I should have been a cowgirl, not!

Interacting with animals is one of our favorite things to do on a trip.  When I’m away I am up for whatever is going down, a horseback ride in Turkey, an elephant ride in Zimbabwe or a camel ride in Australia, I’m there. 
Who wouldn’t want to take a horseback ride through the farmlands of Turkey on gentle Sultan who was very tolerant of his inexperienced rider. As we were going down a steep rocky bank, I just hung on, closed my eyes and let the horse do his job.

Even though I look as comfortable here in the saddle as Dale Evans, (ah hem) the riding wasn’t the problem. It was the mounting that I recall.  The first try to hoist myself to the horse’s back ended in sad defeat. The second try was not much better, and I pulled the saddle off to the side.  I glanced quickly at the guy who was holding Sultan, as if to say, “Hey buddy can’t you give me a boost”  He looked back at me with another glance that said, “I’m not touching you with a 10 foot pole.”  I remembered then, that in his culture, that would be his response and I knew I was on my own. It was do or die. This time he held the saddle in place and with a heave and all the jump I could muster my knee landed on the saddle and I managed to pull my self around to a seated position.

Dismounting was just as scary, It’s a long way down. This time he did give me some verbal instructions. I made it without incident and Sultan and I were still friends.  Sometimes you just got to do what you gotta do.

Mounting an elephant is much easier. The guide leads the gentle giant to the other side of a platform with steps. The easy climb leaves you standing level with the animal, so you just throw you leg across the broad back and fall into the seat.  Another plus is the guy in front, who doesn’t mind if you hang on to him, takes full charge of Sharu, and with Dick in the back, I feel tucked in, safe and able to enjoy the ride.  I must say going in the lake instead of around the lake was a bit of a surprise and adventurous as the baby elephant following us went under a few times but managed to get through the deepest part.

We were wondering if we were going to get wet as we went deeper and deeper and the water came up to just inches below our feet before we could feel the upward slope. All the while we kept our eye out for any movement from the hippos lounging on the other side. Out of the lake our safari took us through fields where we saw warthogs and colorful birds.

After the ride we were supposed to hand feed our elephant as a thank you, or sort of a “good boy” dogie treat.  I’m not too sure Sharu felt as though I was completely happy with him as I tried my best to pour food into his trunk.

Mounting a camel is a horse of a different color!  As you approach the camel, he is lying down and it seems nonthreatening. Cindy, my sister and traveling buddy to Egypt, was already on board. Now it is my turn to straddle the seemingly impatient beast. I hesitated slightly, trying to determine my strategy, when all of a sudden the helper picked me up and plopped me into the saddle, then immediately called “UP” to the camel. Evidently the rules for touching vary from a small farm in Turkey to a busy industry by the pyramids. As the camel rises you are thrust forward and then quickly jolted backward as the beast struggles to get on all fours. This is what you call rocking and rolling on the back of a camel. The pyramids were nearby, and it was basically a photo shoot of you on a camel with the world wonder behind you. The five minute ride with the camel sinking into the sand about 5 inches with every step was quite the ‘hang on for dear life,’ experience.  We appreciated the extended hand in a effort to steady the intense movement, but I don’t think it would have helped.
Riding camels in Australia was a much more relaxing and pleasant experience.  We arrive at the barn just before dawn, anticipating a sunrise over Uluru or Ayers Rock in the outback of Australia. Our first look at the camels were as they were lying down tethered to each other and I thought of how it looked like a Christmas card of the wise men. The same thrust forward and jolting backward motion was short lived, but the ride was an hour long, easy loping meander over the desert. The animals stayed tethered the whole time, and we witnessed camel activity with some cud chewing, spitting and weird noises, as our camel train experienced the ride of a lifetime. By the end of our high and breezy jaunt, we felt we had been up close and personal with Whamo, our camel.

Later on that same Australian trip we sailed down the Murray River in a houseboat (another post) and tied up at Big Bend.  Here we were met by a farmer who invites passengers to his farm for some sheep races and shearing demonstrations.  When he asked for a volunteer to feed the lambs, my hand went up, after all I had never done it before, so why not. My little guy was an eager beaver and the feeding took all of two minutes or less.  Later the friendly farmer took the four of us out on a small wagon to see fields full of kangaroos playing and lounging in his field.  They are protected, but destroy his crops, so he makes money by showing the roos to tourists.

In Senegal, West Africa, the owner of this place told us we could catch a ride on giant turtles that were supposedly roaming around the property.  We went off in search of them and found two of these elderly giants on a heap of garbage and branches.  They were not in the mood for moving.  She said if you sat on their backs they would give you a ride.  When I sat on this big fellows back he sank into the heap about two inches and groaned.  We opted for a photo shoot.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “I should have been a cowgirl, not!

  1. This was a very entertaining story and I liked reading it. Julia

  2. What fun!

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