Written: Feb. 9, 2017
Uploaded: Feb. 12, 2017
It is a beautiful spring day here in Mexico and I am sitting on a lovely balcony in Macheros, Mexico, feeling the soft breeze against my skin and listening to the crowing of the roosters. My son and I have come for the butterflies, they overwinter in colonies in the mountains nearby, we have found a peaceful retreat hidden away in rural Mexico.
We are staying at JM Butterfly B&B. I found it written up in “Mexico” by Lonely Planet. I am always a little trepiditious about places written up too enthusiastically in Lonely Planet, their writers sometimes get rather enthused about being deprived of some of the more basic creature comforts, and also sometimes I think their writers, who it seems often have a command of the local language, forget to take into account what a difference facility in this makes in one’s ability to get around. So I was somewhat nervous about our upcoming stay at this bed and breakfast, which was well praised in Lonely Planet, particularly since we would not have our own transportation when we were there, both internet and cell phone coverage were going to be unreliable, and the facility is located in a very small town. All of which meant we would be dependent upon the owners not only for the quality of our stay but also even for a taxi transport to the next major town should we wish to leave.
I needn’t have worried. Oscar Reyes, a wonderful taxi driver and guide from Angangueo, drove us the two hours from Angangueo to JM Butterfly B&B. The directions which Elena and Joel, the owners of JM Butterfly B&B (and who both speak excellent English, Elena is from the United States and Joel spent quite a bit of time there), had posted on their website were wonderful and we had no difficulties in finding the bed and breakfast. The outside photos on the website, included in the directions, do not do this place justice. From the street a person sees a white house and a white wall, but enter through the doorway of that wall and, paradise! There is a large two-level manicured lawn with flowers and chairs arranged to take in the magnificent mountain view, a constant gentle breeze to help keep you cool, birdsong, and the occasional monarch butterfly flittering past to make one’s heart leap. My son and I are in rooms 4 and 5 on the top level of the addition building and the rooms are just as beautiful as they are shown to be on the website. From what I saw of glimpses into the other rooms they are legitimately represented on the website also. It is probably important to note though, although there is a television, games, and books in the common area in the main building there are no televisions in the rooms themselves and at the time of our arrival there was no internet, there hadn’t been for several days, and cell phone coverage then and onwards was intermittent and very weak when it did appear. This is all stated on the b&b’s website but I thought it worth mentioning here since sometimes us travellers don’t pay attention to little details like that.
Elena was ill and Joel was running a tour when my son and I arrived, but the woman who was here was very helpful. She was friendly and welcoming, saw us settled, and personally took us down to the restaurant,
which is right next to the b&b, when we asked about food. And then my son and I proceeded to have a very tasty lunch; I had a super-quesadilla type of dish, basically a quesadilla with a few additives such as peppers, my son had a much appreciated ham and cheese sandwich. Actually, he had two sandwiches. And we each had a coke, of course. For those who are somewhat more health conscious there was water too, of course, and for once it was less expensive than the pop. The meal for the two of us cost around 200 pesos.
The rest of the afternoon we spent relaxing on the lawn. My son enjoyed the space the lawn provided him to move around in and I sat in the shade in one of those handy dandy lawn chairs, supposedly reading my book but in reality just enjoying the breeze and watching the birds, of which there were plenty. Here’s a slideshow, for a full photo gallery go down to the end of this post.
I really enjoyed the yellow-eyed juncos, who were hopping around quite a bit. These are beautiful little birds with incredibly bright yellow eyes. I particularly enjoyed watching the one who decided to take a bath in a little puddle of water, and then spent some time on top of a sunny rock preening himself. There were also some eastern bluebirds who flitted in and out, they are a beautiful little bird with a blue back and orange throat. I have a particular fondness for blue coloured birds so I was especially happy to have the opportunity to watch some of these. I also saw a few Vermilion Flycatchers, which have the cutest red tufts on the tops of their heads, some rather active primarily brown birds, an active sparrow sized bird with red on its face and chest, similar at a quick glance to our purple finches back home, and several tiny little brown with yellow flashes insect eaters I’m thinking from the way they were flitting around, and, hummingbirds. At least two different types. And the one raptor which I saw circling away up high in the sky, unidentifiable for me even with my binoculars. Really, it was a wonderful afternoon.
Around 7:00 the sun started going down, and what a show that was! The colours on the streaks of cloud that had appeared between the slopes of the mountains were spectacular! It was a short show though, so one wouldn’t want to leave and then plan on coming back, this was certainly something one needed to appreciate right then and there.
