Adventure tripRead
Author: Hanno Meier
Pictures: R. Jungheim, H. Degenhardt, B. Geiger

Three friends, four camels, opium and tea

The plan: three friends, four camels and a 7,000 kilometer trek from Iran to Mongolia. Benni, Henning and Ravi have already spent eight days traveling from Augsburg to Tehran. Before their journey can finally begin, they still need a suitable means of transport. Time to buy some camels!

The camels of Rudbar are well known as the opium smugglers’ preferred beasts of burden. They are well trained, reliable and (usually) extremely gentle. “Theyre perfect for your plan,” their Iranian contact Iman had told them. “As a camel enthusiast, he was excited about our idea right away. He would have loved to join us,” Henning recalled. He wrote in his travel journal: “We are staying with Iman’s family in Kahnuj, the nearest town.” Rudbar and the other surrounding villages are too dangerous to spend the night in, let alone pitch a tent. Iman’s brother-in-law, Yaqub, and his family gave them a warm welcome and a tasty meal. The children wanted to play with them, and at night, the adults lit the hookah. “We are loving Iranian hospitality,” Benni noted. He is a mechanical engineer in real life.

At dawn, their quest for camels began. In the surrounding villages, the selection was more limited than expected. Benni, Henning and Ravi were looking for three female riding camels, because bulls are difficult to handle during the winter mating season. Nevertheless, the Iranians mostly ride the bulls. They are more powerful and can be controlled well enough with the nose peg, they say. Female camels are primarily used for breeding and milk.  

“We hoped to find gentle animals who had not had any particularly bad experiences with humans yet. Maybe we can even control them without nose pegs,” the three Swabians thought optimistically. But when they met the first camel trader, they were quickly brought back to reality: his camels were anxious, nervous creatures that wanted to run away from the German adventurers. The trader reassured them that the camels were only anxious because they had recently been covered by a bull. “We don’t trust this situation”, Henning noted.

As they move on, it becomes warmer and more arid. While the desert should be the ideal place to find camels, the three were worried about their chances of finding suitable animals. They drank a lot of tea, were offered meals and opium, declined with thanks. All they wanted is to find some camels and head out into nature. 

Three days of searching and negotiating later, they finally had three seemingly gentle camels to call their own. Benni, Henning and Ravi name them after the three women who helped them plan their trip: Gabi, Dagmar and Bianca.  

“Gabi is a very relaxed camel. She is heavily pregnant and will probably give birth during our journey,” Henning wrote in his travel journal. “Daggie (Dagmar) is a bit older and quite slight. An excellent riding camel that is easy to ride without much work. She seems a bit spaced out sometimes, though. Bibi (Bianca) is a spring chicken, she’s only four. She’s got tons of energy.” 

Good news. Their caravan was finally ready, but there was trouble up ahead… 

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