February 10, 2010 | Sarada Krishnan

Tlalpujahua cathedral

No matter how organized a trip you plan, no trip is complete without some form of reorganization or change in itinerary. The incessant rains, flooding and mudslide in Central Mexico had impacted access to the Monarch sanctuaries. Until Sunday night before we were to set out to the Sierra Chincua Monarch Sanctuary on Monday morning, we were unsure if we would even get an opportunity to see the Monarch butterflies. Our local guide, Eduardo, worked round the clock connecting with his people in these areas assessing the accessibility and safety of visiting these sites. Late on Sunday evening we got the green light that we could visit one of the two sites originally planned. The hotel where we were to stay was inaccessible and hence changes to accommodation and meals had to be made. The local operator working with Reefs to Rockies were amazing in making changes at such short notice.

Cycads in the median

So, on Day 2 instead of visiting the Sierra Chincua Monarch Sanctuary we detoured to Tlalpujahua on the outskirts of the sanctuary in the Tansvolcanic Mountains of Central Mexico. The 2.5 hour drive from Morelia brought us to the quaint town of Tlalpujahua with narrow streets paved in cobblestones. On either side, the colorful buildings, large plazas and cathedrals are reminiscent of days bygone.

Of horticultural interest were the strawberry farms (the state of Michoacán is the largest producer of strawberry in Mexico) and Agave (tequila) fields along the way. As we leave Morelia and enter the Transvolcanic Mountains, the habitat changes from semi-arid to coniferous forests.

Glass ornament in the making

Our first stop after lunch was the Mina Las Dos Estrellas (Mine Museum) where educational displays showcase the almost two century of mining history in this town, the oppression of the local people followed by the revolution for independence. Following the mine we visited a local glass artisan. Michoacán is known for its glass blowing workmanship, where many of the Christmas ornaments are handmade. Most of the villagers are glass artisans who work out of their home and the artists we visited showed us the whole amazing process of blowing, staining, painting and decorating Christmas ornaments. All of us ended up purchasing these beautiful ornaments and now we are all wondering how to bring them home safely!

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