Day 159: Riding Camels in the Outback

Don’t get used to seeing two posts a day. This too will pass.

However, for now, enjoy this evening’s activity… camel riding with Pyndan Camel Tracks and bless ’em, they are one of a rare breed of tour company that not only accepts solo bookings but goes ahead when you are the only one on the tour – the camels need a walk regardless of number of riders.

Annalise picked me up from the hostel and drove me out to the camel farm where we took four of the camels for a stroll through the Outback.

With Pixie leading the way and Saleh bringing up the rear, I was seated on Good Boy who calmly ignored Saleh rubbing his nose on his saddle.

When he wasn’t rubbing his nose on Good Boy’s saddle, he was using my leg. I was very glad I wore trousers.

Annalise told me a little about the history of camels in Australia, the first one arriving in 1840 to support the inland exploration of the deserts.

Horses were utterly unsuited and unable to cope in the conditions. The introduction of camels allowed the interior of the country to be opened up by the Europeans.

Australia’s first major inland expedition to use camels as a main form of transport was the Burke and Wills expedition in 1860.

The Victorian Government imported 24 camels for the expedition. The first cameleers arrived on 9 June 1860 at Port Melbourne from Karachi becaue, as described by the Victorian Exploration Expedition Committee, “the camels would be comparatively useless unless accompanied by their native drivers”.

From the 1860s small groups of cameleers were shipped in and out of Australia at three-year intervals, to service South Australia’s inland rural industry.

Carting goods and transporting wool bales by camel was a lucrative livelihood for them. As their knowledge of the Australian outback and economy increased, the cameleers began their own businesses, importing and running camel trains.

By 1890 the camel business was dominated by the mostly Muslim merchants and brokers, commonly referred to as “Afghans” or “Ghans“, despite their origin often being British India, as well as Afghanistan and Egypt and Turkey.

At least 15,000 camels with their handlers are estimated to have come to Australia between 1870 and 1900.

Camel studs were set up in 1866 at Beltana and Umberatana Stations in South Australia. There was also a government stud camel farm at Londonderry, near Coolgardie in Western Australia, established in 1894.

Camels continued to be used for inland exploration by Peter Warburton in 1873.

They were also used in the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line, and carried pipe sections for the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme.

Readers may also remember that they were used to construct The Ghan from Adelaide to Alice Springs as well as serving as transport.

The introduction of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 and the White Australia policy made it more difficult for cameleers to enter Australia – in fact it forced the ones already here to leave, with instructions to shoot their camels on the way out.

With the departure of many cameleers in the early 20th century, and the introduction of motorised transportation in the 1920s and 1930s, some cameleers released their camels into the wild. Well suited to the arid conditions of Central Australia, these camels became the source for the large population of wild camels still existing today.

In fact, Australia has the only wild camels in the world but with drought conditions forcing many of the animals into towns in search of water,a culling policy is being implemented.

Good Boy

Camels are creatures of habit. The Pyndan Camels go for a walk every evening so even though I was the only booking, I might as well have joined the gang.

They’re also used to a certain order for walking and a specific number on the train – any less than three behind her and Pixie starts looking for a lost comrade.

Saleh is reliable and sturdy but always brings up the rear – he’s not a leader.

Saleh – bringing up the rear.
Categories: Australia, Nature/Landscapes, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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