Ixtapa and Morelia Trips
14 January 2011 | Ixtapa, Mexico
Night shot of Ixatapa Marina with S/V Stolen Kiss nosed into her slip!
January 14, 2011
Ixtapa and Morelia
How time ticks by. Happy New Year everyone! As much as we missed our families and friends for the holidays, we had a very nice Christmas here in Ixtapa and have really enjoyed the company of some of the other cruisers and crew that are here. We truly are like a little family and I cannot even express how good the camaraderie feels. Thank you Pax Nautica, Royal Albatross, Yat Ta Hey, and Adam and Zuzanna!
We have been busy though! The windless is fixed for the anchor. Also, one of the cars that run the main sail up and down the mast that came off on the way to Ixtapa is fixed, and the autopilot that stopped working on the way down here as well has been fixed by my amazing husband. You do know the definition of cruising don't you? Fixing your boat in exotic locations! And that is what we do best! Our new water maker (yes folks...45 gallons an hour this puppy makes!) arrived several weeks ago and Larry has been installing it for ten days. It is a huge job. There is a lot to be said for all of these mishaps, he is learning about this boat from the inside out, literally. But he is so crippled from tendon damage in his arm from having to hand raise the anchor so many times that the work is going painfully slow. Once again our buddy boat Santosha has moved on. We do however hope to catch up in the near future.
A highlight for Larry, Ben, and I was a three night inland trip we took just after Christmas. We took a luxury bus (big reclining cushy seats with foot rests, TV's for each passenger with a large selection of movies, documentaries, and internet, a beautiful bus attendant in high heels and all serving sodas, waters, chips and candy and...get this folks...cocktails!) The bathrooms were immaculate. It was amazing! So our five hour trip to the beautiful colonial city of Morelia cost us a whopping $37.50 each. Now, this was a rather adventurous thing for us to do, seeing as we really weren't sure where we were going, with no reservations, we just had one thing in mind...Monarch butterflies. Morelia had also just been the scene of a huge battle between drug cartels where they were literally turning over trucks and vehicles and setting them on fire to close off access for the police and the federali's to the city. There is so much fear brought on by the media that I have to say it is somewhat infectious. But we try to not let that influence us so we ask everyone, friends, tourists, taxi drivers, waiters, I mean everyone, "Would you go?" All but one said yes! So we went, and it turned out to be one the best trips we have ever taken. We stayed in the downtown historic section that reminded us of being in Europe. Morelia was founded in 1541 and its' historic area is a Unesco World Heritage site. The Hotel Virrey de Mondoza where we stayed was a spectacular old home renovated into a hotel with original walls dating back to the 1500's. We loved it and Ben was convinced it was haunted! After a lovely dinner at an outdoor restaurant on the town square with a view of the magnificent lit up church, the waiter helped set us up with a tour for the next day to the El Rosario Sanctuary of the monarch butterflies. Score! We did it! There are just a few things in life, such as Laguna San Ignacio where the mother gray whales give birth to their young that we stopped at on our way down the Baja, and now the butterflies here that we know if we don't stop and see them now, chances are we would never come back.
So, let me tell you why this "super generation" of butterflies is so special. This generation lives up to eight months, where the others only for one to two months. They have been coming to this area in Mexico for thousands of years, from Dec. - March, swarming and living in the pine trees, eventually mating in February. The males then die off and the females begin their migration north to Canada in March, depositing their eggs along the way and then they too die off. The new generation is born, depositing their eggs as they continue north and the cycle continues until the fourth generation which again will be the "super generation"! First of all, it is just fascinating that through some kind of genetic memory the subsequent generations know to return here year after year. Secondly, it is just incredibly beautiful and surreal to see these clusters of colorful butterflies in the trees and flying all around you, often landing on you. The pictures that you see just don't do them justice. We are so glad we went. The added benefit of this was that being on a small group tour, we got to meet people that were from other parts of the world and we had very interesting conversations. The ride was about 2 ½ hours each way, which went by surprisingly fast as we climbed from about 6ooo to 9000 feet. Some of the small villages we drove through reminded me of driving through the Alps. When our driver/tour guide made a stop along the way and insisted we buy chocolate for energy I knew this was the trip for me! Once we arrived at the sanctuary, having been at sea level just the day before, it is a bit of a shock on the system. And, it is cold! But, we managed just fine to hike the next 1000 and something feet to the butterflies. We returned back to Morelia tired but happy that evening with a lifetime memory. Ben was thrilled because he was able to get his dinner from Burger King (a rarity in Mexico), and then soak in a real bathtub in our hotel room! Dad and I were thrilled because we had a dinner date (alone!) at the elegant restaurant down stairs. Let me tell you, this trip has been good in so many ways!
Through some convincing by other tourists, we decided to stay an extra night and do a different tour the next day to Patzcuaro and Isla Janitzio. Once again we were with a great group of people where we even toasted in the new year (with tequila of course!) at 5 o'clock because one family was from the Netherlands so it was really midnight their time. (Perfect for us because we seldom make midnight!) Our first stop on this day was at the property of the artist, Juan Torres, who is well known for his Dia de los Muertos figurines. The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico around Nov. 2. It is a day of true celebration, giving families a reason to go visit their loved ones in cemetaries, often eating and drinking and listening to the favorite music of their deceased. The grounds of this artists haven were very unique in an artsy, funky sort of way. The gallery being in an old chapel.
Another interesting stop we made was in the village of Tzintzuntzan, meaning place of the hummingbird, in the indigenous language of the Purepecha Indians. We mostly stopped there to tour a beautiful religious complex called the Ex-Convento de San Francisco. As we toured these grounds, learning how this is where the Franciscan monks began the Spanish missionary effort in the state of Michoacan, we couldn't help but feel a little bit sad as we could look up the hill at ancient Tarascan ruins (from 600 BC) that had been blown up by the Spaniards because they thought there was gold inside. Somehow to us, the supposed love of Christ that they so wanted to force and the subsequent atrocities they committed on these people just don't seem to jive. As we walked around the property you can see stones with carvings from the ancient Purepecha that the Catholic Church "allowed" to be built into the buildings to gain the trust of the Indians and encourage them to turn their life towards Jesus. There are also ancient olive trees said to be the oldest in the America's, one for each year of Jesus's life, planted within the compound.
Lake Patzcuaro and Isla Janitzio were the highlight of the day. All around the lake are traditional Purepecha villages, each with its' own craft specialty which has maintained self sufficiency for the indigenous people. In the middle of the lake is Isla Janitzio, which reminded me of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France. We traveled to the island in this funky sort of barge boat, learning that 6000 people lived on it, no cars, and that everything is either carried up and down this island by hand or on their backs. Of course the thing to do was to hike up to the statue at the top, and so we did. Phew! And then once we reached the statue we wound our way up the stairs on the inside - stepping out at the top for an amazing view of the surrounding country. The statue is 40 meters high, representing independence hero Morelio. The murals inside depict his life. This colorful island really was something you have to see to believe.
We returned to Ixtapa the next day, tired but happy, mindful that we need to not only pay attention to the ocean that we are traveling on but the land that we pass by.