(with a cameo appearance by Don and Joyce Coulter)
I must congratulate those who have made contributions to the vacation experiences section of our class web site. The photos presented seem worthy of publication in National Geographic. Terry and I donít travel much anymore. We had an overdose of it during my working days and I now stay close to home and in my woodworking shop. I feel that travel now, because of all the new security regulations and inconveniences, is not too enjoyable, so I appreciate the opportunity to cash-in on your experiences with no hassle or expense on my part.
The descriptions of your vacation experiences, while pictorially fascinating, rather lack in the youthful excitement that we all had in our earlier days. For example, the usual thing for some is to move out of your own condo home to live for a couple of weeks in someone elseís. The only difference is to move from grass and rose beds to sand, palm trees and colossal sunburns. Further, the view from the deck chair of a cruise ship showing huge chunks of ice falling off the face of a glacier would only serve to remind me that my cocktail needs refreshening.
I would like to make a recommendation that the next two vacation experiences include pictures of Bill Hughes barefoot fire-walking on a Hawaii lava flow, or of Al Roberts bungee jumping from the trestle bridge across the Nanaimo River.
Now that I have completed my rant for the day, I suppose that I should give an example of a vacation experience as I see it.
CAMEL RIDING 101
I was particularly impressed by Don and Joyce Coulterís Christmas news letter of 2008, which included the attached picture of them riding a camel in India the previous year. It was with considerable surprise that I noted that they seemed actually to enjoy the exercise.
My own experiences with camels took place many years ago (1970) in Morocco. It was not pleasant. The picture attached is that of my only success with a camel. Maybe my hat lured the camel into thinking that I knew what I was doing.
By way of introduction, it should be clearly noted that the Coulters and the Drummonds are Westerners, and not inexperienced in the matter riding horses. Therein lies a good part of the problem. A major mistake is to associate anything to do with riding horses to riding camels. Camel riding is totally unique.
First of all, I must explain that the camel is totally uncooperative, hygienically disgusting, cranky, spiteful, and paranoid. They do not in my experience have a liking for Western Canadian Gringos, so one could also assume that they may be very fine judges of character.
So now lets look at the anatomy of a camel, and its suitability for unwillingly transporting the human species. You will note that the two pictures show two distinct varieties of camel. The one Don and Joyce are riding is the Rolls camel, as opposed to mine which is a Volks camel. The Rolls camel is graced with a double hump, the more to give better and more comfortable accommodation to two humans. My Volks camel is a one humped creature, and is genetically engineered to provide the most inconvenience for the human species by growing a hump in exactly the place you are expected to sit. You are thus perched high in the air on a wobbly hump, lending nothing positive to either the rider or the ridden.
Other characteristics of the camel are that they have a long sinuous neck, making it a simple matter for them to snap kilogram sized chunks of flesh out of your anatomy. Even for the Rolls camel that the Coulters were riding, please note the device on the camelís nose. That is not a feed bag folks, itís there to prevent the ungrateful beast from amputating your lower legs. The creature also punctuates its opinion of you by groaning, belching and spitting. You will also note that Don, under the guise of chivalry, has maneuvered Joyce into sitting in the more dangerous front seat.
You should never approach a camel while it is standing. The danger from itís front end has already been described, but there is more unpleasantness to be experienced. The camel is equipped with four long boney legs that can lash out with lightning speed in any direction or trample the would-be rider. At itís back end the camel is equipped with both light and heavy artillery, and can make you the target in an instant. It occurs to me that if you are seriously intent on riding a camel, you should first make arrangements with the camel herder to install a king sized duvet on the creature as a diaper. If not, then you should equip yourself with a diaper to fit you. You may need one.
RULE No. 1 - Never approach a camel that is standing
Getting aboard a camel can be stressful, and it is usual that this is done while the camel is kneeling down (couchant in the heraldic sense). Fortunately, many of the camelís offensive weapons are neutralized when kneeling; for example its legs and its aft end light and heavy artillery are rendered inoperative or out of the arc of fire. Approach the beast from its port quarter, and take your clues from the camel herder as to the best time to rush aboard.
At this point you may be lulled into a false sense of accomplishment. There is a lot more to learn. First of all, be aware that a horse gets up with itís front legs first, but the camel, like a cow, gets up back end first. I didnít know that. Encouraging the wretched beast to get up is usually done by the camel herder beating clouds of dust out of it with a long stick. This does nothing to improve the relationship between you and the camel.
Anticipating the lurching upward movement of the camel in arising, I mistakenly seized a death grip on the front edge of the saddle. Bad move!! I was pitched forward out of the saddle and ended up with my arms around the camelís neck. This enraged the beast into a frenzy of violence, similar to that of the young ladies I entertained in Victoria and Kingston during my cadet days. I was also targeted with a stream of hostile Arabic from the camel herder. I scuttled for safety. Getting aboard the second time was somewhat more difficult, but was accomplished eventually. The second attempt to get the thing to stand was easier, once the camel herder pointed out the rope handle on the BACK edge of the saddle, then fingered his stick in a transparent threat for me not to be so stupid this time.
Success at last. There I was, the Lawrence of Arabia from Manitoba, astride a camel. The only problem was that the camel was still enraged and was lurching about from side to side with me clinging to a saddle perched on a wobbly hump and with no stirrups. The camel herder did his best to instill discipline by beating it further with his stick. Bad move on his part. The camel then went berserk, making frightful noises, breaking away from the herderís tether, and thundering off into the Sahara in the general direction of Algeria.
My salvation was in my total inability to balance on the top of a wobbly hump, my awkward attempts to adjust to the pitching gate of the beast, and the fact that the camel seemed to be suffering more from the experience than I was. It suddenly stopped after about a hundred meters, whereupon the camel herder finally caught up with us, flailed at the camel to kneel down, then made threatening gestures at me with his stick. This was a very financially painful experience because I was advised by our guide to pay him double the usual rate. This he coldly accepted, but I doubt if the poor old camel derived any benefits from the double fee.
RULE No. 2 - Hold on to the BACK of the saddle when the camel stands up
RULE No. 3 - If you ever feel you would like to ride a camel, forget it and go to a museum instead.
(Ummmm, I'm hesitant to criticize someone who has just buttered me up in a way that I would expect only from someone seeking a handout, but just how useful is all this information? My numerous submissions and recommendations have all been suitable for wobbly old people with osteoporosis, plugged arteries. hernias, plantar faciitis, ingrown toenails, eczema, artificial joints, organ transplants, pacemakers, walkers, canes and even wheelchairs. Let me pass along the advice I would receive from she who must be obeyed if I had the temerity to suggest a camel ride: "Act Your Age!"
Also, there's something cathartic about getting away from the cold rain and darkness of our Winter for a few weeks of warm sunshine, longer daylight, different scenery and different people. We really do look forward to our Winter getaways and then, at our age, we're just as eager to return home. ......Ed.)