Trip Report for Finca Monte Carlo, Oaxaca
Participants: John Drawe, Kim Garwood, Richard Lehman, Willie Sekula
Author: Kim Garwood
Sun Oct 31-Sat Nov 5 – explore around the finca
Sat Nov 6 – fly back to the US
Sat Oct 30 – we fly Continental nonstop from Houston to Bahia de Huatulco on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca. They only fly on Saturday, at least at this time of the year. It cost me about $650 w/taxes. The price went up about $150 Nov 1st, so that’s why we went the last Saturday in Oct.
We take a van from the airport for 492 pesos to La Crucicita, about 20-30 minutes. A bit expensive, but 2 taxis would have been 350 pesos each. These are set prices on the board, so they appear to be fixed and non negotiable.
Efren, the owner of FMC, has arranged for a driver to meet us at La Crucicita and bring us the 2+ hours up to the finca, but he couldn’t come in and get us at the airport. It is restricted to drivers in the local taxi guild. He will be able to take us directly back to the airport, however. The 2nd leg cost us 800 pesos more, so the transfer’s not cheap, but it is about 2.5 hours.
Pay attention, as we were told by Efren the transfer would be 600 pesos, but Saul the driver charged us 800. The return trip was 600, after Efren ‘talked’ to him.
The last part of the road up to the finca is fairly steep and rutted. You could do it in a pickup, but you might have trouble in a regular car. The turnoff from highway 200 is now signed with a big blue official road sign that says something about coffee fincas or ruta cafeteria.
Sun Oct 31-Sat Nov 5 – We spend the week walking the trails and the road around FMC. This is an old coffee finca, and Efren owns it w/his brothers. He and his wife, Anna, take good care of us. Nadia, the Russian assistant, is a good cook along w/Anna, and we have lots of delicious food. The info email address on his website doesn’t work, so use this address to contact him – firstname.lastname@example.org He doesn’t speak much English, but he and Anna work very hard to make you happy.
The butterflies are great. I was here in May this year, at the end of the dry season, and wanted to come back at the end of the wet season. There are many more butterflies flying now, as compared to May, but I saw some species then, like Dallas, that I don’t see now. One of my favorites is Blue-collared Firetip, Mysoria amra, which we see repeatedly and get killer shots of. I also get great shots of Orange-rimmed Firetip, Pyrrhopyge chalybea, another new one for me. Richard scores the first day with photos of the white morpho sitting on some coffee, the only time we see it landed anywhere. They usually just drift by overhead.
This place is crescent heaven. There are many Anthanassa species, probably 6-8, and they like to come to wet spots on the road, as well as Castilias, Eresias and Tegosas.
We have several pee spots by creeks on the trails, and these are worth repeated visits over the days.
One day we walk down the road back towards town, seeing lots of good stuff, including a great big tan riodinid, Synargis nymphidioides. We have to wade the creek about 200 meters down from the finca. In May I could hop across on the rocks, keeping my feet dry, but now it’s all under water. It’s about knee deep in the middle, but trucks manage to cross. A beautiful creek, a bit chilly for swimming, we pee on the side and attract lots of bugs.
A little after noon Efren and Anna drive down, pick us up and take us for a picnic to an uncle’s ranch down below Xadani, the village about 9km below Monte Carlo. The uncle’s ranch is back towards the main highway 200, but off to the left on dirt roads. It’s located right on a larger river, another beautiful swimming hole, where we have a delicious lunch under their palapa where they’re building a restaurant. There’s quite a current but nice water for swimming. We don’t see many butterflies but it’s a gorgeous spot.
Another day Saul, the driver, comes back up and takes us down the 9km to Xadani, about 30 minutes, then 5km to Llano Grande, where there is a waterfall (los cascadas) and a mariposarium, or butterfly house. The whole drive takes about an hour, so it’s not close, but very pretty. We take the tour through the mariposarium, and it’s very well done. It costs 30 pesos each, plus a tip to the guide. It’s one of the nicer butterfly houses I’ve been in, very neat and professional, with lots of Owls, including larvae on the bananas, and Tigerwings of various sizes. It’s at Finca La Gloria, and they also sell coffee and have a restaurant. Nobody’s there but us. They want an additional 50 pesos each for the entrance to the waterfalls, a 15 minute walk, even though we tell them we only want to walk the road and photograph butterflies, not go swimming. So rather than spend the 200 pesos, we head back along the 5 km road. This is a very nice looking road through good forest with large trees, you could probably spend most of the day driving and walking this road.
We head back, stopping along the road at several wet spots, and see a number of new species. The best is the fabulous Siproeta superba, or Broad-banded Page. This is one I’ve wanted to see for years, and it’s a shock to find it coming to the middle of the road. We all get great shots and have a blast. We get back home for another tasty lunch, then it rains all afternoon. The rest of the time we’ve had perfect weather, bright sunny days and clear nights w/fabulous stars from the porch.
The other days we hike around the finca and see many good bugs. One of my favorite trails heads up past the finca, to the right after the waterfall over the small wall. You come to a creek crossing maybe a half a km, not far.
In late morning, after about 10:30am, the sun hits this stretch of rocky trail and it’s full of butterflies. We pee several places along here and get good things every day I go check it. From mid morning to about 2pm it’s great. This is where I get photos of both species of firetips, plus a couple of new sisters and lots of crescents. Another good spot is right by the creek below the finca where the road crosses the creek. Before, in May, you could hike up the far side of the creek and find several good sandbars w/lots of mudpuddling, but now the water is too high and the trail has become overgrown, so I don’t find anything up there.
Our last morning we’re still finding new species. The leafwings seem to be getting more numerous. I see our first Holey Leafwing, Zaretis ellops, a couple of dark blue Memphis species and Richard sees a Red-patched Leafwing, Siderone syntyche. We’ve been here a week, and we’re seeing a change of species in that time. Species we saw the first few days have gone, and new ones are showing up everyday. It would be a great place to spend lots of time, or come back monthly. I’m told by the guide at the butterfly house that summer is the peak time, July and August. Of course, that’s hurricane season and the time of heavy rains, so you could lose days to bad weather. But when the sun’s out, it would be fabulous.
This year Efren tells me August and September were very wet, but they haven’t had hardly any in October. Peak tourist season on the coast is the winter, November to April, so flights are more expensive and the coastal resorts are more crowded. You could easily combine this place with some days on the beach. All in all, we’re sorry to leave, and we look forward to coming back.