Travel Tips - The Camel
Another extract from Tips to travellers - circa 1935. Be it by
ship of the desert (camel) or four wheel drive vehicle we sell a fine range
of maps suitable for the potential desert traveller.
We cannot deal with the differences between the
camels of Central Asia, of Arabia, of North Africa, of India, and of Australia.
For full information on breeds, types, management, and diseases refer to manuals
of the British and French Armies and to veterinary handbooks. But we must
consider briefly the respective qualities of riding and baggage camels; the
equipment and saddlery; the load, speed, and range; the care and management
of grazing and watering; the merits and defects of travelling with camels
in milk. The general account of camel transport is contributed by Mr. Francis
Rodd. The quotations from the Geographical Journal which follow will direct
the aspiring traveller to the papers in which one may learn more of the possibilities,
pleasures, and defects of desert travel by camel, with some indication of
the precautions and the qualities required for success.
Camels, if of the right breed, are very good
on rock and in mountainous country; they are as agile and as steady as mules.
But if they are plain- or sand-bred camels and not used to rock they cut
their feet, fall and break their bones. No African or Arabian camels can
stand mud. They slip, split their breast bones, and break up. Camels can
however stand a lot of cold with impunity if it is dry; a lot of wet weather
is bad even if the climate is warm.
A camel's condition is recognized by the firmness,
and in some races by the size of the hump, by the fullness of the quarters
and the solidness, as opposed to the scragginess, of the neck. The camel
can do without water for days but not without food; moreover he is a fastidious
feeder. Some but not all, camels eat grain; when they are not used to it
and there is no other fodder, a mash or porridge of soaked and pounded grain
is a good way of giving it as it can be poured down the animal's throat out
of a skin. Dry straw is better than no food; the animal must have something
on which to chew the cud. When animals are exhausted by hard marching and
the choice comes of an extra day without water or a stop for pasture choose
always the latter. In cold weather, and especially when green food is available
camels can work, i.e. march loaded, for ten to fourteen days without wanting
to drink. In hot weather camels should drink every fourth day for the sake
of condition. When the weather or work is very tiring every third day is
not too frequent for water unless a long waterless journey is contemplated,
when they should be worked up to the maximum, gradually if possible. Before
a long crossing between watering points keep camels away from water so that
when they are watered before starting they drink until they cannot put another
pint inside them.
Camels are delicate. They require constant care.
Always take the advice of your camel man about food, water, and conditions.
This is a hard rule because, unless the traveller has very reliable men or
much personal experience, he is liable to be put upon. Disregard of advice
however may lead to the loss of camels or the breakdown of the expedition.
It is a difficult problem and bound up with the question of whether camels
should be hired or bought by the traveller. If he has experience of camels
and desert travel generally I would not hesitate to advise purchase. However
bad the price on re sale may be, purchase is nearly always cheaper than hire.
On the other hand, unless the traveller has good men with him as well as
personal knowledge of camels his beasts may be badly looked after, deteriorate
and even die wholesale in conditions where hired camels would survive. Let
it be a good rule, where the traveller owns his own camels or any other sort
of animal transport, always to attend when the beasts are being watered and
to go the rounds frequently to deal with sores, sickness, etc. For primitive
veterinary attention, permanganate and corrosive sublimate are the best disinfectants.
With plenty of tow or the equivalent, a pair of strong surgical scissors
and a surgical knife, wonders can be done. For diseases it is probably best,
unless the traveller has some experience or veterinary training, to follow
native advice. Even the most apparently curious native remedies have something
in them. It is mainly on disinfectants that they are inclined to be weak
Of riding saddles there are two sorts, the sort
where the rider sits on a hump in a cradle or seat and the sort where a rider
sits on a seat on the withers. The former are heavier, softer, and probably
easier to ride on; the latter are lighter, more restful, but more difficult
at first to sit. The sorts are the subject of much dispute between Europeans
and natives. No advice can be given; experience alone can give the traveller
judgment. The camel is steered with the feet, sometimes in conjunction with
a stick for tapping him on the shoulders, and with a single bridle, either
in the form of line attached to a nose ring or nose peg or in the form of
a rope attached to head collar or halter. No camel can be properly ridden
in boots; where the saddle is on the withers the rider's feet are on the
camel's neck and a prehensile toe is desirable to grasp the cords of the
neck. When the rider's seat is on the hump his legs are crossed on the shoulders
in front of the withers; in either event steering the camel is carried out
as in horsemanship by appropriate "aids" applied with legs or feet.
