Jeremy Curl is a record-breaking explorer and photographer who has crossed the Kaisuit and Koroli deserts. In 2008 he traversed 2000km across the Sahara using camels with the Touareg tribes. Here he shares his advice on purchasing camels for a desert expedition.
How to Buy a Camel
By Jeremy Curl
How to find them…
Ask around. The livestock market is always the best place to start. This will be almost always on the outside of the town or village. Some are everyday, others are one day a week, so find out. You will be approached immediately, as you will undoubtedly look foreign, and expensive offers of a camel will follow. It’s a good idea to bring someone local you trust with you to help you and if possible, who can act on your behalf with bartering: they will know if you are getting your money’s worth and the price will almost certainly be lower for them.
What to look for…
If you are using your camel for a desert journey, strength is key. It will have to carry loads and/or you and if your camel is not used to work or is weak then this could pose a serious danger. Ask to see it stand and sit down again. The knees are important, so check for any trembling in the legs, a sure sign of a weak camel. Their rising and sitting should be smooth, it should walk without a limp and the camel must be obedient. It goes almost without saying that a disobedient camel would spell trouble for you later. Check for any open sores and have a look at the pads on the underside of its feet, these should be without wounds. Also see that the camel can accept a rope through its nose or around its face and that it does not make too much of a fuss. Crucially this is to check whether it is a biter. Ask the camel’s age. Four to eight is ideal, as it will be experienced enough but too old.
The cost of a camel can vary dramatically depending on where it is bought, its size, its age and the conditions at the time (drought etc). A goodish camel at a time of plenty could go for £150, whereas a large camel in an area without many can be £1000 or more. When planning your expedition, try not to buy your camel(s) in an area
where camel is commonly eaten. This will push up the value. Lastly, remember there is no fixed price: barter like mad. This could well take days to get the price you want.
What else will you need…?
If you are riding, you’ll need a saddle. A camel stick is useful too. You’ll need rope to lead it with and to hobble it when you are letting it graze. You will also need some blankets to act as a cushion between its back and the saddle. If you are using it to carry loads you will need more rope and strong sacks. Ask the camel seller if he can throw in any rope as this will save you trying to find it later. If you are going across desert that offers absolutely no grazing, then you must bring food for the camel, and the poor camel will have to carry this too. Camels will eat almost anything but hay is fine. Unlike their water situation, they must eat everyday so be sure to bring enough.
What to do when you’re finished…
Try and sell it at an aforementioned livestock market. Again, barter hard as after a long desert journey they will try to take it off you cheaply. Make sure it has been well watered and well fed hours before selling: It will look noticeably larger. If you cannot find anyone to buy your camel(s), approach butchers. This may seem heartless, given that this animal has endured with you on your desert expedition, but they are expensive and to recoup some of your money a butcher’s is always a safe bet.
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