Thursday, May 22, 2008

Innocents Abroad Part 4: Camels

Every day I grab a Diet Coke and walk outside to open the door of my truck with my only worry being spilling my soda before it get it into my cup holder. I sit comfortably in my nicely upholstered chair and calmly drive to wherever I am heading that day. I live in Las Vegas so there are plenty of hills and even a mountain or two to climb. I feel my truck downshift as I begin up the incline with, again, my only concern being whether my soda spills as I calmly sip it.

The camel is down and calmly chewing a cud from some long forgotten meal. On his back is a saddle with two horns, one in front and one in back. The saddle is tied down and a few ratty camel hair blankets are thrown on for a little extra padding. I sit calmly on the saddle as the Bedouin gives him a few light taps with a stick and says something in Arabic to get him up. All my calm went south as the camel rose. You have to understand that a camel doesn’t rise like an elevator; a camel rises more like a folding table. First the back side goes completely up while you are hanging on for dear life to keep from falling on your face in the camel droppings in front of you. Then the front side comes up to level experience with a thrill ride that compares with most roller-coasters.

Now that we are up we begin our slow rolling gate up the side of the mountain. The camel does well on the ancient carved steps following a path it has walked thousands of times with thousands of tourists. Sometimes it is a little close to the edge as remarked by one co-travelers who had a slight fear of heights. The ride up was not bad once you got used to the rolling steps of the camel. We got to our destination after about an hour of this riding, enjoying the sites. Then came the downward journey. While going up the camel would take the steps in his slow rolling gate but coming down the camel had a tendency to get both front feet to the edge of a step and jump down. Need I remind you of the two horns on the saddle? No more rolling gate enjoying the scenery, this we replaces by jumps and jolts surrounded by brief periods of respite. While protecting myself from the front horn on the saddle by pushing back in preparation for the next jump my tail bone was in perfect position to be assaulted by the rear horn. After a grueling hour return journey the camel folded his front legs under him pitching me one last time into the forward saddle horn and finally settled itself on the dusty desert floor. He calmly regurgitated his cud again and began chewing. As I walked away I swore I heard a smirk-like grunt.
A week later my tailbone was still sore and bruised. I was reminded with smirking of my co-travelers as I had to gently sit for the rest of the trip. We have it so good here in the States and when I got home one of the first things I did was hug my truck. Seriously.

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