Memories are created every minute by sounds, feelings, impressions, people and temperature, but for me a very important factor is smells. Any of these, if encountered in an other setting, can trigger to recall memories. Mexico will always be embedded in our senses.
Only the smells! The sweet smell of a semi-tropical forest, dry desert, the overpowering smell of decomposing roadkill, exhaust fumes of old diesel engines, fresh ozone from first rain after 2 months of dry weather, odor of other human beings, flowers, spices, freshly squeezed orange juice, trees, burnt grass, rubber tires, sea, fresh water, myself after a day of riding in the burning heat, clean sheets!Exploring Cuitzeo del Povenir for breakfast brings me to a small house where they just have cooked/grilled pork meat which is offered for sale, in combination with some fresh bread is the perfect breakfast! Soon we are ready for biking around the lake, as we don’t want to just bike back the same road to the Toll road. We try to alternate toll roads with some local roads and this time we have a perfect ride. OK it is not all flat, some 17% short climb but remainder of the ride is soft up and down and even some dirt roads.
PS. do you see the white plastic bag on the back, our ukulele.
When you follow google map bike suggestions you never know the conditions of the roads, but most of the time you can’t bike them with a normal bike. But no issue for our strong Santos Travel Masters 2.9.
When we enter Araró, a tiny village with less than 1,500 inhabitants, at least 50 horses with cowboys (not one cowgirl!) are wandering through the streets.
After having dropped off our bikes we head back to the centre and discover the church in this town is a place of pilgrimage. And today all the cowboys (rich and poor) from one of the surrounding villages, Indaparapeo, came to pay respect. 26 km from Araró! The shop-owners said they did not know that so many people would swarm the village today, so all bread, sweets, soft drinks and almost all beer is been sold out.
What a present we got by being able to walk around and between all these horses!
In the evening everything is closed so I cooked macaroni on the side of a deserted street and make a nice pasta salad. Franks is doing maintenance as his tire lost air again but after checking the inner tire in water he can’t find any leak. To be at the safe side he puts again a new inner tire. Hope no more issues.
Biking out of Araró really warms up the leg muscles with a 14% up-hill.
As we follow the toll road today, we choose to stop at 47km as we do not want to add another 600m ascend to the 900m ascend done today. After some checking of different locations in Maravatio we find a place with fast internet and are able to post the blog of week 37. They have not seen many biking tourists here.
Happy Franks keeps daily notes. Time is going so fast I am no longer able to recall everything, after a week things start to blur.
When I am working on the blog Frank plays the ukulele. When Frank is editing the blog, I sleep 😊 because I need to get more strength to make it to the butterfly sanctuary tomorrow.
Tlalpujahua de Rayon.
Next day we follow Mex 126, not a toll road, no shoulder but not too busy. Or we are getting used of almost being pushed of the road by buses? The 900m ascend is up-down-up so much more than a sec 900m. At 15:00 we know we won’t make another 26km up-hill, both feeling spent, and decide to bike to Tlalpujahua de Rayon. Cute, hilly, small town with it’s own production of Christmas decorations.
Biking to the sanctuary would add an extra day as the road is very winding and narrow and the rest of that road to Toluca is not much better. So we decide to do a day trip to the sanctuary and follow 15D and 55D to Toluca tomorrow. To support local economy we charter a taxi the next day which brings us to the sanctuary in 45 minutes. Happy to not have biked this if you see how fast they speed up the hill and cut the corners.
A local guide is mandatory and included in the entrance fee (excluding tip of course and ours deserves a tip). You have to walk 2 km, first part you could take a horse but second part you still have to hike as horses can’t get too close to the butterfly colonies. They would disturb them too much with their smell and noise! So we go for the option of full hike and see/feel/smell much more.
