Forests of fireflies – Tlaxcala

In an attempt to explore just a part of the wonders that Mexico has to offer, my girlfriend Karen and I left the busy capital: Mexico City and headed to the forests. First we visited Tlaxcala to see fireflies followed by an adrenaline filled trip to Xalapa where we did a zip-line tour and some white water rating (that I will write about in a later post).

Coming from the UK, such a small country, my definition of a long journey is very different to that of Karen. Buses, usually equipped with TVs showing movies in Spanish, run very frequently everywhere that I’ve visited in Mexico and usually provide a comfortable and affordable way to get around. As I believed that the 4 hour journey to Xalapa was a long way we decided to stop halfway in Tlaxcala. Tlaxcala is only a small colonial town so the buses don’t run so frequently and when we missed our scheduled 6am one, the journey ended up being longer than the original 4 hours as we went there via a nearby town called Puebla (where I visited later in my trip).

The trip, even with the detour, was worth while as after strolling around the churches and museum of the small picturesque town, we went on a tour to see fireflies in the forest. It was the reason that we went to Tlaxcala and it was an amazing experience.

We went on an extremely comfortable minibus with spacious seats and a big TV at the front along with about 10 other people. Our first stop, late afternoon, was to a plantation where they farmed Maguey Plants that are famous for producing tequila. But in this region the process that they use to harvest the plant produces another spirit called Pulque, one of two less famous cousins to tequila that I would taste (one time each as they are both bad) whilst in Mexico.

In the vast fields filled with the Maguey Plants, a local farmer showed us the method of collecting Aquamiel (honey water) from the centre of the big plant, around 3 litres in one go, by sucking through a tiny hole at the end of a big tube and cupping the end before decanting it into a larger container. I was not envious of the long process, carried out in Mexican heat whilst being careful to avoid snakes, spiders and scorpions.

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Inside the farmhouse we were given a history of the spirit and then had the opportunity to taste it in different forms. Without alcohol, with alcohol and in various flavours all had one thing in common. They were disgusting. With lingering bad tastes in my mouth, we made our way back to the minibus for an hour or so trip to the forest as the daylight began to fade.

After playing some slightly awkward ice breaker games and stretching, in preparation for an hour walk in the dark, with our young guide, we began walking away from the small restaurant, close to the tiny cabins that some people deicide to stay in. The evening was turning into night as we walked and we began seeing solitary fireflies flittering around us.

I still remember feeling pretty excited when I spotted the first fly, lazily floating around with its butt flashing on and off. For some reason, when it’s night time in a forest, it just feels right to whisper so there was very little noise as more and more flies began zigzagging around our heads. As the forest filled with flashing lights we each found a spot on the floor where we could watch as hundreds of the flies made the forest look magical for about 30 minutes before they slowly began disappearing. Like a nightclub, it started off with a  few that were keen to get out there, followed by a mad rush and as we walked back there were the last few, clinging on searching for a mate late on in the night.

It all seemed to happen all to quickly but I had a smile on my face from the moment that I saw the first fly in the forest. It was a truly magical experience that made me want to go and watch Disney movies for the rest of the night. I’d never heard of Tlaxcala before but I’m glad that I have now!

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