Camel riding was something that I had been dying to do since I was a kid and to say I was excited would be an understatement. The journey down to the Zagora was long and I spent the morning boring Tim to death as I rabbited on about camels. When we finally pulled over to see a herd of them waiting by the dusty roadside, I was nothing short of delighted.
I rushed off the bus and started to make my way towards the nearest camel. It was then I faltered, I hadn’t realised how big camels are. I gulped and looked around at everyone else, none of whom seemed to have been struck by this sudden realisation. ‘I didn’t think they would be so big,’ I whispered to Tim, who laughed. All at once, my excitement evaporated and was replaced with a sense of impending doom. I actually have to ride this giant?!
I edged towards a camel and tried to pluck up the courage to stroke it. I lifted my hand and immediately flinched away as the camel turned its head towards me. What if it bit me or spat in my eye? Everything I had ever heard about camels flooded into my mind as I tried to remember why on earth I had thought this was a good idea.
The camel shepherd (I don’t know if that is the proper term but you know what I mean) came over and told me to get on. Hesitantly, I squatted down and lowered myself onto the camel. By the time my bum touched the well cushioned hump, my camel was already getting up. I was definitely not ready for this and several expletives escaped from my mouth before I had a chance to filter them. Convinced I was going to fall off, I gripped the saddle handle so hard my knuckles turned white.
Now that my camel was standing, I felt much more relaxed. I was safer up high, away from the alien toes of the camels that would undoubtedly trample me to death if I was on the floor. I even managed to stroke the camel behind me without getting savaged; things were looking up. It was then that I heard a violent vomiting noise.
I swung my head round to see which of the camels was being sick. To my horror, the camel nearest to me, had what I can only describe as a large veiny sack hanging out of the side of it’s mouth. I looked on in disgust when without warning, the camel began to slurp up the swollen balloon. It wasn’t long before all of the camels around me began throwing these bulbous bags out of their mouths. It turns out that I was not surrounded by a group of sick camels after all but actually a bunch of horny ones, as this grotesque ritual is in fact a mating call. This was the moment I realised camels are gross.
Suddenly the camels jolted into action. I lurched from side to side as my camel (that I had affectionally named Gertrude) traversed sandy hills and dips. It didn’t take long for me to realise I was sitting too far forward and my buttocks began to burn from the friction. With a long journey still to go, I gently attempted to shift my weight to lessen the trauma to my sensitive behind.
During the trek, I noticed that camels have a rather disgusting habit of peeing down their legs to keep themselves cool. Of course this makes evolutionary sense, but it still wasn’t any less gross. It turns out Gertrude was quite a fruity camel, and took every possible opportunity to force her head towards the genitals of the camel in front. I became very nervous that Gertrude was going to get peed on, and that I would have to spend the rest of the journey avoiding the steady dripping of camel urine into my crotch. Luckily for me, it appeared that Gertrude’s friend had obviously not drunk too much recently.
Half an hour later, with the novelty sightly wearing off, I became very concerned with the discomfort in my backside.Unfortunately, by the time I managed to get the measure of the damage to my buttocks, it was undoubtedly too late to do anything about it. After what felt like days, I dismounted Gertrude and spent the evening shuffling around the desert like John Wayne. Despite feeling very sore, it took a few hours for the full scale of the devastation to become apparent. Tentatively I ran my fingers over my bare bum cheeks to feel puffy blisters: the ride back was not going to be fun.
Growing up, I had always associated camel trekking with majestic journeys and exotic princes from far away lands. It turns out, the reality is much less glamourous. Camel riding is a constant battle to avoid getting peed on, thrown off or whacked by a veiny mouth sack. In spite of these rather gross traits, I had a brilliant time hanging out with the camels and would definitely recommend it to others. Just don’t forget your padded underwear!