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Saltillo to Zinapecuaro


Trip Report # 2, Part 5

By Char & Al Bennett

published: June, 2001
Lorena's Note: Char will be sending us Travel Reports as they travel through Mexico. Keep checking back for their latest adventures.


January 24 - 25

Balneario Atzimba
100 pesos ($10)

The ride here was quite uneventful, until we arrived just outside of Zinapecuaro, and then I really messed us up! The directions in Trailer Life said it was about .5 mile east of the junction of highways120 and 51. Fine. We were heading up 51 when I suddenly spotted a sign that said we were on 120 heading to Morelia! Oh, oh. Must have missed the intersection (we hadn't... it was right ahead of us about 1/4 mile. The sign was goofy.) So, I had us turn around and we headed into town instead. What a town! The streets were barely wide enough for one car, let alone a motorhome pulling another car! So we created, and got stuck in, traffic jams like you wouldn't believe! After about another hour, and driving through teeny-tiny streets that had never seen a motorhome (actually now they were seeing two!), we finally got here.

I knew that Atzimba was described as a balneario, or swimming complex, but it was also supposed to be a campground. However, when we pulled up to the huge iron gates, the camping area was locked... really locked!!! And no sign of anyone, although I could see through the walls and it looked quite nice. Only totally deserted.

Hanging my head in shame after getting us so lost earlier, I ran off to what looked like another entrance. Finally I found someone who agreed to go down and unlock the gate... thank heavens! They immediately locked us in again with the assurance that they would come back the next morning at 7:00 a.m..... We'll see.

Actually it's quite nice, in a deserted sort of way. There are two large and beautifully landscaped swimming areas, several tennis courts, a lovely hotel, kids areas with what look like bobsled rides, etc., etc. But so far no one will take our money or tell us what we owe.

Butterfly Reserve

Next day.... They did come unlock us finally. We all left quite early in the car, heading for Angangueo, the closest town to the Santuario de Mariposas El Rosario, the famous Monarch butterfly sanctuary. What a fantastic place! It took us about two hours to get there, driving up hill much of the time through beautiful wooded mountains. And when we arrived in this little ex-mining town (there are still mining cars in evidence), we stopped in the middle of town to arrange for someone with a truck to take us to the sanctuary. The cost for this is 300 pesos for up to about eight people, and our vehicle turned out to be an enclosed van. We were glad because at between 8,000 and 10,000 feet, it was quite chilly. Also, the Hotel Don Bruno, in front of which we arranged for the van trip, allowed us to use their restrooms for 3 pesos each... a good investment!

We had packed sandwiches and soft drinks, but discovered that no food or drinks are allowed in the Sanctuary, which is good. We finally settled in the van and took off... what a ride! Almost straight up, and sometimes we could hardly see the road! But the driver was good, and the vehicle was tough, so we made it just fine. The driver showed us where he would be waiting for us we were ready to leave.

We bought tickets for 150 pesos each ($15.00) and a guide was assigned to us for the whole 2-hour trip. By the time we started our walk, we were at about 10,000 feet! And we quickly discovered that climbing higher at that altitude, as one has to do to really see the sanctuary, is exceedingly difficult!

We had gone only about 1/4 mile when I started feeling dizzy, which surprised me because I've always considered myself in pretty good shape for my age. But because of the altitude or the medication I was taking or whatever, I knew I had to stop. And I knew Bruce wasn't too happy either.

So I sat down on a rock, and soon Al came back to check me. By then I felt as if I would faint and be sick, so I laid down on the ground... not too embarrassing! But that eventually passed so I could sit again. Bruce and I convinced the others to go on without us, and as soon as they left, here came half a dozen young men carrying a stretcher for me! They weren't about to leave me! So we all sat there until Al came back. Finally, when they were convinced I was OK, they left. But they constantly looked back to make sure. Really great guys!

So while I didn't get to see the thousands of Monarchs weighing down the branches of the trees, as they do at the top of the climb, (and as Judy and Al got to see), at least Bruce and I got to see thousands of them flying around. It was still a fantastic sight! If anyone is here in this area between November and the end of March, and in reasonably good health (no heart problems), we would advise your trying it at least part way up as I did. It definitely is worth it! But bear in mind, it's over 10,000 feet!

This area of the winter migration from N. Central and NE United States and Canada was only discovered in 1974, but they're going a good job of preserving it, or at least the best they can with limited funds.... it’s a very special place.

(Continued in a couple weeks....
©1972-2001 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens