Camel Ride

Dan Goldwasser Israel (2003)

We were told that we had to do this camel ride thing where they take you into the desert, and you have dinner with the bedouhins. Okay, that sounded kinda cool. I hadn’t ridden a camel in forever, so it sounded like it might be fun. Then I heard it would be a four hour tour. Okay, not so bad, I could probably deal with it alright.

We got to the Camel Ranch after passing the tiny dirt road that lead to it, and turning back to get onto it. After checking in, we waited for our group to show up. Turns out it was just another woman who would be riding with us, so the three of us were taken over to the camels by our guide, and we mounted the camels. For those who are unfamiliar with the camel mounting process, you cannot straddle the camel like you would a horse. Especially if you’re male, and want to stay that way. So yes, you sit side-saddle, kinda. And when the cames stands and sits, you do so with your ankles locked. The camel stands up from rear to front. So you have got to remember to lean backwards… otherwise you’ll take a tumble forward off the camel. Not a good thing.

Successfully mounted on our camels, we were lead about a half mile down the dirt road, into the wadi. Our guide then unhooked our camel chain, and showed us how to steer the camel. At least, how we’re supposed to. If we were on machines, it would have been easy. But camels are living creatures, with minds of their own – even if they’re well trained. My camel’s name was Bertha. Yes, Bertha. Bertha was hungry. And no amount of tugging and shouting at her was gonna stop her from eating all the vegetation on the route. It took a punch (yes, a fist!) to the side of her jaw by our guide to get her back on track. Wow. I still haven’t seen a camel spit, and was surprised (and grateful) that she didn’t spit then. When you’re on a camel, you’re rather high off the ground…. I didn’t have any desire to fall onto the sharp rocks below.

Another hazard to avoid (aside from the sharp rocks) are the trees. These nasty buggers have thorns all over the branches, and you could pop an eye if you get whacked in the face. And steering a camel isn’t easy. And they aim for the trees. That was fun. We worked our way into the desert, and up a mountain side, slowly. At the top of the hill, we had a great vantage point and could see four countries: Israel (obviously), Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Wow!

A while later, we finally made it to the campsite where we would have our dinner with the bedouhins. Or so I thought. Instead, it turned out to be our guide making homemade lavash, bedouhin style, and served with a tasty labne yogurt spread. The tea was really good, too. So it wasn’t quite a meal, but it was filling and tasty – and fresh. By now, night had come, and the fire was slowly dying, so we made our way back to the Camel Ranch in the dark – I opted to walk, since I didn’t feel comfortable riding Bertha at night. We have to go to bed kinda early, becaus tomorrow is a big day: Petra!