This past week, we struck out eastward into the Sierra Gorda mountains. We saw a green spot on our map marking the Reserve, looked it up in our Lonely Planet guide, and learned that the area was “not to be missed.” And that was true! We had several days of stunning scenery as we climbed up to 9000 feet and back down to nearly sea level. This detour, of sorts, replaced our trip to see the butterfly reserve since it was not open yet.
The first night out of Guanajuato we stayed in a hostel in San Miguel de Allende. This town is extremely touristy, and was described to us as the Mexican version of Disneyland. It was bizarre to see so many English-specking tourists, we were disappointed that everything was so expensive, and we were happy to leave the next morning. However, I must admit that our hostel was one of the cleanest places that we’ve stayed at in Mexico.
From there we rode on less-busy roads through an agricultural area to the entrance to the Sierra Gorda Reserve. We entered the area by dropping off the edge of a plateau into a massive valley. Every few miles there would be little towns. Eventually we made it to the town of Santa Catarina where we planned to spend the night. We stayed in a barely-marked hotel which seemed almost new – for $12 US. The family running it lived in the front, and allowed us in their kitchen to use the big gas stove to cook. We ate our meal while the neighbor kids watched TV at the other end of the room. After dinner, the matron insisted on doing our dishes!
The Sierra Gorda Reserve has some 14 different ecosystems. It was amazing to pass through so many in just a couple days! We started in a desert with cactus, and as we gained elevation we entered a thick forest. We enjoyed looking back on the valley we left far, far below. On the descent we entered a forest so thick and teeming with life that we decided it was indeed a jungle. We spent two nights in the town of Jalpan, and celebrated our 1-yr anniversary with local fruit nieves. We also enjoyed the hospitality of Rodrigo from WarmShowers. (Thanks Rodrigo!)
After our rest day in Jalpan we climbed out of the park on a wet, chilly day that didn’t get over 45°F. brrr. As we descended to the town of Xilitla our hands and feet got quite cold. We were shocked at the size and haphazard (even for Mexico) building practices of this town! And also the high hotel prices! Luckily we found a campground. The next day we made it to Tamazunchale, which is nearly at sea level. We are definitely in a lush jungle, and have seen more banana and mandarin trees than dogs.