The Historic Centre of Morelia is located in central Mexico, at the foot of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range and near the agricultural valley of Morelia-Querendaro. Morelia is the capital of the state of Michocoan and it is a registered UNESCO World Heritage site. With a consistent colonial-style throughout, Morelia is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. It is not really on the well-trodden path of the leisure tourists and so you can walk around in comfort without bumping into the bermuda shorts and flip flops crowds!
More than 200 historic buildings, all in the region's characteristic pink stone, reflect the town's architectural history. Morelia was the birthplace of several important personalities of independent Mexico and has played a major role in the country's history. Our favourite building was the stunning pink stone Cathedral in the centre of town, which was so beautifully lit at night. It was just as beautiful inside with a monumental organ, imported from Germany in 1905, which was the largest organ in the Western Hemisphere at the time. It consists of 4600 flutes or pipes!
We did 2 self guided walking tours around the City-visiting the beautiful pink buildings and learning about the history. It was another pair of relics, however, that made our stay in Morelia extra special-the arrival of Fi and Ken, who we had first met in Mazatlan. We just hit it off so well with these two, all 3 of us Brits teasing the American Ken, for his pronunciation of words such as "route" (he says rowt); "leisure" (he says leesure) and so many more! We shared lots of laughs and experiences with Fi and Ken over the next few days.
We decided to take a tour from Morelia to the El Rosario butterfly reserve to see the remarkable sight of the millions of monarch butterflies who arguably, take the title of the world`s greatest travellers. As winter arrives in the United States and Canada millions upon millions of these beautiful orange and black butterflies begin a remarkable migration that sees them fluttering south 2000km to central Mexico where they winter in the dense fir forests that cover the high mountain slopes-(just like loads of Americans and Canadians we have met in Mexico-although they head to the beaches!) Visiting their Mexican mountain retreat is one of the world’s most astounding wildlife experiences. The migrating butterflies begin their journey in early-October, arriving in the mountains of central Mexico in mid- to late November. Traveling at an average speed of 12 mph (but sometimes going up to 30 mph), the monarchs cover about 80 miles a day. They can fly at heights of up to 2 miles. They travel an average of 1800 miles from the United States and Canada to the forests in Michoacan where they spend the winter before embarking on their return journey. Numbers peak between mid-December and the end of February when, in good years, there can be tens of millions of them present. By mid-March the butterflies are starting to return northwards to the US and Canada.
Adult monarch butterflies live for only around a month so no one butterfly ever makes the entire circular migration from North America to Mexico and back again. Instead, it takes three generations of spring-born butterflies to complete the northern leg of the migration from Mexico back to the US-Canada border. The fourth generation though is a ‘super-generation’, which lives eight to ten times longer than normal. It’s these butterflies which, each autumn, leave the Great Lakes area and fly south to Mexico. We took the tour with Fi and Ken, alongside a lovely Mexican couple and their baby. Our driver was a little eccentric, to say the least-regaling us with tales of UFO`s, healing by light and that aliens are amongst us etc! We were very British and listened politely, smiling and nodding at the appropriate moments!
It took just over 3 hours to get to the reserve and then we walked uphill for 45 minutes to reach the spot where the butterflies congregated. It was truly remarkable to see millions of beautiful butterflies weighing down the branches of trees as they huddled together and almost turning the sky black as they flew in their millions. When everyone was quiet, all you could hear was the gentle flapping of their tiny wings. It can get very cold at the high altitudes and on cold mornings and evenings the butterflies huddle together for warmth, but when the sun filters through the trees and warms the butterflies, they take to the skies in enormous numbers. We stood and watched in awe for almost an hour, before descending and returning back to Morelia.
That evening we went to the Temple and ex-convent of San Francisco, for a light and colour show called mapping. This consists of projecting moving images on real surfaces, in this case on the facade of the San Francisco Temple, to achieve an artistic effect in 3D. These projections are synchronized with music, resulting in a wonderful show. The following day we said farewell (for now) to Fi and Ken. That evening, Gav and I waited patiently in front of the Cathedral with thousands of Mexican families, to watch the brilliant firework show in front of the magnificent cathedral. It was a great atmosphere, with families eagerly awaiting the show and lots of sellers hawking their wares such as candy floss, glow in the dark trinkets and all sorts of other stuff. Whilst only short, it was a great firework display, in time to music.
Morelia was our favourite City so far in Mexico and is up there as one of the favourites of our whole trip. After almost a week there, we packed up and headed to Patzcuaro, another beautiful town sitting on the edge of Lake Patzcuaro. Here we reunited with Fi and Ken and also Roque and Sharon, a wonderful couple from the USA who we met a few months ago in Death Valley. These two have retired and are slowly heading to Panama (where Roque is from) to see if they want to resettle there. They have travelled through the USA, including Alaska, Canada and Mexico for around 13 months with a caravan stuffed full of their possessions for their new life in Panama! We all camped at a ranch on a hill overlooking Patzcuaro and the beautiful lake. There was a variety of animals parading past our camp spot, including horses, turkeys, sheep, dogs, hens and donkeys! We explored Patzcuaro, really enjoying its huge plazas and beautiful buildings. In the evenings-we taught Fi and Ken the 2 cards games we had learnt whilst working on the date farm at China Ranch. We had a great laugh and all particularly enjoyed teasing Ken when he lost with childish signs of "LOSER"!
Moving back to thePacific Coast, we camped for 2 nights at a small campsite on the beach 30 km South of Zihuatanejo. We had been in the mountains for a couple of weeks enjoying warm but bearable temperatures. Back on the coast it was very hot and humid and we spent the day lying on hammocks under a huge palapa, with Fi, Ken, Roque and Sharon. From our hammocks-we spotted whales although it was almost too hot to fetch our binoculars to take a proper look! After a farewell dinner in the local restaurant which cost us the princely sum of £14 for food and drinks for 6 of us, we all headed our separate ways-hoping to meet up again in a month or so`s time in Yucatan.
Our next stop was Puerto Escondido and we stayed a cabana overlooking Zicatela beach, as we were simply too hot to camp in Ruby! We wandered down to Zicatela beach, which hosts major surfing competitions and down to the Playa Principal-which was our favourite as it was full of local people enjoying the sea and fisherman selling their catch. We had our tea (dinner not a cup of tea!) in a restaurant overlooking the beach and walked slowly back to the cabana via a street market selling all sorts of wonder colourful stuff!
After Escondido, we headed the short distance to Huatulco and the town of Santa Cruz. This region is known for its 9 beautiful bays of white sandy beaches. We headed to Playa Entrega to snorkel, expecting only a few people to be there as it was mid week. As we drove up, there were hundreds of cars and people, bands, police etc. What on earth was going on-was it a public holiday we were not aware of? We asked and were told by a wonderful, smiley restaurant owner "it`s the beach`s birthday"! Hence the crowds, bands etc! We spent a lovely few hours snorkeling and people watching. There was also the obligatory very loud music and competitions for swimming, football and volleyball.
We have also experienced another fairly big earthquake measuring 7.2.We were in an outdoor restaurant when the earth literally starting to shake beneath us and everything started moving around! It did not put Gav and I off our food, however!
After here we are heading for the Guatemalan border-which is about 500 miles away. Central America-here we come!