Run to the hills

Run to the hills

Run to the hills

In all we spent 10 days in Oaxaca. After the excitement of Día de Muertos and seeing off our fellow travel companions, we took a few days to ourselves for bike maintenance and catching up on our website along with other work commitments. We did manage to make time to explore Monte Albán, an ancient Zapotec settlement that sits atop a hill along the western edge of the city.

Our departure from Oaxaca had us heading back north and west towards our next destination: Mexico City. With a population topping 20 million people, Mexico’s capital city is one of the largest urban areas in the world. And we were heading right for the heart of the beast on our little motorbikes.

Eventually we made it to our destination in the south and east part of the city: the quiet, working class neighborhood of Xochimilco (known for their Aztec floating gardens and canals).

As soon as we arrived and piled our gear into the house, we headed back out in search of food at a local grocery store. Fortunately our lodgings featured a fully-equipped kitchen, of which we made good use. 

Unfortunately about 30 minutes after we ate a delicious home-cooked dinner of fettucine alfredo, it made an unwelcome reappearance in the form of food poisoning for Ehren (the likely culprit being the sketchy hotel breakfast from that morning). Laying waste to our plans for the next few days, the only touring we did was vicariously through watching movies while Ehren recuperated.

We made our way into the city one afternoon for a quick walk around the zócolo (main square), which was featured heavily in the opening scenes of the last Bond movie, Spectre. This was about all Ehren could handle, the effects of his illness still lingering.

The next day with renewed vigor we made a point to explore the National Museum of Anthropology. An impressive museum, it features an exhaustive collection of historical artifacts from the many peoples and cultures that have made their mark on Mexico’s history. We spent nearly the whole day there.

Our return from the museum found us in rush hour on the most crowded metro we’d ever experienced, resulting in our phone being stolen out of a zippered pocket. A positive to come out of this is a deeper appreciation of the Mexican resolve to help others above all else.

Our next destination was the butterfly sanctuaries of Michoacán. Specifically Cerro Pelón, a hilltop site a few miles from the city of Zitácuaro, where we were staying. We made our way to the village of Macheros, situated at the base of the hill, and paid for horses and guides to take us to the top where the butterflies clustered. Three-quarters of the way up the hill, we emerged from the forest into a picturesque field, aglow with thousands of monarchs fluttering in the sunlight.

The last few hundred feet in elevation we did on foot due to narrow trails and fallen trees. At nearly 11,000 feet this was not an easy task for our flatlander lungs, but the payoff was worth the breathlessness as we were treated to a wondrous sight that further depleted our air supply. Butterflies—as innumerable as stars in the universe—beat their wings among the tall, stately pines in a furious frenzy to keep their bodies warm lest they wind up like their brethren, laid to rest on the forest floor after succumbing to the cold.

We watched in silence for a time until, noticing the sun nearing the horizon, we began our descent back to the bottom of the hill. Trading in their weary horses for our steel ones, we found solace in the last few rays of a beautiful sunset that illuminated our ride back to the hotel.