Sometimes the beauty of everyday life only becomes visible when juxtaposed with something completely different. Along the band of asphalt known as the Ruta Panamericana, travelers encounter a nonchalance that unites the perfection of technical precision with the breezy verve of improvisation.
At today’s destination, we’ll be completely surrounded by nature. Thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of mariposas monarcas will accompany our
Up to a billion monarch butterflies populate the region around the Valle de Bravo between November and March each year. Multiple generations come from Canada and the United States and travel some four thousand kilometers along the way to their warm winter quarters in the forested highlands of central Mexico. Monarchs always return to the same trees as the fourth generation before them, without ever having been there; exactly how they do it is unknown. They land in vast clusters and bathe trees and nearby boulders in vibrant orange. The collective flapping of their wings sounds like pattering rain, and when they rise up as one, the sun disappears as if behind a storm cloud.
Since 2010 there has been a drastic drop in the number of overwintering monarchs due to threats such as deforestation, climate change, and extreme weather. One of the many reasons why the Valle de Bravo remains a spectacular location is a sixty-hectare biosphere reserve dedicated to protecting the monarch butterfly. However, while the spectacle of the monarchs captivates us, we still have a rough patch of the Ruta Panamericana before us—a section of the legendary road made famous by the iconic
The Mexico rally, which is closely associated with
The race was held to mark the completion of the Mexican part of the Pan-American Highway, which links North and South America. The route stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego—the longest dream road in the world—is not a road at all but a network of thousands of kilometers of asphalt. The race across Mexico was not burdened with an excess of rules, so the cars that drove on public roads risked accidents with abandon. The winner was the first car across the finish line, almost regardless of how it got there. The risk was soon too great and, after only five races, the
The fascination with this drive through the heart of the Americas is instantly tangible as soon as one escapes the sprawl of Mexico City and the incredible tranquility and scenic beauty of the landscape settles in. The supreme confidence of the
The almost eerie quiet of the place is interrupted only by the snorting of two horses. There’s a moment of reflection: well-deserved serenity after several hours of driving. Zelda Ramírez holds two muscular, if somewhat diminutive, horses firmly by the reins as the blue sports sedan rolls to a stop in the parking lot. For the sixty-four-year-old with a cowboy hat, her horses are a kind of insurance. Life out here isn’t always easy. Tourists who ride out into the woods with her ensure that Zelda’s business does well—at least that’s what she says with a smile.
The people native to the highlands of Mexico are close to nature—and they’re well-acquainted with the spectacle of modernity that is the
One of the armed policemen is Comisario Lucio González Gómez. He’s worked the rallies for years as well. “It’s always a great experience,” says the police officer. “It’s so much fun to see the impressive cars and feel the power of the vehicles and the excitement of the participants.” Notwithstanding the coolness of his reflective shades, the forty-five-year-old cannot hide his enthusiasm.
We’ve reached the end of our journey. In the valley of the mariposa monarca we gaze up to the skies, entranced. The image reflected in our eyes is amazing beyond belief. It’s a five-hundred-meter section of the road that the fluttering butterflies cross before disappearing once again into the trees of the forest. This place is one of only a few natural wonders listed as a World
By Wolfgang Schäffer, Edwin Baaske
Photos by Graeme Fordham, My Loupe/Kontributor
The opening of the Mexican part of the Ruta Panamericana, the highway stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, gave rise to the most famous of all road races in the Americas. In 1950 the field of five-seat sedans—sports cars were first allowed from 1951 onward—set off from north to south. The drivers needed six days for the 3,436-kilometer route. Due to numerous crashes and fatalities, the race was discontinued after 1954—with