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  • Chris Swift

Daily Diary: The Camel Train

Back on the banter bus after a night where Krasha said there were two hyenas calling a fair distance away. We promptly found hyena spoor two miles down the road in the soft sandy soil. Whilst the old Mzee, whom John had done the camping spot deal with the day before, said he had lost one of his sheep out of his boma to a leopard. They had managed to chase the leopard off so recovered the dead sheep leaving one frustrated chui still out on patrol.

I had also managed to miss two trains going past as we had camped close to the Kajiado to Lake Magardi line built in the 1930s to take the thick crusts of soda ash out of the lake for export as animal feeds and other products.

Who needs sleeping pills? Easier to have a quiet amble through the bush the day before to get a good night kip and miss all the wild noises.

We have now entered a different Masai clan territory which is known as the Kisomgo community and may be recognised by their blue Shukas. 80% of this clan lives over the border in Tanzania, as far south as Arusha and across to Ngorogoro. They crisscross the border regularly and are not obliged to show passports, and may carry their spears without hindrance. The old Victorian-drawn boundary through their family lands still does not affect them in any way.

Tabbing on down the road we went for a classic shortcut up an old drove road climbing the 500ft escarpment.

Tough going on all concerned, particularly the camels, as they climbed carefully over the mixture of large and small rocks.

The homemade frail padded wooden saddles took quite a battering on the close overhanging bush. One split and emptied all the bedrolls and tarps onto the deck.

Skillfully rebuilt with the endless supply of sisal rope that we carry, the complaining camel was sat down, reloaded and then encouraged up and away.

Readjusting the load

The sisal rope that keeps the 7 or 8 camels together to make up their camel train involves in a loose halter over the head tied to the tail of the camel in front. The steadiest animal leads the train, but if one stumbles or goes to the ground, the flat rope snaps so that the downed camel is not dragged forward.

It must be a very simple system employed by man for hundreds of years. On the command “Go Boys”, the lead camel moves forward and slowly the message is passed down the line as the tail tightens on the next animal and the halter around the head of the second gets pulled gently forward.

Turning a camel train is, therefore, a very gradual process requiring quite a sweep. As for an emergency stop, by the time the message gets to the animal at the back, quite a pile-up can develop. By comparison, it makes driving an artic lorry quite straightforward.

On a different note, we have also been very concerned about our good friend Andy, who had a nasty accident three weeks ago with his tractor. Fortunately, he is slowly recovering in Bristol hospital.

Andy has always been a great supporter of Bobong Camels over the years and had signed up to come on the last section of this trip.

This may now turn out to be a bridge too far, bearing in mind the stresses and strains he has put his body through, but we were encouraged to hear yesterday that he has told his Physio he needs to be back in shape by the beginning of December. I would have loved to have seen the expression on the physio's face! Good man. Meantime, us boys and girls out here in the bush are all rooting for him.

Another day ahead of us up here above the Rift in cooler conditions with Matura the dachshund and Tat the cat to be camel out riders on patrol. Amanda’s pets help to add to the whacky spectacle passing through the bush.

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1 Comment

ant hill
ant hill
Oct 12, 2023

A superb read. Many thanks

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