In my last post, I shared how I had decided to leave walking the west coast of Europe to join an expedition called Steppes to the West. It was a meeting of creativity between Karl Bushby, another globe-trotting walker and Baigalmaa Baikal, a mongolian girl with a dream to take camels across the ancient Silk Road. I had walked across Mongolia in the earlier part of my journey but I felt strongly about going back, as part of a team, to support Baikals dream and return to a place (and almost the exact route I had walked) that would challenge me in every way- a place that helped me discover my greatest strength. And a place that once terrified me.
I just gave a TEDx talk about it in Edinburgh. The video has yet to be released. And honestly, I may need friends to watch it and give me feedback. When asked if it went well, all I know is that I managed to remember my ten minute dialogue. But I was trembling and don't recall much of the experience itself.
Now that we had humans onboard, we needed to learn more about how to work with our camels. I had found Russell and Tara with Australian Camels and loved their techniques of training and working with camels. Luckily, with all the sponsorship proposals they receive, Tara managed to hear my plea for help. Although we had gone through a few Mongolian herders, I had noticed neglect that was painful and disturbing to me. (note: it was not so much about Mongolian tradition as it was the herders themselves.)
Russell and Tara assembled a small group of camel lovers that came out to help us train our furry friends and we all fell in love (with camels and each other.)
I seriously believe in what Tara and Russell are teaching. It's gentle, loving, and respectful. I watched as Russell had Shamrock, our most nervous, mouth-foaming and anti-human camel nose-to-nose in a face cuddle within two days. I know it might sound cliche but Russell truly is the camel whisperer!
And all this was done mostly in snow blizzards!
Now, the update is that STTW is a new project. All the team members have left except for Baikal, the mongolian who held the dream of taking camels across the silk road. I wish her all the best as she continues her journey.
I will refrain from mentioning all the reasons I left the expedition but I will say that all the team members, including our sponsors, Australian Camels, have completely pulled away from STTW. And what hurst us all the most, was leaving the camels.
I made a best friend on that trip. He was over seven feet tall. His fur smelled of the smoke that came from the gers (yurt) chimney. I could hum a song from a distance and his ears always found my lips.
But It all started with pain.
While I was looking after the camels early in the expedition before any training had taken place, I noticed one of our camels was caught with his guide line wrapped around his nose peg and left leg. (another important note- without going into details, it's important to say that the nose pegs were a major discrepancy and point of argument throughout the entire expedition. And was a major factor in my leaving the expedition as well as other members and AC).
I ran quickly to the camel and saw a pool of blood as the nose peg was cutting into his septum. His front leg was wrapped by his guide line- I could hear a gentle moaning- and with a desire to end it as quickly as possible- I used my knife to cut his guide line.
We both stood stunned for a few minutes.
he leaned his head towards me. I cautiously began petting him between the ears, thinking he must be terrified himself, but he kept leaning his whole body into me as if it comforted him. Or perhaps he knew it calmed me as well. I slowly assembled a new rope on his harness without any use of his nose peg.. I sang "Blackbird" as I petted him and melded into his chinny chin fur.
We were companions from then on. I had fallen in love with Harley (his name) and became a camel lover.