Blog

Camels

  • Riding a Camel

    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. 

  • Sleeping in the Sahara

    After almost a week of touring Morocco and sleeping in wonderful hotels, I arrived at camp on the edge of the Sahara desert. This would be the first of five nights of a camel trek.  I dropped my dusty bag and bedding into the white canvas tent our crew had set up already, and crawled in. What a change from the hotels! I was delighted to see a mattress, but decided it was best not to inquire about the dark stains on it. I hoped they were coffee. The pillow had no pillowcase. Had it been washed? The sleeping bags most likely had not been cleaned because our camp crew gave us a sleeping bag liner and advised us to use it.  

    The liner was designed for a person of beanpole build—narrow and very long—so it turned out to be a bit constraining for me. I opted to make sure I was completely clothed when I slept. That way I didn’t have to concern myself with stains, unclean pillows, and sleeping bags of questionable origin. 

    I heeded our guide’s warning about snakes and scorpions and zipped up the tent completely before setting out for the dining tent. After a delicious meal I took a short walk to see the camels and camel handlers arrive. The sun set, the Milky Way glowed, and I slept well in my little tent despite the dicey bedding. The silence of the desert was divine. This was the first of five nights.