I have made a few not-so subtle comments on RV Caravans in the past, so by now you probably know how I feel about them. The latest one pulled in here yesterday afternoon and set up. I spoke to a couple of the participants and so far, my mind has not been changed.
One couple have traveled the USA in their RV for years and only chose to join a caravan for Mexico because of their perceived “language problem”. Language can be an issue, but not an insurmountable problem. Mexican people are very forgiving and helpful if only you show them that you are at least trying to speak Spanish. Most of them know at least a little English and will soon get the idea of what you are trying to ask for. This interaction with Mexican people is one of the main reasons I like being here. If there was a translator jumping in every time we needed something the experience would not be the same at all. Carry a Spanish English dictionary. Learn please, thank you, how to ask where the bathroom is and how to read a menu. The rest will fall into place.
I was talking to a guy from Alberta and asked him how he liked Mexico. He thought about it for a minute and answered, “I don’t know. All I have seen so far is the back end of the rig I follow”. He does not tow a car so is therefore dependent on rides from others to go on the side trips. He cannot stand air conditioning so he begs off many of these side trips in other peoples cars. He has not seen much of Mexico at all. They are on day 14 of a 45 day “tour” for which they are paying many thousands of dollars. I am sure their caravan fees alone for the 45 days will far exceed our total costs for six months in Mexico. On top of this they still have to pay their own fuel costs, insurance and for all but a few meals.
Your days are all organized but little information is given for the activities. Today for example, they are going to Celestun. Very few of them knew the purpose was to see the flamingos. We asked one person where they were going. His answer was, “Who knows? I just climb into the back of someone’s car and they take us somewhere” . Not my idea of seeing Mexico!
The activities whiteboard in the “Wagon Master’s” window says:
Welcome to Marida (wrong spelling is theirs)
8:30 Celestun – plan on all day
5:30 Briefing in patio area
6:30 Dinner – carpool
There. Your day is decided for you. All you have left to do is figure out when you can get a bathroom break. Where are you going tomorrow? Who knows? It will be a surprise.
Some people are concerned about the damage being done to their $250,000 (plus) motorhomes by the topes and roads in general. I would probably be concerned be as well if I had a $250,000 rig. Personally, I think it is rather silly to bring one of those down here even if you never stray from the Autopistas or toll roads. If they had done any research at all, they would have come to the same conclusion before they left. If nothing else, I think it is simply disrespectful to bring a rig down here that costs as much as many Mexican people will make in their entire lifetime. Others are also concerned about the damage their newer diesel engines may suffer because the required Ultra Low Sulphur fuel is not available in Mexico and won’t be until 2010 at the earliest. This fact is easy to discover by simply having your grandchildren show you how to do a quick search on the Internet. If you can afford a $250K motorhome then you can afford to park it somewhere safe in the USA and buy a $25,000 Class C to travel Mexico. Odds are, nothing will happen to it. When you get home you can sell it and call the money you lost (if any) the cost of seeing Mexico and a parking lot ding will not ruin your holiday. It would be a better investment than mutual funds these days. I am not sympathetic. Does it show?
One of the jobs of the tour organizers seems to be to keep their customers away from people like us who may give them the idea that they could do this on their own. We are never invited to their socials and if we are noticed talking, one of the organizers will usually wander over to “steer” the conversation.
The most common statement made by caravan members we do talk to is, “You have more guts than I do. Do you feel safe?”
Well, they left this morning. Their destination is Chichen Itza, two or three hours down the road towards Cancun. They were knocking on the door of the rig next door to us at 6:30 to get them up and moving and they pulled out by 7:30 am with lots of commotion, loud talking and noise. They made it very hard for the rest of us to sleep. We will pull out at a much more civilized 11:00 am after saying goodbye and exchanging email addresses with our new friends Ken and John from Lake Chapala.
Before the hate mail starts let me say this. Perhaps Caravans are what you want. If you fear the unknown and believe the horror stories we all hear, then caravan travel is infinitely better than not seeing Mexico at all. All I am saying is that caravans are not for us. We like to make and change our own schedule as we go. If we like a place we will stay longer and if not, we leave early or not stop at all. We like picking our own restaurants and making our own mistakes along the way. Our route is made up by talking to people along the way, even caravans. This is what makes it Croft’s Mexico.