levik (levik) wrote,

Camels and Dunes

Our tour includes a camel ride across the dunes of Erg Shabi, to spend the night in a camp on the other side. We are told to take one bag each and leave the rest behind. Our camels look like they've seen better days, but I'm beginning to suspect this is a normal look for camels outside of picture books.

A guide named Umbarak walks in front and leads the first camel by a rope attached to a wire ring in the animal's nose. The second camel is tied to the first's tail.

The only way to climb on a camel is to have him kneel down first. The sharp jerk, as he gets up - on the hind legs first - is a little frightening. The walking gait is similar to a horse, but without stirrups keeping your balance is harder. Luckily, the massive saddle includes metal handle bars.

Umbarak leads the camels between the dunes, picking out flat paths and smooth slopes. Here and there on the s! and, we can see camel droppings. They look like small black acorns, and roll down the slopes of the dunes.

Occasionally, the camels produce frighteningly loud gurgling sounds, but no dreaded spitting follows.

It's almost sunset now, and the dunes take on a purplish velvety look. They glisten in the setting Sahara sun as if covered with silk. In the distance, we can see other travelers, packs of two or three camels led by a Berber guide.

We reach camp just as the sun has set. It is a big nomad tent with a section walled off for a kitchen. Umbarak "parks" the camels by making them kneel and tying their front knees so that the front legs can't be straightened. Then he's off to make tea and start dinner - another tajine.

Over food, in the dim light of candles, we try to make smalltalk, which is difficult. Umbarak's English is bad, but not as bad as our French and Spanish. We end up using a mix of the three with a lot of gesturing for good measure.

"The camels," I ask, pointing in their direction, "ne pas have comida?"

"No. They manger a l'auberge..."

Outside, the sky is full of stars again, but it's too cold to look at them for long, so we go to sleep around ten.

P.S.: Vitya has some pictures up

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