Frank, The Tempermental Camel
Trip Start Dec 03, 2004
85Trip End Nov 31, 2005
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Camels are not horses. Nor are they llamas. In fact, camels are at least three feet taller than the biggest horse I've ever seen, and the guy in charge told me that they weigh 1400 pounds, which is simply gigantic. You ride a camel double, with the saddle sitting up on the top of the hump, so I felt like I was at least twelve feet off the ground once I was sitting up there. And the mounting process! We all stood around while the camel trainers got all the camels, who are tied together in a line and also nose-pegged to the camel in front, to sit down so we could mount up. The camel trainer said the beasts were a little grumpier than usual, for whatever reason, so this process took quite a while, because one would suddenly decide that he wanted to stand up, and then the rest would bolt up, too, and the business of forcing them to sit would begin again
One of the camels was growling (yes, they growl) constantly, and the poor little girls who were assigned to ride that one looked very nervous as they gingerly clambered aboard. Another camel was wearing what looked like a muzzle; this gave it a creepy Hannibal-Lecteresque appearance. Rachel and I were assigned to a tempermental and ugly beast called Frank, who had streaks of what looked camel dung in the fur on his coat. The trainer had to constantly yell at him to keep him sitting, but he was well behaved enough when we mounted up. There's a huge backwards lurch as they stand up, since they get to their front feet and then their back, but then we were up at the dizzying heights and ready to ride.
The sunset in the river bed, where huge gum trees grow, was beautiful, and seeing the long string of camel riders behind gave it a strange surrealness, but the camel ride itself was quite uncomfortable. There's none of the smooth step of a horse, even when they're just walking (I can't imagine how terrible a camel trotting would feel). They lurch and sway and the saddle generally digs into every part of your rear region. By the time we'd returned to the camel pen to dismount, I was very pleased to release my buttocks from that savagery.
Then the dismount! The front legs go down first, so you suddenly drop from fifteen feet up to staring straight down at the camel's head from a distance of about three feet off the ground, and there's a huge thump as they hit the ground. Then you sway suddenly back as the back legs kneel, too. I scrambled off quickly, gave Frank a tentative pat on the nose, and backed quickly away. Suddenly the adventures of that girl who rode the three camels all the way from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean become even more awe-inspiring.