And we hike and hike and don’t see any butterfly, wondering whether we will see any at all. At 3,300 meter around one of the corners suddenly our guide points to clusters of butterflies in the trees. Still hunching together as the sun has disappeared and they need the sun to be able to fly. We are not the only people looking for the butterflies, a group of Japanese and a group of USA people are also there. All past retirement age 😊
Every year thousands of Monarch Butterflies spend the winter in a few areas in this regions. They have travelled all the way from Canada! And it seems that 4 generations of butterflies are needed to make it all the way here or back to Canada. Each environmental change on their path has an effect on how many will survive.
We wait, are patient and when the sun appears from behind the white clouds we see thousands of butterfies in the distance and flying over the treetops above our heads. Ok it is nice but not yet a whaauw experience. The sun is not reaching where we stand. Frank asks our guide if there would be a possibility to hike further. And to our amazement our guide does take us down the hill, closer to the area where the sun reaches the forrest floor. There is even not a real path anymore and the great thing is that you don’t hear or see any other people. Then suddenly there are thousands of butterflies around us, which had quite an emotional impact.
Unbelievable. We are silent and enjoy the sound of butterfly wings.
Our guide let us enjoy this incredible moment and does not seem to be in any hurry to leave. After some time it is us who say it is OK to leave. Afterwards we think we could/should have stayed longer but the taxi is waiting and we feel as if we can’t let him wait too long. Beautiful hike and drive back home. When back at our hotel I discover that I forgot to take a photo with Sams medal while I mentioned it in the morning and the night before that this would be a great occasion ☹, but he was with us! Same day Inge sends a message to say it is OK to not always take photo’s, this without knowing I forgot today. So sweet.
Beautiful video on one of the other locations you can see here; Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary
Where we were we were not allowed that close 🙂 and we did not see the tree bark covered with them, but what a spiritual energy they gave us!
Next day,s ride to Highway 15D leads us past stone carvers, all clustered together, all making similar work.
Getting on the 15D is again easy and we make easy miles.
We decide to spend a night in a automotel for the first time of our lives, in Atlacomulco. Hm?
Tenango de Arista
Biking straight through Toluca, a busy day with a lot of exhaust fumes, noise and many people, brings us to Tenango de Arista. This so busy, so many people. But if you want to see how people live, culture etc you need to be closer to them.
In the evening we discover that there is be an interesting pyramid just outside the town. A good night rest is disturbed by people who are talking almost the whole night. After being very patient, Frank gets up and arranges that we finally can sleep. Not the first time in Mexico that people make a lot of noise during the night.
ps. this plane we saw next to the road, any idea what make and type this is?
Teotenango is located in the far southern part of the Valley of Toluca. The museum and temple are impressive: between 650 & 1500 AD 5 different groups of people have lived here before the Spanish wiped most of them out and overruled the remaining population. At its height, the city was densely population with a main road about 1,400 meters long, pyramidal platforms, palaces, a ballgame court, formidable defenses, drainage and water delivery systems.
Wandering on this high, natural hill, overlooking the city, wondering how it must have been to live here.
More info and great read: Teotenango
As we have biked the past days on toll roads we decide to opp for the winding 55 instead of the Toll road 55. After 30 minutes we look at each other and ask if we now do this to prove we can bike everything and cars/buses/trucks need to respect us and give us space? After a few more trucks coming from both directions squeezing past us we decide try to get a lift. Within 5 minutes Alberto with his mom stops and gives us a lift to Tenancingo, one of the 3 towns in Latin America with a huge statue of Christ.
It is only 20km further as Alberto needs to take a different road from here, but it seems that most of the heavy traffic is not going further than here and he is correct. Still a lot of traffic, still a windy, small road, still up-hill but do-able!
In Tonatico, one of the Pueblo Magico’s, we are happy that the restaurant on the square makes an exception and still serves us dinner even if it is past 19:00. We have the best dinner during our stay in Mexico. Spicy seafood soup, shrimps in garlic and rice. Finger licking good!
What will next week bring? Will it remain so busy? Are we longing for the quietness of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route? Or to relax at home? Or are we getting used to diving in the cultural hustle and bustle of Mexico?
If you ever need a part for your car or bike…
Also reasuring to find a bicycle repair man. If you can appreciate the Monthy Python humor, check this out; Bicycle Repair Man