Baja Amigos Guides RVing Snowbirds to Mexico
It is hard to believe it has been more than 30 years since we left for Mexico in a 1977 Ford E250 in the fall of 1985, uncertain what lay ahead or exactly where we were going.
Major elements to our original plans had already changed by the time we left the Vancouver lower mainland in mid-October as another couple, Roland and Liz, our friends for years, had dropped out of the expedition. At the time this was a big deal as they had been there before and were key to us making the trip with experienced campers to a third world country.
We had two children: Kirsty, 4, and Ken, 2; and the other couple also had two children: Daniel, 4, and Emily, 2 — what could be better?
We had sold our house in Burnaby, British Columbia, had purchased a somewhat camperized van from a friend when we learned over the summer that we were going alone. We were nervous, our parent’s apoplectic and convinced we would be murdered and our children kidnapped.
At the time of departure, we had taken some Spanish lessons, purchased a Let’s Go Mexico book and a Mexico map. Our budget was about $3,500, and we did not know it at the time but Mexico was experiencing hyper inflation and our Canadian cash was worth plenty, about $600 pesos per Canadian dollar. Fuel and mostly food staples were subsidized by the Mexican government.
After a couple of weeks in the United States that included a trip to Disneyland, we entered Mexico at Tijauna, and made our way down Baja to Cabo San Lucas over the course of a few weeks.
Our first major stop was in Bahia de Los Angeles where we met Antonio Resendiz, a marine biologist working with and studying sea turtles. Antonio invited his new Canadian friends to spend Christmas at his parent’s house in Mexico City and, yes, we showed up.
We have had a long-standing relationship with the Resendiz family for years now that includes Antonio’s wife, Bety; their two children, Antonio Jr. and Alejandra (now adults), niece Estella and many other family members.
Sadly, Antonio senior passed away suddenly on Easter this year after we had just visited with many family members in Mexico City. This was a big shock to everyone as he was just 61, the same age as my husband, Dan, and appeared to be in very good health.
Our time on Baja in 1985 ended when we took a ferry from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta, a service that ended in 1991.
We had the extra seats, we thought why not? The penny dropped as we were staying in La Paz at the Casa Blanca RV Park (now closed) and a Fantasy RV Caravan rolled in. We took the time to speak to the couple in charge (wagon masters) and found out what they did and who they worked for.
That is when we first met Dom and Diane Fraser. Several years later, as we expanded in the 2013-2014 season, we added them as additional wagon masters with our company.
The genesis for Baja Amigos RV Caravan Tours had began. After much research, a dry run with volunteers, a short lived partnership and a return to business school for Dan, Baja Amigos was born in 2009.
Smaller groups, which could be transported in a larger van that would also pull our travel trailer as we led our groups across Baja. We knew smaller was better at the outset. It offered less stress on those leading and was more intimate for those on tour.
We mapped out our tour route, offered a longer tour in the fall and shorter ones January thru April with the option of dropping off or extending their time on Baja and finishing the tour later.
Touring Baja Amigos was a really expensive hobby for the first two years, fortunately we started turning a profit in year three or we would have had to find real jobs.
The objective from the inception was to show case what Baja had to offer over a 28-day tour. We really wanted those who signed on to experience not just the Baja area, but also Mexico and the Mexican culture.
Whether these are folks looking to check off a bucket list destination or RVers tired of Yuma and Hemet, they must be on the adventurous inclination.
Baja is definitely not for everyone. Some of Highway 1 is still crappy and narrow, the campgrounds and RV parks are okay at best. Dry camping is what it is and driving with Mexicans is not for everyone — particularly in sections where road construction lakes place. Plus, Spanish, not English, is spoken by the majority and most restaurants specialize in Mexican food.
What Baja does have is stunning vistas, spectacular sunrises and sunsets and beautiful beaches, endless activities — a truly magnificent peninsula.
What is important to understand is Baja California (northern Baja) is really a summer destination for folks from California, the exception being Bahia de Los Angeles. Baja California Sur (southern Baja) is the snowbird destination for Canadians and Americans looking for more sun, warmer temperatures and less rain or snow over the winter.
Our tours work well for everyone. They are busy and if an RVer participates in everything offered, there is not much down time. For those looking to return, we build your capacity so they feel comfortable in doing so.
The bucket-lister’s have lots of fun, make many great memories and new friends, enjoy an opportunity to purchase many keepsakes and document their adventure with our tour book and photographs.
For those future Baja campers, they will decide what they like and do not like. For some it is all about the beaches in the Bay of Conception, yet others want to be in the center of the action Los Cabos with power, Wi-Fi and access to laundry. Still others are happy to sit out the winter in what they see as the paradise of Los Barriles.
Heading into Season 8, Baja Amigos continues to evolve in 2016 and 2017. Last season, we personally only hosted one longer fall tour. We had three other couples run our remaining five- to 28-day tours commencing in January and concluding in April.
Our very experienced couple, Dom and Diane, operate with a big van like ours. But, our new wagon masters, Joe and Linda, and Larry and Janet, used alternate transportation for the excursions. It was something new for us, but mostly worked well.
We also trained another couple, Jim and Debbie, who we are planning to press into service next season. They own Uncorked Okanagan, a wine tour company, and have a van to use for the Baja tours.
Over the years, we have changed some of our camping destinations and this continues even today as we take our feedback and customer evaluations seriously.
Our approach to Baja Amigos remains unchanged. We promote Baja and Mexico first, our company and tours second. Many use our website as a resource to plan their personal trips, while others call us directly with questions and we do our best to assist them.
We once had a very aggressive guy show up at an RV trade show we were featured at. He challenged us on “Why do I need Baja Amigos to go to Baja?” We responded, “You don’t, you just need a good Baja camping book, Baja map and we suggest a Spanish phrase book. You only need Baja Amigos if you want to take the tour.”
Last season we organized a mainland Mexico tour with a group of our Baja friends that traveled more than 8,500 kilometers in 90 days. East coast, west coast, Yucatan, Caribbean, Mayan ruins, Colonial Cities, Copper Canyon and more, we saw so much on this adventure.
We look forward to returning to the serenity of Baja this season and meeting new folks ready for adventure, maybe we will see you there.