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"Cameling...From Dune to Dune...."

We knew before leaving Beijing that Tom had booked a camel ride for us. We had been looking forward to it with great anticipation. At last, the big day came!

We drove out to the edge of the Taklamikan desert. In the distance we could see a small structure surrounded by flag-topped poles. Gul explained that this was the burial place of a famous Muslim warrior named Eimamuasim who had died at the spot while fighting the infidel (she was too polite to actually use that word in front of us, but we got the picture). A few minutes later, over the dune came a man leading a string of camels!

“Our” herd included four adult females for us to ride, plus their four babies, who continually darted in for quick snacks of mothers’ milk. Also along for the walk was a yearling male who loftily showed off how fearlessly far he could wander from the herd in search of a tasty mouthful of desert weed.

We paused to look them over....then mounted up.

We learned fast that when our guide told us to hang on, we needed to HANG ON!! I almost took a spill as my camel lurched to its feet!

Without further ado, we set out on a two-hour hike, up the dunes and down. Miranda giggled madly for the entire first hour – by the second hour she had discovered the joy (and relief!) of riding side-saddle. We were all entertained by the babies, who kept so close to their mamas that they bumped and jostled each other and us the whole way.

At one point we broke into a rendition of one of our favorite Tom Chapin songs, called (believe it or not), “Cameling.” (The song is the source of the title above). You can listen to ouor singing (complete with the sounds of us trying to stay on our camels, by clicking here).

Tom’s camel brought up the rear, literally and figuratively, emitting sounds and substances from every orifice. Mine was placid and maternal. Miranda’s and Sami’s were a bit friskier, but their babies were also constantly underfoot so the mamas had to jostle them away. Turns out that camel’s humps are really floppy – not solid at all!

“Photo-taking while riding a lead camel” should be considered for the Olympics as a new Xtreme sport.

Every time I had successfully twisted backwards, gotten my finger on the right button, and lined up a good shot of “my” herd, my trusty steed, or a baby, or a sand dune interfered! That said, I was able to get one cool shot of our shadows for that "only in a movie" effect.

Thanks to digital photography, I was able to delete all the close-ups of my shoe, my other hand clutching my camel’s hump, up-close-and-personal shots of the nose of Miranda’s camel, and random patches of sand and sky. The remaining photos are, I grant you, still pretty blurry. I invite you to do better on YOUR next camel trek.

The advanced version of this new sport involves changing camera batteries and film sticks while descending a near-vertical dune. I was definitely in medal contention.

Arriving safely back at our bus, Tom staggered off his camel, smiling gamely...

...and we all posed with our guide and his two brothers.

They make a very good living guiding tourists through the dunes – much better than farming – and they seemed genuinely affectionate toward their animals. After our ride, so were we!

The next day was another trek -- this one by minibus...


Xinjiang chapter shortcuts: Intro Urumqi
Khotan Treasures Toy Bazaar Camel Weaving Shakeer Hats Food Costume Bowls Camel Ride
Overland Kashgar Old City Bazaar Kindergarten Rural Life Reunion

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