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A Whole New Kind of Saddle Sore

Monday, May 1st, 2006

Our Camels
Our Camels

Or perhaps that should be lack-of-saddle sore. Kathy and I spent the weekend (well, the western weekend) riding camels in the Wadi Rum desert not far from Aqaba. We encountered some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen in a while, met some interesting people, and had a generally good time.

We also had some mighty weird weather. Both days we were in the desert, we experienced a tiny smatter of rain. On the second day in particular, it looked like we might be in for a real rainstorm, but that never materialised.

The saddle sore bit comes in from camels being extremely bouncy animals. When you watch someone else riding a camel, even other amateurs like ourselves, it looks very graceful, with one leg folded over and one hanging loose. Once you get on, though, you learn the truth. Not only are camels bouncy, but the Bedouin have put absolutely no effort into designing a decently comfortable saddle. So what you have is a few boards and sticks lashed together, with a horn front and back. Similar to what we put on pack horses at home. The extent that they worry about comfort is just to throw some blankets over top. The first day wasn’t so bad…towards the end of it, we were feeling a little worked over, but on the second day, we were just aggravating bruises. Kathy stuck it out, but I ended up getting off to walk a couple of times. So, while I do highly recommend going camel riding if you ever get the chance, I would suggest trying it for one day before committing to a second.

It was a great experience all the same, and Wadi Rum has definitely been another highlight of our trip.

We are in Wadi Musa now, the modern town built near the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade fame. We opted not to do much of anything today, and if we feel up to it tomorrow, we will go and visit the site. We’ve heard that people who do this trip going the other way find the Egyptian sites underwhelming after seeing Petra, so we’ll see if it lives up to the hype.

– Neil.

I’d also like to add that if you are going to ride barefoot, wear sunscreen on your feet! I have the worst sunburned ankle! Despite the appearance of rain late in the day, the early morning was quite warm and sunny, and the clouds in the afternoon did a nice job of cooling things off. Cleared up just after sunset (no spectacular sunsets like we’ve heard about), for a very lovely evening with a sky full of stars like we rarely see at home.

– Kathy