This is a summary of our trip to the Yucatan with Adventure Caravans. The statistics below are only for the portion of the trip when we were actually in Mexico. Getting to Pharr and the return to Tucson is not covered. The information is presented in this manner so that anyone contemplating taking this trip will have an idea what the bare bones costs will be.
We also cover our impressions of the trip, what we saw and the interactions with the Mexican people that we came in contact with and those that we traveled with.
All in all we were very satisfied with the trip and would recommend it to anyone that is adventuresome and can put up with lots of boondocking in order to experience some sights and insights that you would not get any other way.
|Average Price per Gallon||2.28|
|Average Price per Gallon||2.61|
|Meals out||763 (We eat out a lot)|
The Staff - Our Wagon Masters (Pat and Alice) and our Tail Gunners (Hex & Sandy) and our bonus trainees (Bob & Trish) were top notch. Their style of leadership was just right for this type of travel and they are just great people to boot. They got us through some tight places and reacted well to unplanned events. One such was when we got to the Ball Park we were supposed to camp in and found a ball game scheduled for that night. They found us a very small RV park associated with a hotel and somehow got us packed into it. It looked like an over crowded RV showroom after we were all in. No one complained, we just took our beverage of choice and went to the pool and had a party.
The method of travel was ... you went with the Wagon Masters, all in a group, or you went ahead on your own and and waited for the group to catch up before going into the camp site that evening. The Tail Gunner would always bring up the rear and wait for anyone that stopped. He would also stop and assist when there was any sort of problem and would wait for anyone who made a wrong turn. Our trainees would usually place themselves in the middle of the group and would stop with those getting fuel, etc. It was a real bonus for the caravan having this couple, who were on their training adventure, so they could be a Wagon Master or Tail Gunner in the future.
The People - It was a pleasure to travel with such a great group of people as we found on this caravan. Usually there is a couple or two who just don't fit in with the rest, but that was not the case with this group. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the trip and their comrades. The Happy Hours were well attended and always lots of fun. We all helped each other when we needed support or something broke down and needed fixing. Everyone ended this caravan with a new set of friends. A great bunch of people that we would really enjoy traveling with again.
The other set of people were the local Mexicans we encountered in the RV parks, the cities and towns, the tours and the attractions we visited. With very few exceptions, all these people were friendly, happy and went out of their way to be helpful. We have good memories of these people.
The Towns and Cities - We went through many small villages as well as modern cities. The contrasts between them was extreme. For example, Veracruz is a large port city that appears to have plenty of funding for the development of high rise condos that are growing out of the lower class neighborhoods along the ocean front. Much the same as you see happening in the Rocky Point area. In contrast, when you drive through some of the the more destitute small villages you see one room shelters made of vertical tree branches for walls and covered with a thatch roof and an outdoor kitchen. Wherever you go you will see buildings painted in vivid colors, which we found to be very pleasing as a change to the colors you see in the US.
In addition to the power problems, water is also in short supply in most of the communities that we saw. Often, water is pumped only a few hours a day and therefore buildings have large jug shaped water tanks on their roofs to hold water for use when it is not being pumped. Mostly these are black to absorb heat during the day so that the occupants will have warm water. In areas outside the towns and villages you see the houses have cisterns for storing rain water.
The Countryside - The countryside that we traveled through varied from beach to jungle to mountains. As we left Pharr and started traveling down the Gulf Coast, the ocean was a dark color with rocky beaches. Later as we entered the area of swamps and jungle, the beaches became sand and the water became more towards the blue/green colors. The jungles were dense rain forests broken by swampland, beautiful in its own way. When we got to the Yucatan we were in the land of clear blue ocean and white sand beaches. Palenque was in the mountains covered by a dense rain forest type of jungle. As we moved to Oaxaca and Puebla the mountains became more barren and often had crops of agave growing, waiting to be harvested and made into Mescal.
The Ruins - One of the main reasons that we took the trip was to see the ruins started by the Olmec and continued through to the Maya. We were not disappointed. The ruins themselves are much more impressive than you would imagine from the pictures that you see in various publications. You cannot imagine the scale of these ancient cities, often with more than 1000 structures, many of which were rebuilt every 52 years according to the yearly cycle observed by many of these cultures. When these monuments are examined they are often found to be composed of several structures built one on the other as the calendar cycles required new tribute to the gods every 52 years. What we saw gave us an understanding of the progression of these cultures as their cities evolved over time and finally culminated when the Spanish landed and asserted their culture and religion.
The Mexican Drivers - The Mexican people are great until they get behind the wheel of a vehicle, then they become a bit loco. Lanes and stop signs are treated as if they were only suggestions. Many times a two lane road is turned into three lanes in order to pass. Every one seems to accept this, they move over onto the shoulder (if there is one) and allow the passing vehicle to go down what is now a center lane, for all practical purposes. IT WORKS! So, we learned to do it the Mexican way. What makes it work is the practice of using your left turn signal to tell the vehicle behind you that it is safe to pass, or at least to move over to the oncoming traffic lane and check it out for yourself. A flashing left turn signal is also used when you are in the act of passing, to let oncoming traffic know you are coming at them (so they can move onto the shoulder?).
The Electrical Power - As I have mentioned before the electrical power cannot be assumed to be usable for an RV's shore power anywhere that we traveled. It is usually of too high a voltage, and even when you find some that you can use, it could change at any time. We were plugged in many times to power that was there and usable in the evening and sometime at night would become unusable. In some cases it would come and go all throughout the day. In the campgrounds section I cover what can be done to cope with this situation.
The Bugs - All along the coast, but particularly at Villahermosa, the bugs were biting everyone. Several of the people had legs that looked like they had the measels, they had so many bites. Good bug repellant worked as long as it had 30% Deet in it. A couple of folks got alergic reactions and had to take antihistamines and antibiotics. Once when I put on bug spray I didn't put it under my socks and the bugs got me right through the socks.
The Roads - In general, the worst roads that we have ever encountered are those we suffered through on this trip. In all honesty, there were some that were quite good, what you would expect to find on an interstate in the US. But they were the exception. The roads were not maintained very well and consequently they had many potholes and crumbling edges. We went over several roads that had just been resurfaced and they were a pleasure to drive, with the exception that many were very narrow and it was fun meeting oncoming 18 wheelers, especially when there was no shoulder and the pavement ended in a 4 to 12 inch dropoff. The roads through the small towns were the worst since the streets were usually narrow, full of potholes, and the people just parked wherever they wanted, causing traffic to wiggle around them as it moved through town.
The Topes - Topes (tow-payz) are the Mexican equivalent of speed bumps and they come
in all flavors from narrow and high to broad and short. These seem to be the way
speed is controlled in Mexico. Most of the time their location is marked by a sign,
but not always, and you have to be very observant when driving. It was not uncommon
to hear "tope" on the CB when one of these was encountered. They can appear anywhere,
even on the interstates, especially at the many military check points. When going
through a town you could count on a series of topes to control the speed of the town
traffic. One day we counted the number of topes we encountered on a trip of 300
miles from Chetumal to Palenque. It was 97. We had a contest that evening at Happy
Hour and the guesses ranged from 50 to 200.