Skip to content

still chasing butterflies

After my abortive attempt to cross the mountains, I arrive back in Senguio as it is getting dark and sensibly decide to spend the night there. In the morning, I enter into an extended consultation with the manager of the pension about the best route to Angangueo and I leave feeling sure that I will manage to arrive there this time without too much trouble. The way is marked clearly on my map and I set off with confidence. The first 20 kilometres are quickly covered on a quiet paved backroad before I turn south-west onto a gravel road which should take me through a settlement called Rosa Azul.

At the first group of houses on the road I stop to check that I am on the right track. The women I make my inquires to are aghast.

“But it’s a long way!”

“You can’t do it on that bike!”

“The road is too rough!”

“It is pure mountains!”

It is becoming a familiar refrain and I find it slightly wearying. I point out, a little tersely, that I didn’t ask if it were easy to get to Rosa Azul on this road, only if it were possible. The women fall silent and then nod assent. Yes, it is possible. I go on.

It is true that the gradients are severe and the road in poor condition but neither of these issues deters me. However, the single line marked on my map does nothing to shed light on the confusing range of options presented by the tracks which branch out before me. Luckily this area is slightly more populated than the mountains near Senguio and I manage to find people to confirm my path but every last one of them voices their grave doubts as to my ability to negotiate the road.

Another washout in the middle of a steep climb - this one requires me to unload my bike and carry it and my bags around the obstruction.

The going is slow and, after a precipitous descent leading into the tiny settlement of San Javier at dusk, I find a place to pitch my tent in a lugubrious dark damp pine forest. I am not sure whether or not I am influenced by the doubts of the people I have passed during the day but I am beginning to feel it is possible I will never arrive at Angangueo. However, the next morning, after a brief climb, I pass through a gate and soon find myself back on pavement.

Following the road...

...back to pavement.

After some momentary confusion about which way I should turn onto the paved road I set off and not far down the highway, hopeful signs appear. It seems that I may be within reach of my objective after all.



I survey the terrain from the road, reminded again of the relentlessly hilly nature of Mexico. I have been traversing mountains now without a break for the last four months but, mountains notwithstanding, within a few cruisy kilometres a sign appears indicating I have arrived at the Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary.

More mountainous terrain.

A kind of pointless map at the entrance to the sanctuary, indicating nothing in particular.

At the entrance of the sanctuary two women and a child are lying sound asleep in doorway of a small structure. One woman leaps up when I bid her good morning and promises to look after my bike while I walk into the sanctuary. After a relaxed two kilometre stroll, I come to a cluster of restaurants and stalls selling a variety of butterfly themed trash surrounded by listless groups of people waiting for a customer. I go to the rickety wooden ticket booth and a man ducks inside through an opening created by a loose board. He take my 30 pesos entry fee and then asks if I want a guide. When I decline he voices his concerns that I will get lost. I counter by saying that what I need is information, not a guide.

“It’s very complicated,” he says, sighing heavily.

I suggest he could draw me a map and after a moments hesitation he sketches a Y on the back cover of the visitors book and then crosses out the the right-hand branch. It doesn’t appear that complicated.

A cluster of restaurants...

... and some rather tired horses mark the entrance to the sanctuary.

I run the gauntlet of guides and people touting horses and set off on a track through the forest. Evidence of butterflies litters the ground and soon I am walking amongst flittering golden wings.

Dead butterflies on the ground.

The track narrows, leading through increasing dense forest and I pass a few people returning along it. After half an hour, I come across two men sitting on the path. A rope strung between the trees bars further progress and as I gaze down the slope into the trees I am rendered speechless – the branches of the trees are festooned with millions and millions of butterflies.


... there are millions and millions of butterflies here.

I edge my way as close as the rope barrier allows and lie down of a bed of pine needles gazing up at the trees. Dense bunches of butterflies hang motionless amongst a shifting cloud of more active ones. Mating butterflies plummet to the ground spinning crazily like stricken aeroplanes. As the sun starts to warm the clusters, whole branch loads of butterflies suddenly spill forth and take to the sky, before settling on any surface that exposes them to the sun.

Mating butterflies fall to the ground.

Whle others settle on any available surface...

...soaking up the sun.

I lie on the forest floor for some time, alone apart from the two lackadaisical butterfly minders, until my solitude is disturbed by the arrival of a group and their Canadian guide. I rouse myself a little but can’t drag myself away from this spectacle. Eventually I strike up a conversation with some members of the group and the guide tells me that tomorrow they will be going to another sanctuary, about 50 kilometres away, near Zitacuaro. where there are many more butterflies. I immediately press him for more information and directions  – I am determined not to miss it.

A butterfly tag - the blue tags are placed on butterflies from Arizona.

{ 5 } Comments

  1. Babs | March 13, 2010 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    amazing, Anna!!! Happy belated birthday “Pisces” friend. ☻

  2. anna | March 13, 2010 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    Hi Babs,

    Thanks and it sounds like birthday wishes might be in order for you too then..?

  3. Babs | March 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    ;-) Thanks!

  4. Karen | March 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi Anna! Heard your story at Chincua. I am sending positive energy your way! I hope you make it to Tierra del Fuego!

  5. Kat | April 6, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    thank you for sharing your inspiration


    PS Yesterday I told work I’m leaving at the end of June :)

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *