Subject: Mexico on the cheap! Part 3
Hi Ziners,

More from my son-in-law, Peter.

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and Cuernavaca

I'd say I was on a bus for about 12 hours total, although the trip could have been completed in about 6 hours had I taken 1st class busses (and toll roads.) The monarch butterflies travel down here from

southwestern Ontario, and the Northeast US each year in order to spend the winter months in a warmer place. I left my hotel at 7:30am, took a local combi bus to the central bus terminal and caught a local 3rd class bus to Angangueo and from there another 3rd class bus to Ocambo and the biosphere reserve.

Our guide told us that when he was a kid (the area was only made a reserve in 1996) they would go up to the trees and shake them, causing the butterflies to take off (and also causing many of them to die in the process.) It wasn't sunny, so very few of the butterflies were actually in the air, but the sight was worth the hike none the less.

At the top of the mountain I ran into a woman named Michelle (a PhD student and yoga instructor from Fayetteville, NC) whom I had met in Creel New Years Eve. She had chartered a truck up to the reserve, so I caught a lift back with her and two German backpackers, but not before having a quick bite to eat at the vendors outside the park entrance (a handmade blue corn tortilla, with chopped celery, goat cheese, and mole sauce on top!)

>From Angangueo, Michelle and I caught a 2nd class bus, through Toluca to Mexico City's Western Bus Station. This particular station had 3 wings, each of which was larger than any of the bus stations I have seen yet. Two transfers and about 30 minutes later we had crossed the city and were at the south terminal. I am sad that I didn't have more of a chance to see the city, but what I did see was wonderful. The architecture here is quite modern. Coming into town our bus passed many corporate headquarters buildings which were stunning. Im sure that Mexico City was one place that I could afford to miss now, given that there are relatively inexpensive flights into it from Canada, and that now that I've been here once, I may be able to convince Meredith to come for a week or two here on vacation. We headed across the station, trough the outdoor market, and onto the subway. Two transfers and about 30 minutes later we had crossed the city and were at the south terminal. I think that the cost to ride the subway was one of the best in Mexico. 2 pesos (less than 25 cents) to cross the city!

>From the south station I caught a quick bus to Cuernavaca and a taxi to Kate's. Kate and her roommate Elizabeth both work for a social justice organization here in town where they organize and facilitate groups to come from Canada and the US to learn more about the #real south#. I am again thankful for the place to stay, and the chance to talk to people (in English) who have been living here for some time.

Visited the artisan market this morning - full of silver from Tasco and other native art. There is some weaving and pottery here, although the majority of these artists are from Oaxaca which I'll be visiting later in my trip.

I also visited the very large farmer's market. In general there are three types of vendors at the market. Those with permanent booths these people will often sleep with their shop. The second are vendors who will come in daily and set up shop, and the third are those who do not have a fixed space in the market, but simply walk around the market with a bag of goods, or sell them outside out of the back of a pickup truck or van. There are distinct sections of the indoor market devoted to fishmongers, butchers, poultry sellers, those selling fruits and vegetables, and dry goods (beans, spices, candy, etc.) Outside the market there are lanes devoted to leather goods, and numerous barber shops. Outside the market there are lanes devoted to leather goods, and numerous barber shops. I had a haircut and shave for 20 pesos... less than $2.50 CDN.

Lunch today consisted of ceviche from the fishmonger (fish pickled in lime juice, with tomato, onions, cilantro and chilli peppers) and a bottle of cold beer. Yum!

Zipolite

I arrived in the little beach town of Zipolite (south of Oaxaca City) yesterday very early in the morning. In fact, the bus was early getting me into Pachutla at about 4:30 in the morning! It was raining heavily at the time, so I gave in and took a cab to Zipolite (about 20 kms and $100 pesos) The price was more than the public bus, but I couldn't see sitting around in the rain waiting the 2 hours for the public bus service to start running again.

I arrived to find the town without power (the thunderstorm had knocked out the power lines.) and of course my hotel of choice was closed for the night, so I found a hammock under a thatched palm hut and sat on the beach watching the sunrise. I checked into the hotel and have a nice room with a bed and bath (cold water shower) for $150 pesos.

It is absolutely incredible here. The town is very laid back and friendly. The prices are good, and the seafood is fresh off the boat. There are a huge number of backpackers here, but it makes for a good time and plenty of people to talk to. I met a guy from Australia who just finished up a term in Economics at the University of Waterloo!

Very bizarre. Last night was spent at a beach-side pub with a fire pit. I met three Norwegians, a Frenchman, and a couple travelling from Quebec.

Bus service out of here does not run on the weekend, so I'll be here until Monday. I took a snorkelling / boat tour this morning. It was 4 hours long, and we visited 5 beaches in the area, snorkelled at 3 sites plus had lunch. $80 pesos. Along the way the captain spotted sea turtles and one of the mates jumped in the water and grabbed on to it, letting it pull him along the surface of the water. Probably not great for the turtle's psychological well-being but interesting to see none the less.

We also stopped at a spot where we could jump off of a 5-6 metre high cliff into the water. Scary, but I came out OK in the end. Not to mention that just lazing around on the beach is OK too - in fact, very enjoyable!

Sent by Frances Toronto, Canada