One Hump or Two?
There's no denying the high adventure quotient of a camel safari through the Australian outback. Introduced to Australia from Afghanistan in the 19th century as conveyances for mining gear in the arid interior, camels adapted so well to life in the outback that they are now permanent fixtures of the landscape. In recent years, they have even become popular tourist attractions.
Australian camel outfitters offer both one-day rides and multiday treks into the country's Red Centre. Being a camel jockey is unlike anything you've ever done. Larger and far more cantankerous than horses, camels demand some skill to controland a good deal of courage and coaxing to reach full speed. Even when propped atop a custom saddle devised by an Aussie camel master, staying aboard a camel at full gallop is a challenge, to say the least.
For a fascinating account of an odyssey with camels, read Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson. The book's humor and insight set new standards in adventure storytelling when it appeared in 1980, and it remains valid today for its insights into the psyche and behavior of camels. Anyone contemplating a camel trek should consider this a "must" read.
In Africa, you can arrange camel adventures in Egypt, Morocco, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The classic site for a dromedary jaunt is Giza, just outside of Cairo, where you can ride a camel in the shadows of the Great Pyramids (about $10 for two or three hours). SafariCentre International (3201 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach, CA 902266. 800.223.6046) offers a wide variety of African trips, including trans-Saharan camel expeditions along ancient routes once used by desert caravans.
In India, Himalayan Travel, Inc. (110 Prospect St., Stamford, CT 06901. 800.225.2380) offers Rajasthan Camel Safaris through the Great Indian Thar Desert. This treka journey back in timeleads riders through a starkly beautiful desert landscape to meet nomadic tribes who rarely see outsiders.
For camel safaris in Australia, contact:
Outer Edge Expeditions (45500 Pontiac Trail, Walled Lake, MI 48390. 800.322.5235)
World Expeditions (441 Kent St., Sydney NSW 2000, Australia. 01161.2.9264.3366)
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication