My first few days in the Moroccan Sahara were uneventful, but at last we left for the part of the trip I was looking forward to most: camel riding in the Sahara. The first thought that popped into my mind when I looked upon the animals that would carry us several miles was that evolution may have equipped them perfectly for desert life, but it also made them dangerously close to repulsive. Fortunately they come off as just awkward and alien, otherwise no human would have anything to do with them. My rather detached and ambivalent attitude towards the camel changed to awe when I watched them stand. Camels are far taller than I expected; they make me feel short, which is unusual. My respectful attitude was soon to change however. I boarded my camel with considerable trouble. After all, it’s just a camel sitting down, I should have just jumped on it like a big couch. But somehow I managed to pull a groin muscle, a grievous injury that would cause me much angst in the coming hours.
For the time being I managed to shake off my bad start and survive my camel's lurching standing up process. To give you an idea of how far camelry has come over the last 3000 years, the saddles just look like big hard bean bags thrown over the top of the camel with a hole where the hump is. Over the hump goes a saddle blanket. There is a metal bar in the front where you can hang your bag and hold on. I took a firm grip on this handle bar and prepared to ride off into the sunset, quivering with anticipation. As we entered the shrubby but not yet duney desert, I gained some appreciation for camel riders, as a camel's gait is not a smooth one. I was enjoying myself immensely, riding like a Bedouin, when I noticed that the quivering in my legs had not stopped. I confirmed that it was not caused by anticipation. I discerned through experimentation that if I relaxed my legs I was immediately subjected to extraordinary discomfort. The quivering turned to shaking until my legs went limp. What followed was two hours of physical and mental torment that I will attempt to summarize in a few sentences. I had an abject fear of dune descent, I abhorred my camels hump, and I was a constant source of amusement and ridicule due to my vain attempts at alleviating my pain. When slid limply from my camel, I fervently hoped that kids were still an option.
After dumping our bags in our tents, my fellow travelers and I ran to the top of a nearby dune (or limped, in my case) to watch the desert sunset. There we sat, panting with exertion, until the miles and miles of desert stretching out before us disappeared into the night. We returned to the big camp and couscous, but not before I stupidly added to the day’s woes by rolling down the sand dune and losing my phone. That night I reluctantly agreed to wake up before 6:00 a.m. to watch the sunrise. I retired for the night not overly worried about the welfare of my phone or the throbbing in my thighs, being more concerned with suppressing the frightening high pitched tenor that had replaced my customary baritone.
I awoke the next morning, startled by the clarity of my surroundings beneath a brilliant moon, and hiked barefoot to the top of the tallest dune, relishing in the cool and incredibly soft feel of desert sand. The sunrise was indescribable, so I won't try; it's something you have to see for yourself. Also I found my phone buried in the sand and working perfectly, my luck was changing (which I proclaimed proudly in a reassuringly deep voice). My elevated mood did not last long when faced with the prospect of once again boarding my dreaded dromedary friend. Reluctance is a mild term for what I was feeling, revulsion is more accurate perhaps. I gamely pulled my thigh muscle yet again, gritting my teeth with pain, only to be pleasantly surprised. A quick look under the blanket confirmed what my crotch sensed: my new camel did not possess a massive hump like my last one. The following two hours were far from comfortable, but I genuinely enjoyed the ride.