We start the week off at a warm, beautiful place before a long drive to get to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in a tiny town called Jocotepec off of Mexico’s largest lake Chapala. We had another 7 days or so before the Monarch Butterflies were to leave and fly off to another land. Seeing the butterflies was one of my top 5 things that I put on my to-do list for this trip. Couldn’t wait!!!
After a seven or so hour drive we arrive to one of the more secluded and natural Butterfly Reserves just before sunset after it closes. We drove up the heavily wooded single road to camp for the night and decide to catch an early tour the next morning. It starts raining and the wind picks up immediately while we are trying to park. We quickly make dinner and jump into the van for shelter for the night. Neither one of us can sleep because we found ourselves in a extreme winter storm. We are on top of a mountain at 10,000 ft in a closed park, seemingly alone during a hail and sleet storm that is rocking the van. The temperature drops increasingly and we take shelter under the covers as fast as possible. To drown the howling winds and current conditions we binge watch some tv shows until we can fall asleep. Neither one of us can sleeps throughout the night. We decided since there would be no tour that day that we would head down the mountain for better weather conditions. We found out that the single road is blocked by at least a handful of gigantic fallen pines. The wind is howling so the road is too dangerous to stand still so we reverse about a mile back to the open parking lot. There was no cell signal so we look for an emergency phone, nothing. We check the small huts near by and find nothing. Eventually we see a small native woman in a garbage bag roaming around and we scream for help. She speaks no English and her dialect of Spanish made it nearly impossible to understand. She takes us into her hut for some fire, coffee and tortillas. We were cold and frozen so anything sounded like a dream at that point. She lives at the butterfly sanctuary by the support of the government along with 40 other locals who sold either trinkets or tacos to the visitors.
With our broken Spanish and her mountain dialect we tried asking if help was coming to clear the road, she said yes or tomorrow. She gestured that she had made a call for support. Our cell phone was not getting a signal, I was so stressed. However I enjoyed sitting in front of her brick oven drying my clothes and warming my toes no matter if we could communicate or not. We met several of the others who lived in the Butterfly commune, everyone seemed to be checking on each other. The gringos were throwing them off though. I would tell them that they needed to speak slower and instead they would scream faster in my ear as if that would help me understand their Spanish. Meanwhile huge pine trees were crashing to the ground too close for comfort. I couldn’t take anymore of the screaming so I told Christian I’d rather sit in the van for the night. Our kitchen is outside and in the rear of the van so in wind, rain or a winter-storm it does us no good. We chew on some bread and cheese for dinner for the night and split a beer. The inside of the van reached at least 28 degrees while we were awake so we cuddled as much as possible to stay warm. We shiver throughout the night as temperature continues to drop, I wake up and start crying “What the fuck are we going to do?!” It’s a saying that came up at least 20 times between the two of us.
After a very long and cold forty-eight hours a pick-up truck pulls up to our van with fifteen people in it. We start screaming in joy, “the road is clear! thank god!” Diego tells us “We leave in about twenty mins, follow my tracks down. Do you want something to eat?” He tells us that in a town a few hours down the mountain he heard two people were trapped up at the top and freezing in their car. In a pick up truck full of people they brought up a chainsaw and clear the road, hours later we happily meet them. Diego and his girlfriend Ame take us to their hometown where we get a warm hotel, shower, food and a beer. “Now that we are safe, I’d still like to see the butterflies tomorrow!” Our new friends tell us “I’m sorry they died in the storm.” I can’t give up that easy, I just sat in a three day storm scared as hell, freezing my limbs off just to see the butterflies. And that’s it.
Needing of mention:Snow has not hit this part of Mexico in at least 12 years. The luck we have is immeasurable, after all those days not one butterfly.