The first time we ever went up to Cofre de Perote, we had to go through the town of Perote, the roads at the end of which were already rough. The way up from the town was all rock and stone, rough. The town of El Conejo, the last town before the top of the mountain, was tiny and not friendly to strangers, or at least not to us. Two boys greeted us just outside the town on horseback and were very demanding that we pay them to guide us. We made our way down that day by crossing over some very bad roa just outside of El Conejo to find ourselves on a road under construction which we followed to an old established road, and then to the highway. Now that under-construction road is smooth, paved all the way from El Conejo to the main Mexico-Veracruz highway. El Conejo now boasts some buildings housing university projects and a dental clinic as well as quite a few more houses and tiendas. There's a post somewhere on this blog with pictures, but it will require some rummaging. (Unlike WordPress, a lovely free blogging service to which I may be able someday to figure out how to transfer this blog, Typepad has no search capability.)
Rough to begin with, it has deteriorated significantly -- who besides nuts like us would use it if you can go up a smooth road in half the time? Erosion had washed deep piles of sand across long stretches. In other places, rain had cleaned out all the gravel that smoothed the cracks between the cobblestones. We saw one pickup and on battered old car the whole way. Not much evidence of people living there or farming or anything except for the rows of agave lining one side of the road here and there. This is not the agave used for tequila, but it is, I am pretty sure, used for making pulque, the traditional Mexican drink. If I remember right, we saw an old man scooping the liquid from the dying base of a plant on our first trip up.
The agave comes in a lot of varieties. Blue agave I think is the main tequila version. They have often been called century plants because it was thought they only flowered once every hundred years, but apparently twenty-five years is more like it. The individual plants die after flowering, but they have sent out shoots which produce plants that replace them.
On our trip both up and down Cofre we saw a lot of thistles in flower and just past flowering. They were beautiful and eerie, looking more like strange, aware creatures dancing slowly, or watching us or gossiping in little groups than they did plants. Here are some thistle pictures.
And this was the last picture I could take. And we went home.