Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nomads and Camels - Kind of

We started teacher training this week and that seems to have taken up most of my time. Sorry for not posting in a while.

Last week was good. Friday we took a trip to Thies to exchange some money and take car of a few things. This was a good start to the weekend, but nothing compared to the rest. Saturday morning, we got up early to head out of town again, and I have to admit, I left town with a slightly different idea of the trip than was actually true.

Our friend Masar, who we hang out with at our mutual friend’s hut on the beach, is from Mauritania. He speaks at least 7 languages and has been to most countries in Africa. What does he want to do the most? Walk around the desert – he’s a nomad. He talked about it a lot, saying he planned to join some friends in Mauritania again soon.

Devin, the peace corps volunteer here, had a goal of riding a camel before he left here and had yet to accomplish this. Since I’ve never ridden a camel, this seemed like a good idea. We talked to Masar and he said he could help us take care of this.

What I thought when I left: We were going to meet some nomads, ride camels for longs ways, and see something real authentic.

What the reality was: We went to a French tourist destination and our friend Masar was the only African that didn’t work there.

Still, it was pretty cool and the weekend cost about $40. We took a few separate car rides out to this small town about 4 hours from M’boro – where I live. Then, we talked to this old man in a little grass hut and got a truck to come pick us up. We sat in back as he raced through trees and over sand dunes, unable to slow down without getting stuck in the sand. Needless to say, we moved around a bit in the back.

When we go out there, we walked a few hundred feet to the edge of a dune before we looked down the hill to see the other, 100 foot dune that our tent was in front of. Cool place. It was just like a bowl in the Rockies, but made of sand.

There were camel rides involved – but again, less than we expected. It consisted of the five of us going less than 3k with the guide leading the way at a safe pace… no camel racing anywhere along the way. This was a disappointment, but considering how uncomfortable the seat was, I guess it was ok. They were a far cry from the camel-mounted couches that Masar described himself riding on.

That night we had a great dinner and met some cool people while others played drums and danced, and then a number of people sat around the fire for a while. Me, Devin and Masar took a walk out into the desert to sit under the stars for a while. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the Milky Way before – which I feel like is not normal for my age – but I certainly got a good look that night. The only obstructions were the bats that flew overhead and sounded like distant helicopters.

To wrap the weekend up, we arranged to go back on a one horse, flat-bed cart. 40k along the beach is a bit more direct than our previous route, but three hours on a wooden cart is a bit more taxing. We had him drop us off at our friend’s house in the shore and took a swim before heading home.

We had to go to school once back in M’boro because there were still about 60 laptops to charge for the teacher training and first day of student training Monday. This took a bit but wasn’t to bad. The weekend turned out well, as all have so far. I feel a little foolish for thinking it would be so much more, but it was actually plenty – just different than intended.

1 comment:

CNewm said...

did i read a story about a desert camel ride in one of your short story collections?