I had heard three things about camels:
1. Riding one is like being on a mechanical bull;
2. They are mean spirited; and
3. They spit green vomit at people. So, when the camel lifted his furry upper lip and came towards my arm with his huge brown- stained teeth, my first response was to yell, “HELP!”
The Samburu guide leading our camel caravan turned toward me ready to reprimand the creature, but smiled instead, “The camel’s trying to kiss you.”
It looked more like an attempt to take a chunk out of my arm, rather than a romantic overture, although earlier the camel had rubbed his head along my leg for a scratch.
“So cute,” the others in my Kenyan camel caravan said.
But then their camels weren’t trying to win them over with open- mouthed kisses.
In her book Tracks,* Robyn Davidson writes, “Camels are cowards hiding delicate hearts behind aristocratic demeanors. They are affectionate, cheeky, playful, witty, yes witty, self- possessed, patient, hard working and endlessly interesting and charming,” says Davidson.
Sounds exactly like the list of qualities I am looking for in a man.
I didn’t want to be a heart breaker and I must admit, although a little hesitant at first– they are huge animals and not exactly soft and cuddly– as I rocked atop my mount in the pink and gold light of the Samburu desert sunset, romance was in the air.
Romantic and mystical is how I would describe my first camel ride. I was definitely smitten.
Davidson also wrote, “Camels are the most intelligent creature I know except for dogs. If handled badly they can be dangerous and recalcitrant. . . This is why they have a bad reputation.”
She says camels have “ . . . an I.Q. equivalent to an eight year old child.”
What eight-year-old child would put up with being tied in a line with a rope through the nose and hit with sticks when they don’t behave carrying tourists atop their backs? No wonder they sometimes “spit”; they regurgitate cud when fearful.
It occurred to me that camels are one of the most misunderstood creatures I know. And that they have the patience of wizened old mystics.
The next day I saw ‘my’ camel grazing freely from the acacia trees, content and uninterested in us–happy just being a camel.
*(Tracks is a great book but not on my blog Favorite Africa book List because it’s not based in Africa.)