I’ve always felt that the greatest thing the invention of the automobile has done for us is eliminate the need to sit on top of a wild animal and try to get it to do what we want. I do realize that many people actually enjoy riding horses or other animals, but I also realize that not everyone is sane. Apparently, there are even people who run just for fun.
When I was in Jaisalmer in the Indian state of Rajasthan, I decided to spend a night in the desert, which is something I try to do whenever I get the chance. Unfortunately in Jaisalmer, that requires signing up for a tour that involves riding a camel.
During the price negotiations, I managed to get a price that was much lower than anyone else’s because I bargained away my camel ride and my tent, two things I didn’t want anyway. My plan worked at first—once we got to the desert I did not have a camel, but when the camel drivers noticed this they immediately scrambled to find me one.
Of course I tried to explain that I didn’t want or need or pay for a camel and was perfectly happy to walk alongside the others, safely on my own two feet. They clearly couldn’t imagine that anyone wouldn’t want to sit on top of a smelly animal intent on making every step as agonizingly painful as possible, so they scraped the bottom of the camel barrel to find me a ride.
That barrel was empty, however, so they reached into the adjacent barrel of camels completely unsuited for riding and destined for a future as dog food and glue. My group was mostly women and the drivers insisted I ride this particular camel because it was “dangerous for woman.”
So I got on the camel and it took about two ass-numbing steps for me to realize that this would be the most uncomfortable few hours of my life. Also, I would never be able to sit again. Luckily the camel saved me from that fate by going absolutely insane.
It started belting out a loud honking noise that was so filled with agony you would think I was torturing the thing to death. I suppose maybe it felt I was, although who was torturing whom was definitely a matter of perspective. Along with the bellowing, it started impersonating a bull at a rodeo, jumping and bucking and clearly trying to remove me from its back.
I was only too happy to oblige and jumped off voluntarily the first chance I got. Of course the camel driver came up immediately and told me I should try again; it was a young camel after all and just a little headstrong. I didn’t care what he said though; I’m smart enough to know that, kind of like invading a country that doesn’t want you there, sitting on an animal that doesn’t want to be sat on will also end in a long, drawn out battle that you will eventually lose.
After a lot of arguing, I convinced him to try riding the psychotic camel himself. He did and the second he was on it, they shot off into the distance, stopping once or twice so the camel could bellow some more. I don’t know if the driver was riding off that fast on purpose to show off how easy it was or if the camel was doing it because it was clearly possessed by some demon.
They were out of sight for about ten minutes, before we saw them again. When we did, the driver was walking next to the camel, not riding on top of it. The camel was foaming at the mouth, drooling a disgusting looking and smelling foamy slime that was all over the driver as well. When they rejoined our group he just said, “Impossible to ride.” That was the end of the discussion.
After that I was allowed to walk mostly in peace, although the drivers were still very concerned that I was not given the opportunity to fully enjoy the camel experience. They had to be some of the least observant people ever, since I was not doing a good job of hiding my relief at no longer having a ride.
Once we arrived at camp, the drivers did insist on finding me a tent, but convincing them that I’d rather sleep in the open under the stars proved much easier than convincing them to not put me on a camel, perhaps because none of them slept in a tent either. It was a beautiful clear night as well and, along with the sunrise the next morning, more than made up for the camel ordeal.