December 11th, 2007

Butterflies Before the Deadline

I was starting to get very close to the end of my trip. That meant two things were catching up with me. First, that fact that I only had time to do a few more things. Second, the weight of the sentence, “What am I doing next?”. While in Oaxaca, I heard that there is an annual butterfly migration that terminates in Mexico. I was already supposed to go shopping in a nearby city, so butterflies sounded like a good activity. I hopped a bus (through Mexico City) to Morelia, Michoacan. To save time, I took a night bus.

I don't normally have problems with night buses. However, I had a layover for several hours in Morelia where it was both freezing (ok 6C) and unheated. I started out by being surprised that it got cold in Mexico. Gradually my surprise shifted from that to how cold I really felt. By the end of my layover I had opened my luggage and started to layer my clothing. I had also started to curse the architect who had taken a pause in his career as a wind-tunnel designer to design that bus station.

The butterflies hang out near Angangueo (which is further up the mountain from Morelia). I arrived there in the morning and managed to find a nice, cheap, totally unheated hotel there. Afterwards, I took off for the butterflies. That was humbling. The general direction to the butterflies was up. They hang out about 2 miles above sea level. The buses, however, drop off quite a bit lower than that. I learned that hiking from 10,000 feet to 11,000 feet is hard. I went up with a guide. He seemed to have forgotten that it was hard (or possibly that hadn't been covered in his training). Watching him, I felt incompetent. Fortunately, I was walking up with a normal human as well and his struggles made me feel much better. That might have been the only time in my life that walking winded me enough that I had to sit down. It made me better understand how my grandmother feels.

In the end it was worth it; I learned how many butterflies there are in the world. I don't know an exact number, but I'm pretty sure it's more than a million because that's about how many I saw. The trees weren't green, they were orange. There was a constant noise (did you know that butterflies are noisy? I didn't.) of butterflies. They weren't afraid of anything. I took some of the best pictures of my life. I took pictures of me with butterflies climbing on me, clouds of butterflies flying, butterflies up close...