World Camel Day, 22nd June, 2023. This year we will be starting out on a camel-assisted walking safari across Kenya's Maasai Mara, honouring the work our graceful, stalwart camels will be doing for us. Along with their strong, cheerful but hard-working crew of handlers/loaders/camp staff/cooks.
On these safaris the camels do all the hard work of carrying all our needs; food, shelter and personal belongings, while we trek along beside them admiring the camels and the passing scenery, wildlife and chatting quietly to each other. We had been told, "if you own a camel you walk beside it, and not ride on top of it". An important pyschological attitude of respect for these animals that will keep working for one until "that last straw that broke the camel's back".
Our client on this Wild Camel Day is fondly just known as Doctor Charlie, an emergency Dr from the States, who helped set up an Aids clinic at Matoso on the shore of Lake Victoria up against the Tanzania border. Every other year he and the group of fellow walkers raise money to walk approximately 250 kms across the Greater Mara eco-system, Transmara and then follow parallel to the Migori River into Matoso. In his advancing years this year Doctor Charle is doing a family trip to show them the pleasures of walking with the camels, and the Clinic at Matoso.
Pelion, (meaning elephant in Turkana) is a big, gentle lead camel. Every walk Dr Charlie has led Pelion, and tickled him, and been nuzzled in return. In his advancing years sadly Pelion won't be able this year to be with us, but I'm sure Dr Charlie will find another friend.
These walks are gruelling, starting at 5 am, packing up camp and setting off after a hot drink and cereal. Sometimes we walk for 12 hours, depending on the terrain, target mileage, and walkers, stopping a few times for breaks and snacks. Then it's setting up camp again at the end of a long, hot day, and relaxing by the fire with a drink and more chat before dropping into bed after a fulfilling hot meal prepared by the cook over a wood fire.
The camels snatch what they can to eat before being hobbled for the night. Listening to them contentedly chewing the cud on and off all night is so soothing and therapeutic that many clients who have trouble sleeping often request a favourite camel to be hobbled next to their tent. And blisters are also treated by our herbalist friends with their salty, herbal urine. I have yet to hear anyone who complains of the smell of the camels at the beginning of a safari, still say the same at the end. They come to appreciate them for the reliance and companionship we have on them, and the smell they represent, as our means of getting through the journey.
This continues daily for ten days.