Cabo San Lucas II: The Joy of Camels
Sylvia has told Brian many times that two of her singular ambitions in life are:
- To ‘go to Egypt and ride a camel.’
- To ‘go to India and ride an Elephant’
Why any of this is so Brian is unable to fathom, but it is his opinion that no one should be denied their life’s ambitions, as long as it is within the law of some country or another to make it happen. And so Brian has acquiesced to both demands.
It was also his belief that both rides would be some time in coming. We have no plans to visit Egypt at any time in the foreseeable future. We DO plan to visit Jordan (Petra/Wadi Rum is on the Bucketlist) but even that visit may be a few years out, there being a serious log jam of things we both want to do. And the elephant might have to wait until we’re in the vicinity of the Himalaya, and who knows when that will be.
However, Brian was quite surprised to learn that one can ride a camel in Mexico. Which sort of looks like Egypt, if you use a little imagination. After discussing the idea in committee, it was agreed…Sylvia (and Brian) would ride a camel through the sands of Baja California, Mexico. Stranger things have doubtless happened.
A commercial camel ride was therefore chosen as the second of our three excursions in Mexico. It should be noted that Brian, too, was interested in experiencing the world from the back of a camel. One of his favorite movies has always been Lawrence of Arabia, which Sylvia was very kindly able to sit through to the very end before falling asleep just before the credits rolled.
The camel ranch (called the “Holy Lands” perhaps because people walk around in head dresses vaguely recalling Ben Hur) is about an hour away from Cabo by bus…we have no idea where exactly, but we reached it intact. The excursion is divided into six phases:
- An introduction to camels
- Meet and greet and photo op with a camel
- A short camel ride along the beach
- A short nature walk through a tangled thicket of mesquite and cactus
- Tequila shots
Everything in Western Mexico seems to end with Tequila shots, the theory perhaps being that even if the rest of it was bad, the customer must leave with a semblance of a smile on their face.
The introductory briefing about camels may be of great interest to anyone who is curious about these interesting animals, but the information provided is nothing that can’t be leaned from a Google search. We learned the difference between Dromedary and Bactrian, the purpose of the hump, how long they can go without water, etc.
One fact that Brian already did know but was reminded of here; camels are very much domesticated livestock and have been so for thousands of years. At one time, most of the world’s long-distance freight either moved in ships powered by the wind, or in caravans powered by camels. The modern camel has been engineered for this purpose to about the same extent that horses, cows, sheep, pigs and dogs have been selectively bred. They are machines that predate the age of machines, designed to do a specific job; haul freight, and people, over long distances across arid areas.
After the camel-ducation bit, we proceeded to the meet and greet with a Bactrian (two-humped) camel whose name was Hercules. Hercules, who stands about seven feet tall and could not have weighed less than five men put together, was described as being two years old and a “full time professional model.” (Camels can live more than 40 years, by the way.)
As a model Hercules is quite the pro, exceptionally well behaved and gentle of nature, contrary to the traditional stereotype of the camel as a difficult, ornery beast. Maybe this disposition led him into a career in modeling; or maybe it’s the fact that as a Bactrian, he was not suitable for riding (all the riding camels we saw were the more conventional single humped Arabian Dromedaries.)
At any rate, we were not allowed to take pictures at the meet and greet, thereby allowing the camel handlers to charge exorbitant prices for prints handle this difficult task themselves. In fact, all the pictures you see here that feature a camel are from the camel handlers…they also did not allow pictures from the saddle, though this was purported to be for safety reasons, which is a plausible excuse.
Then finally it was time for the ride. As expected, it was bumpy but uneventful. We did not mount the camel when it knelt (as we expected) but rather from a platform, which was easier…one thing we will say is that the camel swayed a bit less dramatically on the beach sand then on rocky paths, which is after all what it is designed for. But either way, there was a lot of rocking. No surprise they call them ‘ships of the desert.’
This ship ride was short, which Brian’s behind thanked the organizers for. The entire time spent actually riding a camel was perhaps 20 minutes. Sylvia was somewhat disappointed in this. Brian, and especially the parts of him actually touching the saddle, was less disappointed.
We were accompanied by both a photographer and a drone, by the way. At one point, Sylvia pointed at the cameraman and asked, “Is that what they call a drone in Mexico?”
Then it was off to a guided walk through the Baja desert. Having already done service work in similar desert conditions (in the Big Bend of the Rio Grande, among other places) Brian was familiar with most of what was encountered; when the guide pointed at a Cholla cactus for example, it kindled fond memories of his actually sitting on one and being impaled some years back, a painful exercise in what not to do in the desert. But still this was interesting, if brief.
And then back to a covered pavilion for a traditional Mexican lunch, which was quite good (though hurried) and then the obligatory tequila shots. And some Mezcal shots, too. Astonishingly, Sylvia and Brian were the only people in our group to sample the local elixir. To be fair, this was a trip geared toward families, and some of the parents might not have wanted to set poor examples.
Then it was rush, rush rush back to the bus and off we went back to Cabo San Lucas!
All in all we enjoyed our camel riding experience, even if there wasn’t much actual riding. We enjoyed the camels (Hercules the model and Billy, the one we rode) we enjoyed the meal, we enjoyed the tequila, we enjoyed conversation with a family we met from Mexico City, and we saw more of the interesting, though bleak, Baja. The ride itself was short and somewhat of a letdown; and as usual with these tours, they continually rush you through, only for unexplained delays to occur later on.
We did by the way end up paying for the WAY too expensive photos of the expedition, so that we would have SOMETHING to show for it. Some of them were nice, particularly those of us posed with Hercules. Us mounted on camels did not look nearly as romantic and cool as I expected. In fact Brian looked…well, judge for yourself. No Lorenzo of Arabia, he.
Though this was in the end the least of the excursions we took, it still was not half bad. And we had one more ahead of us still – and this one promised to be the best yet!