Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico July 2013

Participants: Veronica Prida, Monica Maeckle & Susan Hoffert, plus Cornelio and Mateo as bird guides. We stay at Veronica Prida’s lovely rental house, actually 2 homes with a great pool. See her website, www.casatulco.com

Sat Jul 20 – I fly from Tucson to Houston and connect to United’s non stop flight to Huatulco. United flies once a week on Saturday, which works well as you can avoid having to fly through Mexico City. I arrive about 3pm and Veronica picks me up and takes me to her lovely house where 4 of us are spending a week or so, chasing butterflies and eating tasty Mexican food. She has been sending me butterfly photos and invited me to come be her guest at her rental house in Huatulco, and help her work on a butterfly list for the area.

Tonight we go into town to walk around the square and go to Salvador’s Café Huatulco coffee shop. The square is jumping, Saturday night and everyone is there. When we get over to Santa Cruz and Café Huatulco, it is lovely. A beautiful warm night, with live music from the pagoda and tasty coffee, plus quesadillas and snacks. Salvador, the owner of the coffee finca (best coffee in the area, or the world according to Salvador) joins us, his daughter runs the coffee shop. We spend several hours hanging out in the open plaza, drinking a variety of things that Salvador keeps ordering, including some aged mescal that tastes like a smokey single malt whiskey. He says ‘you just kiss it’, and it evaporates on your tongue. Of course then you can breathe fire 3 feet across the table. All in all, a great welcome to the hospitality of the people at Huatulco. We don’t get to bed until 12:30 or so, must be a record for me.

Sun Jul 21 – Veronica has arranged for Cornelio Ramos Gabriel, (birdguidecornelio@yahoo.com.mx) a local bird guide, and Mateo to take us to Copalita Eco-archeological park, some ruins that have been make into a nice park with stone trails around the old temples and ball court. They have a nice display of pottery, much from 500 years B.C., and some interesting maps at the entrance,  where we see a dazed green kingfisher who has flown into the windows. But he recovers and flies off.

We spend the morning, until almost 1pm, walking the wide stone paved paths and chasing birds and butterflies. Probably the most exciting thing to me is that Carmelito finds a couple of pupa on a guanabena shrub that turn out to be Archaeoprepona demophon, One-spotted Prepona. They are very strange looking, very much like twisted dead leaves, hanging from a string off a leaf, about the size of your thumb. You can see the face with 2 little horns. (shot of caterpillar)

Later looking it up online, we find examples of late instart larvae that look just like this, and pupa shots similar to what we saw and also bright green pupa, much smoother and more like monarch pupa. On further investigation, we had the caterpillar, which apparently does this to hide during the day. It hung like a dead leaf from its frass chain.

We head back to the casa where a delicious lunch of chicken chiliquiles awaits us, and a refreshing dip in the pool. Tough life. Then it’s time for a nap to get ready for our dinner at Tango Lunda.

Mon Jul 22 – we drive about 2 hours up to Finca Monte Carlo for the night, where I have been a couple of times before. This is about 900 meters in the mountains inland a bit from the coast, up a rough dirt road, better with 4×4 but not absolutely needed.

Efren, the owner, meets us there and is excited to show us the gorgeous pupa of Superb Cycadian, Eumaeus childrenae, all over the large cycad in his garden. I had photographed the red, gummy bear larvae on this same bush in October 2010, so it is very interesting to see the pupa, like little chocolate goodies all over the leaves.

We have a great day working our way up to the Finca, especially at the bridge at the turnoff. The sign there says 3 km, but it is more like 5 or 6 km.

That evening we lose power, so we sit in the dark and watch the full moon come up from the rooftop. Monica has brought a white bug sheet, so she sets it up and they try to get their smartphones to glow as ultraviolet lights, but it doesn’t work very well as a moth light. We find a huge black witch that comes into the kitchen, which causes general excitement.

That night I get ill and am very tired the next day. I don’t think this was from the food at the Finca, as no one else gets ill. Susan was sick the day before, it may have been from the chicken at Tango Lunda, which we both ate, covered in the tasty Oaxacan mole. But who knows?

Tue Jul 23 – we leave after spending a few hours wandering around in the fog, unfortunately. So we see very few butterflies, a couple of clearwings. This is a great place to spend some time, I’ve spent a week here in the past and not been bored. This trip we just don’t have enough time.

We stop in Llano Grande at the mariposarium, or butterfly house. I stay in the car and sleep, the others go visit. We take the long dusty rough dirt road back through the hills and connect back to highway 200, the main coastal highway, on the other side of Huatulco. If I was feeling good, and you wanted to photograph butterflies, we pass many wet streams that cross the dirt road, and you could spend the day stopping and photographing. But we’re tired so we just bounce along and get back to Veronica’s peaceful home.

After naps we go out for fabulous italian food at Georgio’s Tratoria, which I highly recommend. Omar Rodriguez, Veronica’s husband, has shown up and he takes us out. He just tells the owner to bring us tasty food, and different courses keep coming out. Delicious, 4 or 5 courses, ending with wonderful pasta of 2 types of ravioli, then 4 different desserts. A place to go back to.

Wed Jul 24 – Susan leaves, too bad for her. Monica gives her talk at the Flamboyan Hotel downtown on monarchs. There is a good turnout, about 45 people, all locals, not tourists. I didn’t realize there was so much interest in butterflies here. Monica does a great job, in spanish, I’m impressed. They even want to buy my books. I’ll have to send more down here to Cornelio, he can distribute them for me.

4 more friends show up, and we nosh on Kathy’s homemade ceviche and guacamole and margaritas. The tough life continues.

Thur Jul 25 – they all go to the beach and I work on the computer. Sitting at the main table with both doors open and a lovely breeze blowing through, the waterfall tinkling in their front room, very comfortable.

Fri Jul 26 – Cornelio comes at 8am and we go to the Parque Nacional Huatulco to chase butterflies. We hike about a mile through the sand dune forest and come out on a spectacular beach.  Not a soul in sight, as compared to yesterday where the others had beaches jammed with visitors. This is a bit of a walk, but a beautiful beach.

We get good looks at Colima Pygmy Owl, after Cornelio calls it in. Not many butterflies, but a beautiful forest. (shot of ceiba tree)

That night we go into town and eat at Omar’s favorite flauta stand, which are the best flautas I’ve ever had. Yum, lots of delicious places to eat in Huatulco.

Sat Jul 27 – Omar takes me and another friend back to Copalita Archaeological Park. I look for the caterpillars on the same tree, but don’t find any. This is a nice hike up to an overlook of Copalita Beach, where the river comes down to the sea.

When we get back to the house, Omar works on his paintings. He is a well known artist who sells many great abstract paintings, some very large. He paints with house paint, and has a large canvas set up in the garden. It doesn’t hurt it to get wet, so he paints outside.

His style is fascinating, I take many photos of his work as he builds it up with different layers of brilliant colors. He uses masking tape to put stripes across his painted stripes, then removes the tape so the other colors show through. It grows and evolves like a living thing, very interesting to watch it change hour to hour.

I fly back to Houston and onto Tucson on the 2:30pm flight, getting home about 9:30. A fun trip, lots of delicious food, very relaxing and I met some fascinating people. I’ll have to come back and spend more time chasing butterflies.