I wonderfully diverse country with so much to see, do and experience! I spent three weeks here in March and it was one of my favourite adventures.
I have always imagined gracefully riding a camel, side-saddled (like the queen does on a horse) through the desert as the sun sets behind me as if it is the last scene in a movie with a very satisfying, everybody-wins type of ending.
This was not my reality.
Camels smell. And they grunt a lot. Apparently it is a sign that they are ready for mating and I was never quite sure whether to be offended or relieved that my camel was the only silent one in the group. I am going with a little bit of both.
After a rather stressful camel-mounting which involves nearly being thrown off the front of your camel as it groans under your weight, we were off on our desert adventure under the stars that involved absolutely NO glamorous relaxing-while-taking-in-the-natural-beauty. Camels are not interested in your comfort and I found myself hanging on for dear life as I was shaken about for the better part of two hours. Instead of the compilation of songs I had imagined for my movie-worthy camel ride, the Japanese man behind me had added his own soundtrack of gaming noises to my experience. I kid you not- the guy played some sort of candy-crush game THE ENTIRE TIME. By the end of our few days together I was so invested in his progress that every time his phone played that mwap-mwap- you-just-lost-a-life sound, a part of me would ALMOST want to log on to Facebook and accept his request for a new life.
Once we arrived at our base camp, we were gleefully told to start making our way up the dune that sheltered us if we wanted to be at the top for sunset. I found this a strange request as sunset was not for another two hours, but shrugged and set off for the top.
The dune was large. It was about the size of a hill that would take 40 mins of all-out climbing to get to the top of- had it been made of solid ground.
After about twenty minutes of huffing and puffing on the dune, I looked back at the campsite only to see that I had left my water bottle at the bottom. Reluctantly, I turned my body around, stretched, and grabbed my bottle which sat one metre below me. Alas, soft sand does not stay in place like ground does. With each step forward, you slide one step back. Take a break for long enough and you have slid all the way down to the bottom. It is nature’s own sadistic step-machine.
I groaned internally at the realisation that I might not be fit enough for this and the stubborn part of me took over: if Bay-Ming can turn his game off long enough to already be half way up the dune; I was not going to be the one that didn’t get to the top. I huffed and groaned and struggled for what felt like hours and thought that this might just be the end for me. The rest of the group was encouraging me from the top which was half-sweet, half-infuriating. How did the guy with CRUTCHES beat me?!
Two hours later, light-headed and on the verge of collapse, I heaved my body on to the top of the dune to find one of the most remarkable sights I have ever witnessed. The sky had turned a pink-ish colour and the shadows on the dunes made me feel like maybe I had heaved myself onto Mars- how could something this surreal exist on my planet?! Still lying on my stomach, limbs extended I couldn’t help but exclaim “IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!” as I finally got my movie-moment; complete with candy-crush background music and a throbbing headache.