In late January Ian and I signed up for a group trip with a bunch of people to visit one of the monarch migration sites slightly to the west of Mexico City. We went to Valle de Bravo in Mexico state where around 20 million monarch butterflies come to eat and reproduce. The site offers a rare balance of warmth in the sun, coolness in the air, and proper vegetation for the butterflies to eat while they reproduce. When we arrived, the air was very cool and the butterflies were mostly dormant. By the time we left (early afternoon), the sun was warm and the butterflies were swarming. Leaving the site, we drove at 15 km per hour (very slow) for about two miles with literally thousands of butterflies drifting along the road with the bus. It was unlike anything I've seen before.
Before getting to the butterflies, we visited Toluca, capital of Mexico state, and saw the "Cosmovitral," a heavy building with a stained glass (5000 panes of glass) story of the universe. The building now contains a botanical garden.
This bus company is highly successful in Mexico in spite of (because of?) its name and decoration. I can personally assure you now that there is nothing XXXplora about the insides of the bus: it has relatively small seats covered with Pacman-type upholstery and low ceilings.
The central arcade in the Cosmovitral. Note the super structure faintly visible through the stained glass.
The walls had spectacular birds, hawks, and owls in vivid colors.
The fire man at the entrance.
Inside the Cosmovitral is a botanical garden with an interesting mix of gardens. The stained glass throws lovely light on the plants and makes them even less like what they are.
Ian and Shannon ate street tamales out of a little cart to build up their strength for the butterflies! Apparently the green tamales are super tasty in Toluca!
Ian rode a horse up the hill! They ran out of horses, so I walked up, but we switched for the trip back down. I think he's got a future in riding - just look at his style!
The horses can go only so far up the mountain. The guides wait with them while the guests go on up the mountain to see the butterflies.
All that texture is butterflies. Around 20 million of them arrive at this location to absorb a certain level of alkaline from the fir trees which makes them toxic (or at best unpleasant) to potential predators. The noise made by 20 million butterflies is astounding.
A closed close-up.
An open close up.
Swarming the sky like flying monkeys!
Butterflies on a branch. The blurry spots are more butterflies coming or going.
Masses of butterflies.
It is a life cycle, after all, and the ground was littered with dead butterflies, some whole and some shattered.