Last weekend, we finally made it out to see the monarch butterflies before they make their journey back north in March. Saucos, a small dot on the earth in Mexico State, lays claim to a few of the prized mountaintops where the monarchs roost for the winter. It's about 1.5 hours west of Mexico City, and if you're too focused on the windy roads and speeding trucks out to get you, you might forget to stop in Saucos. Fortunately, Saucos gives you three strikes before you're out. If you scour the literature online or in guidebooks, you won't find too many details about the monarch sanctuaries in Saucos except that there's a pueblo named Saucos, and they have butterflies.
As I said before, driving to the remote parts of Mexico is a shot in the dark. You basically only know if your cardinal direction is right, and the specifics you have to ask. From Valle de Bravo ("El que más vale no vale lo que vale Valle"), you go south. Then you start to see dirt parking lots carved out on the side of the road and guides with horses waiting to prey upon you. There are three chances that you get before you've passed them all up. The first two are make-shift, unnamed "sanctuaries", and the third one is called Piedra Herrada--the largest, noisiest, and most crowded. And monarchs don't like noise, so if you're in Saucos on the weekend, you might shoot for sanctuary #1 or #2, even though you're likely to end up with guides and horses, as we did. Our small point-and-shoot didn't do a good job of capturing what the eye did, but here are a few photos from our adventure.
Alice on a very docile horse named Vallo
Nick on a very stubborn horse :)
It was a cold day, so most of the monarchs were huddled together like this
PBS did a special called The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies, which you can watch online.