Few things get me out of bed at 4.30am. But as the sun unfurls across the purple sky to reveal the deep red of the desert dirt, I have to admit it is worth the early start. To my right towers the mighty monolith Uluru, or Ayers Rock; to my left, the sci-fi bulbs of Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas.
Beneath me, my camel rocks me gently from side to side as he steps through the scrub, swinging his long jaw sideways to catch a mouthful of greenery, which he mashes slowly between yellow, crooked teeth. We pause on an ochre sand dune to soak in the atmosphere; it’s peaceful, relaxing and there is no other trace of human life in sight. My ride shifts beneath me, still chewing contentedly as the splash of his hot piss interrupts my reverie drawing a black squiggle in the red sand. The golden camel behind us, nudges my hip with his giant nostrils, his long purple tongue shooting out and scratching against my arm as he blinks from beneath layers of long black eyelashes.
High up above the scrub, the unhindered view makes this the perfect spot to appreciate Australia’s most famous natural landmark. Surrounded by nature, riders can contemplate the region’s rich spiritual significance to its Anangu people who have a strong affinity with flora and fauna.
Today, dromedary camels are considered a near native of the Australian desert, having roamed the Outback for over 170 years. The first camels were brought out from the Middle East to help with the exploration of Australia from 1860. Able to carry tremendous weight and last long periods without food or water, their contribution to the discovery of the interior was considered invaluable. Since then camels have thrived and now there are over a million roaming wild in the arid regions of Australia, from the Simpson Desert to the Great Victorian Desert. More rainfall, more plants to eat and more space to roam than in their natural habitats has meant optimum feeding and breeding conditions for the humped animals.
Back at the farm, my new humped friend nibbles straw from my hand, lashes fluttering playfully. But for now, all I can really think about right now is getting back to bed.