found out in San Felipe (after many, many attempts to find someone who spoke a little english or understood my spanish) that I had to take ANOTHER BUS to a place called Angangueo which was where the actual sanctuary was. I figured out how to catch the smaller bus and paid my fare (10 pesos=$1). By this time I was tired, hungry and couldn’t remember why I wanted to see some butterflies so much.Â The 40 minute ride up to Angangueo was again a peaceful ascent into cooler mountains with trees, more livestock and a blessed glimpse into the day-to-day carryings on of the local people. And it is always comforting to see one of these on a rickety, ancient bus with questionable breaks.This part of Mexico is unfazed by tourists, they don’t cater to us, we don’t impact their day and aren’t the major driver in their economy so it was nice to be disregarded as a non-entity. When the driver indicated that I was at the right stop I hopped off the small bus and asked for the tourist office. It was closed. I asked a policeman about the Butterfly Sanctuary and he did his best to mime, signal, and act out the reality that the sanctuary was closed, the butterflies left in March and that the tourist office was closed since the season was over.
I could have cried. Mainly because I was so hungry. But still, 19 hours, $20, 3 buses, 1 bottle of water and a smooshed breakfast bar later and no butterflies. I laughed and asked how to get back to San Felipe.Â At the bus stop I meet the two people who speak any english within 300 miles. Olivia and her daughter Ingrid. They were sympathetic to my disappointment and my hunger and more importantly they were just plain good company after two days of semi-isolation and constant movement. Listening to their lives (they were visiting from Acapulco for the Easter week) I was struck by how everyone on the planet reallyÂ is/are more alike than different with regards to our needs, dreams, frustrations and ambitions. I got back to San Felipe. I walked around looking at the pottery,Â homemade goodies andÂ woven baskets. Finally, I peeped this mission.Â This guy made me a couple of fajitas and I bought some pistachios from a cool roadside stand and then hopped on the bus back to Morelia. Fortunately there was some unplanned entertainment when this dude got up and put on a show in the aisle. He was actually pretty good, and I was impressed at his ability to play the guitar AND the Harmonica at the same time! Later I spoke to him and it turns out that he (Victor) speaks pretty good english and lives in Mexico City. He lived in Chicago for a while but left due to green card issues. He told me to look him up if I get down to MC and offered me the remainder of his bag of weed. IÂ declined and told him I much preferred liquor if I was gonna get down, get funky and get loose.Â He was a real sweetheart though.
In the end, I got to Guanajuato at 11:30 Monday night tired but content even though these were the only butterflies I ever got to see.