Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Camel Caravan

I shared a tent and 'swag' with 2 other ladies. A swag is a rolled up sleeping bag and quilt combination, with a foam mattress. The swag is protected by a canvas cover that can be waterproofed in case you're sleeping without a tent. Put 3 people into a small tent and body heat warmed it up nicely. The wonderful thing about camping so far into the wilderness is the night sky. I spent hours gazing into the Southern Sky, using a red flashlight and star charts to identify the southern stars not visible from Alaska. My tent mates did not appreciate my love of star gazing in the wee hours. They found that I was a warm furnace at night and was necessary for them to sleep in comfort. After a night's sleep under the Southern sky it's off on the next days' adventure.

Breakfast done, camels saddled, chuck wagon packed and we're on our way. Like horse back riding, it's necessary to take breaks to ease legs and backs from riding. Camels have a different motion from horses and in my opinion much more comfortable for long distances.

Lunch in the dunes. The camels carried saddle bags with water, blankets to sit on, lunch supplies for everyone, a small gas stove and a 'billy' for heating water. A 'billy' is a camp coffee pot, suspended on a tripod. When you dismount from a camel, it kneels, first the front legs, then the rear. Once you dismount, a strap is placed around one folded front leg to keep the camel from getting up. Camels can actually 'crawl' for short distances with their leg restrained.

We learned quickly to carry treats in our pockets for our mounts. And they learned just as quickly who carried them. A curious camel can knock you over looking for things in your pocket.

Our lunch stops in the dunes were only one ridge from the ocean. Miles and miles of sand and scrub brush.

The ocean we rode along. White sand beaches, no people, and the occasional tire track. The currents were straight from Antarctica. Too cold to swim in. Just like Alaska waters.

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