Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Into the Desert...on Camel's Back

Riding on a camel through the desert has always been on my "to do" list. Well, sort of. I mean, how cool is it to ride on the great beasts of the arid land? Traveling by camel always conjures up images of wild adventures: of merchants carrying the finest silk, tea, and spices from Asia, through the starry Arabian nights, on the silk route to the West; or the biblical scene of the three wise men bringing their gifts to the new born King. But none of these images in my mind could ever have prepared me for how much my butt would hurt after just 15 minutes on the camel!

Traveling by camel is decidedly NOT the most comfortable way to cross a desert! First, camels are slow. While they can run and trot for short periods of time, they generally walk at a pace akin to a human’s stroll, and every step seems to send a jolt up your tailbone (and other male anatomy parts) into your spine! Now don’t even ask me what happens when they trot!!! Second, whenever you need to get on or off a camel, you have to make them sit down on their knees. And anytime this happens, you feel like you’re about to be thrown face-first into the sand. You have to lean back, and the lean forward, as the front legs buckle and the camel rests on its front knees first before sitting down on its hind legs. So…is this how it feels like to ride on a mechanical bull in a bar? And third, camels, unlike horses, are not very responsive to their rider’s commands. They tend to just do what they please. Camel’s mind: “Mmmm, that thorny bush over there looks delicious! I’m going over there to have a taste!” And no amount of tugging at the reigns will make it change its course.

But aside from a bruised butt and hopefully non-permanent minor damage to my other parts, the two day one night Camel Safari trip was a blast! Together with five other travelers Bron and I met along the way, we spent the mornings and late afternoons trekking across sand dunes and past remote villages on our camels. The peacefulness of the desert contrasted sharply with the rest of India. Broken only by the rhythmic thuds as camel footpads hit the soft sands, and the occasional camel grunts. The hottest part of the day was spent under the shade of a tree: napping, chatting and eating a wonderful lunch prepared by our guide.
In the evening, we arrived at a pristine sand dune, which would be our camp for the night. The soft desert sand was like fresh powder on a ski slope! The day was capped off as the sun made its exit, giving us one last fiery burst of orange glow as it slowly descended over the barren horizon.

Later that night, by a campfire, we had the most delicious meal cooked by Mr. Desert himself! Amid laughter and awe, he told us of his humble beginnings as a truck driver, to four-time Mr. Desert winner. Then as if turned onby a flick of a switch, the heavens lit up with a million stars. Truly spectacular!


  1. Ken! Stoked for your adventures!! You got some serious air in that group pick too! -Matt