Camels are too tall to mount while they are standing—either by flying leap or stirrup as you would mount a horse. The camel has to be seated. Then you must hop on as quickly as possible because some camels stand up as soon as they feel pressure.
A camel first gets up on its front “knees”, then it works on raising its back half, which turns out to be a two-step process given it has two bendable joints in each back leg. Then it fully extends each front leg separately. From the rider’s perspective, you rock forward, backward, and forward in rapid succession. Although it feels as if you are getting tossed about, most people in our group did a great job keeping their body perpendicular to the ground despite the forward and backward motion of the rising camel.
Riding is a different experience. Camels tend to rock side to side. They are also wide. During my first ride, I felt as if I was stuck in a weird yoga pose designed to widen my hips at the same time it pulled apart my vertebrae. Unlike most yoga poses, which end after about a minute, I held this “pose” for over an hour. I kept wondering: Is this good for me?
The view from a camel is spectacular. Perched high on the hump, you can see far to the horizon—red dunes, fossil rocks, scattered plants, and blue sky. The camel plods forward, its padded feet impervious to the hot sand and rocky surfaces. It’s easy to see why camels were key to trade in arid regions.
When I finally dismounted from my first ride, I was ecstatic to feel the earth beneath my feet. All that hip widening and spine jingling caused me to walk oddly. I now understand why a camel trek includes the option to hike next to the camel.