Sep 4, 2016
TRAVELING ALONE, Part 7—How to Control Your Camel
I have ridden a camel before, years ago in Cairo. It was an exciting experience.
The main thing to remember is that at no time should your driver let go of the reins. Camels have minds of their own, and even though this was quite a few years ago, I distinctly remember calling out, “Whoa, camel, whoa camel!” as we spiraled down the pathway beside the Pyramids. Turns out, you REALLY need to pull back on the reins E-V-E-N-L-Y to stop your camel. If you don’t, he continues to go forward and since his head is turned to the side, he will move in circles. But he won’t stop. I had lots of activity going on behind me. Men finally caught up us (probably the camel was getting dizzy).
Fast forward 32 years. Part of the arrangements for my trip to Tunisia included an overnight camping trip to the desert. I had no idea what that entailed, but I wasn’t going to go all that way and NOT go on the camping trip, especially since I had to pay whether I went or not. I was sure it would not be too rough, because this is something tourists do a LOT—camp in the Sahara Desert. Right?
Right! (Ha, you didn’t expect me to say that, did you?)
I will describe that later. But before we got to the campsite:
This side trip included stops at many archeological spots (like El Jem, the location of the third largest Roman coliseum in the world) and lovely towns. Towards sunset the bus stopped where we would catch a ‘train’ to the campsite. But first, a camel ride to see the sunset!
Riding the Camel:
It took a while to get everyone (me) up onto the camels. They are sitting, but they are still pretty high up there. And then they rise up. It is a struggle, leaning forward, then back, then you are up, then more up. Hooray! It was not a great distance, but the trip was a great part of the fun. I took LOTS of photos with my phone, but I realized at some point that it was dangerous to just carry it in my hand. I might drop it in the sand, which could have been disastrous (of course I also had a digital camera, because if you know anything about me by now, you know that I am redundancy personified).
So, I leaned back to put my phone away in my pocket.
If I could give you one more word of advice, it would be this: Do NOT lean back on your camel. Turns out, that is how they know you want to get down. And apparently, once down, it is not that easy to get them back up. Hence the panic among the camel drivers. They KNEW what was about to happen, and all of a sudden there was a fury of common around my rear end (do. not. say. a. word). They REALLY did not want that camel to drop down.
Fortunately, the drivers saw what was happening in time, the camel did not drop down, and I got to see the sun start to set in the desert. We did not wait for it to go all the way down, because we needed the light for our ‘train’ to find it way to the campsite.
Train to the Camp:
Our train consisted of many golf carts strung together. We had time to take take LOTS of photographs, have great conversation, travel in the open air, and experience night falling in the desert. I got gorgeous photos not only of the sunset, but the sky opposite the sun. And when I say time, I mean it was VERY dark when we finally got to the camp…
I heard that the driver got lost, had to phone into the camp, and either got talked back to camp or had someone find us. I am glad I didn’t know this until later. Of course, I had a bottle of water with me (would you have ever doubted it?). The bigger problem to me was that my camera AND phone batteries were running down.
In the end, we were greeted by a huge bonfire, wonderful music, horse and camel acrobatic riders, then a fabulous dinner with MORE entertainment. The camp had flushing toilets and showers, and each tent had 4 beds with mattresses and linen, rugs, side tables and electricity. The other women in the tent were all people I had already been visiting with, so it was a very comfortable experience.
We did not get to bed until after midnight, and had to get up at 4 am so we could eat breakfast (which was fabulous), get back on the ‘train’, and get to the bus to travel back to Monastir. ALL the camp lights went off at 1 a.m. They were serious about us getting up at 4—The lights in the tent automatically came on, and a man came to the tent and poked his head in to be sure we were up! I had already decided to not even change out of my clothes—what was the point? So I was pretty much ready to go. The good news: I got to photograph dawn in the desert on the ride back to the bus. These desert photographs eventually became a series of eight paintings: www.lindahollett.net/world-views
The bad news: there was no bad news! It was a beautiful day, and we got to see more of the Sahara desert (from an air-conditioned bus), and many beautiful sights.
Camping in the desert—check THAT off my bucket list.
• you can't control your camel; you need help
• always carry water (and a snack bar)
• carry back up battery power
• it’s easy to pack an overnight bag when you don’t plan to change your clothes
This is enough for now, so NEXT blog: ‘Even the Sweat Has Sweat’.
Brenda Bickerstaff-Stanley says (Sep 5, 2016):
Love your adventures. Remind me to have you prompt me should I ever go camel riding.
Linda H-B says (Sep 5, 2016):
I will be glad to advise you, Brenda!