Wendy Darlin's first camel ride... on Chester the Molester.

My camel Chester did a sideways hula, attempting to throw me. I brought my knees into the saddle with a sharp slam. Chester felt nothing, whereas I silently howled in pain. I needed a speed course in camel. He turned his head and smiled at me. But he didn’t spit.

Hut! Hut! What was that? Evidently the cry to move out, a cry that I sure as hell didn’t make. I held on as the beast shifted his weight and lumbered forward in a curiously graceful way. Again he looked at me but didn’t spit. I felt like Lawrencetta of Arabia. Something whacked into my neck. It was a pith helmet. I wondered who that could be.

I’d never ridden a horse before, and here I was mounted on a grumpy giant hump. Worst of all he was dressed in clashing primary colors and four different prints. I was on a tacky camel. I hoped none of my friends saw me.

Our caravan, such as it was, moved along with a rocking rhythm. Camels weren’t called the ships of the desert for nothing. Chester tried to turn back. I leaned over and said “Glue factory,” in his flea-bitten ear. He must understand horse. He nodded and moved on.

Chester followed the other mounts to a crest on a point above low-lying dunes. The camels side-stepped their way into a steep descent. Twice I almost pitched off to the right dragging Fiona with me. In the distance I could see endless flatlands. Shadows of date palms inked the ground.

Our trek to the temple was a journey back in time. Grassy mounds marked the remains of ancient villages. Rolling dunes sometimes hinted at the tip of a buried temple or sanctuary. Each dune was touched with a different wind-borne pattern, just enough to be hypnotic. We skirted mud-brick villages as timeless and weathered as the Great Sphinx of Giza.

I tried to romanticize our expedition, but in truth, I was ready to bag it after the first ten minutes. Selling real estate in a down market wasn’t that bad.

 Amazon Kindle:           The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters

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