The strength of a camel is in his fore limbs.
His quarters are weak. The breast pad on which the sitting camel rests and
bears his load is, roughly speaking, under the withers. The camel's load
is carried forward. Where there are two girths, of the two baggage load lines
the forward ones in each case do the work; the hinder ones are for balance
The best type is probably the one which the local
native knows best, can make and can mend. For large expeditions a local factory
can be set up and perhaps some improvements effected on the local type in
the way of strengthening, ironwork, etc. For ordinary or small expeditions
the best native pack saddle is better than the European and nearly always
lighter; moreover the native can mend it but cannot do much with the European
sorts. But of types of saddle this is no place to advise, since they vary
from place to place and are a very provocative subject among travellers.
Every race of camel man has a different type of saddle and method of loading.
Native rope is usually pretty bad unless made of
certain sorts of date-palm fibre. European rope, plaited not twisted, in
ample supply may be a luxury but is also a solace to the traveller and his
temper. Nevertheless, it is expensive, not essential, and needs careful watching,
since in a large caravan it tends to evaporate. Nearly everywhere the native
camel driver, whether hired with his camels or by the traveller to look after
the traveller's camels, is supposed to make or provide his own rope wherever
material is available, though the owner may have to buy the raw material.
Throughout equatorial Africa the Kabba hyphene the baica-palm provides the
raw material gratis. In these areas the camel man is supposed to spend his
spare time making rope. But the traveller is sure to traverse areas where
no rope can be made, for lack of material, and for these areas European rope--even
if only a reserve supply--is invaluable since the local native rope wears
quickly. A good rope for wells is also invaluable; there is nothing more
depressing than hearing the only frayed and knotted native well-rope part
near the top and fall into the water with the bucket attached.
In desert travel packages must be of sufficient
size. For porters, packages exceeding 50 lb. in weight are inconvenient,
tiring and in many countries prohibited: a parcel of 100 lb. or more becomes
almost unmanageable. But for camel work the weight of packages should for
choice be of about too lb. in weight and of convenient size. A camel's load
varies between 250 lb. and 600 lb. for some exceptionally sturdy races. In
the absence of reliable data the traveller should not reckon on more than
300 lb. per camel. Nearly all camels can carry more than 300 lb., certainly,
but by the time water, a camel driver, and all the spare items, which the
traveller has accumulated but forgotten to account for, are loaded, the weights
will probably be fully up to the limit. A camel can be overloaded for a few
days but not for a few months or even a few weeks on end. The same applies
to donkeys, mules, horses, men, yaks, Llamas, and, I expect, elephants. It
certainly also applies to motor cars.
A suitable camel load consists of two 100
lb cases with two water skins slung one below each case. A good camel can
also carry a driver on top of this load for part of the day. The loads are
slung with two rope slings connecting the cases. The forward sling is tight
and the forward ends of the cases are carried higher than the hinder ends.
Rope camel nets should be provided for small
packages. They are also good for misshapen round packages and bedding.
The question of hobbling, grazing, roping or not
roping camels and other transport animals varies so much from place to place
and with the marching timetable that no rules can be laid down. The problem
has no ideal solution; every compromise depends on actual circumstances.
I have always preferred one long march to two stages a day, but then I do
not much mind the strong sun of African noonday. Most African travellers
seem to prefer the two-stage system, which however means more fatigue for
native and camel and, generally speaking, under-nourishment for the camels
as well, since they will not eat under the blazing midday sun or immediately
after tiring marches.
I prefer the very early start before dawn
and a march of up to ten to fourteen hours and then a rest in the late afternoon
and night. The camels get in some grazing in the cool evening and usually
also a little more for an hour or so before starting. Francis
The panel below appears on all pages. It will
allow you to return to this Home Page, place an Order for map products, or
leave an enquiry or message to The Map Shop staff.
Last updated 3 Oct 01
©2003 The Map Shop This applies
to all graphics and text; except for those images where appropriate copyright
ownership is acknowledged.