After the light show my son and I went down to the restaurant again for dinner, along with, I think, most of the other b&b guests, which meant the restaurant was at capacity. It looked to me as though the b&b was full and as the place next door is the only place in town to purchase meals this meant that it was quite full also. No problems though, there was still room for my son and I and the service was still friendly and quick. The presence of the other guests lent a convivial atmosphere to the restaurant (although it is a friendly and inviting place even when empty!), as well as a reassuring atmosphere of familiarity, and also excitement as most were having fairly upbeat conversations.
Following dinner my son and I returned to the b&b, spending a little bit of time in the cool yet comfortable evening air, admiring the stars, before heading to our lovely rooms for a good night’s rest.
Practicalities for JM Butterfly B&B:
Rooms: Just as depicted on the website. Beautiful and comfortable. Lots of lighting and power outlets. Very clean. Hot water in the showers, although this is supplied by a local heater so if everyone decides to take a shower at the same time the hot water will run out. The water pressure is a little low, but the showerheads are up high so even a tall person will get water on his/her head. The tap water is reputedly safe to drink, although I didn’t test this.
General Facility: Clean, welcoming. Water from purchased jugs is provided free of charge. Honour system on alcoholic beverages for purchase. Books, games, and a t.v. in the common area in the main house. There are a lot of birds around and these can be observed from the B&B grounds or on short walks. The grounds themselves lend themselves to lounging with nice views and lawn chairs. Laundry facilities are available if one is in need. Internet does go down and cell phone coverage is very temperamental. We had neither for the entirety of our stay.
Food: The restaurant next door provides good food and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Prices are on the B&B website.
Activities: The tour to Cerro Pelon may seem a bit pricey as compared to El Rosario and Sierra Chincua do-it-yourself but it is of good value and worth paying for. I did not partake but another guest did a cooking class while my son and I were visiting and they seemed quite pleased, but be forewarned the class included all steps of the cooking process, all the way from choosing the turkey through to cooking it. Other activities are listed on the B&B website.
Safety: Seems just fine. The B&B is in a walled area. Parking is within this area.
For families with children:
The open lawn area is a great area for kids to have some space to move, an inflatable ball or something might be a good idea if your child likes to have something to chase around.
Non-alchoholic beverages other than water were a little hard to come by, as things are now these would require a “shopping” trip inside of town. We did this successfully and found pop, I don’t know if juice would be as available, juice in the restaurant was limited to small glasses of orange juice, freshly squeezed, which suits me just fine but might not suit children who object to solids in their juice (otherwise known as the pulp which us adults typically pay more for). I am also accustomed to wandering into towns in foreign places to find things, for someone not as accustomed to this a necessity for doing so could be a big challenge.
For sleeping you would want to take a close look at the room descriptions on the website and communicate to Elena about your needs. When we went they only had one key available to hand out to guests per room which would be problematic if one had younger children staying in their own room, which might be a requirement because of bedding arrangements. Discussion with Elena (via e-mail, but be aware that she can’t necessarily answer every day because she may need to go into Zitacuaro to access her e-mail, which of course she can’t do every day!) on sleeping arrangements and possibilities would definitely be something you should do.
For touring the butterflies – the trail up to Cerro Pelon (the closest sanctuary) is steep, even with the horses I’m not sure how one would do this with children not accustomed to riding, one would want to chat with Elena about this one too.
Food. The food in the restaurant next door was good, there is always the option of plain scrambled eggs, there are ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch and/or dinner, fruit plates (papaya, nectarine?, pineapple, cantaloupe and apples, generally, during our stay), yogurt, plain trout, so hopefully there is something on there for a child who perhaps isn’t quite as adventurous in their food as adults might be. The restaurant is also open all day from 8:00 to 8:00, so your child’s eating schedule can be accommodated.
Overall, I think the potential for families here is very good, but you’d want to communicate specifically to Elena to see if the above matters could be accommodated, and how. I would have had a lot of fun bringing my son as a younger person.
- Self-drive: Definitely possible. Use the directions provided on the website. The road to Zitacuaro is just fine, the road from Zitacuaro to Macheros has many potholes and speedbumps but as long as you drive carefully you’ll be fine. Follow the directions on the B&B website, as well as their strong recommendation to come during daylight hours so you can see those potholes.
- Hired driver: Another good option. We came from Angangueo with Oscar Reyes, who also takes people to the butterfly reserves around Angangueo. He speaks very good English. Oscar’s phone number is 71-5127-2308, his e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Internet is intermittent so allow some time for responses. Gustavo Arellano drove us from Mexico City to Teotihuacan and then from Mexico City to Angangueo, so if you are coming from Mexico City he is someone you could call. His cell number is 55-5076-1881, e-mail is email@example.com. He has a nice vehicle and speaks some English. Whoever you go with be sure to download the driving instructions from the B&B website, do NOT rely upon GPS, and don’t count on your drivers thinking they shouldn’t either.
- Public transport. Details on this are on the B&B website.