The final episode in a stunning series devoted to India’s holiest river. As it tips towards the sea, the Ganges is joined by its mightiest tributary, the Brahmaputra, to create the world’s largest delta. Sunday, 7.30pm, ABC1.
A dramatic excavation in Wiltshire reveals the grave of a Bronze Age archer and more than 100 intriguing objects. Monday, 7.30pm, History Channel. Susan Kurosawa
For a split second I’ve no idea what to do. Deep down, I never really expected even this much to work. And then I remember that this is the moment when the second bloke is supposed to be at hand, roping the camel’s head. Before the brown can gather his wits or my conscious mind can assess it too much, I launch myself on to the camel’s side.
In a stumbling run that keeps the animal off balance and on the ground, I make it to the neck in three clumsy lunges. I throw myself down over the neck and head and, just as he is finding his rear legs and going for the escape, I pull the slipknot from my wrist and get it right over his snout, wrapping the other end over the top of his head. It’s tight in seconds. Although the brown is now on his feet, pulling and squealing, he has nowhere to go. In moments the rope is tighter and more secure and I get him back on the ground and knee-rope him.
I grab one of the other ropes from the dishevelled baggage, make a mouth rope out of it and get it in his mouth. Despite the knee rope preventing him from going far, I am angry and pumping adrenalin at the end of it all. I’m squatting 50cm from his nose, holding both ropes tightly and forcing his head to the earth.
His eyes roll and he snorts and squirms beneath the restraints. We eyeball each other, but I have won this stand-off and we both know it. I may be trembling just as much as he. But I won.
I hold the ropes tightly and continue staring at that animal until at last my breathing calms and I feel the mad, trembling strength subside and the weakness come. Then I collapse on my backside and shake my head dumbly. The moon is on the wane and has risen late, but I can see enough so the tracks and signs of our recent skirmish are plain in the sand. I wish I had my camera so I could photograph them. I want some record of this night, of this memory, because already I can’t believe it has happened, that I did this.
I remember every motion of my body with spellbinding clarity, yet I remember the camel as nothing more than a squirming blur beneath me. The whole struggle could have taken no more than 10 seconds, from the leap until the final mouth rope. It feels like it was an eternity.
I stand up and rearrange the baggage. My soft bag, thank god, is still hanging on, and still contains the money and passport. Very little besides the couple of pieces I found on the way— a bag of rice, some flour — have been dislodged [from the panniers]. Despite being unbalanced, the kit is remarkably stable. I adjust it all and retie it. Then I pick up a big, solid stick, untie the knee rope and hold on tightly as the brown scrambles to his feet and fights me for a moment.
I clout him over the head until he subsides into groaning mutiny, and we begin the long walk home. It is close to dawn when I crest the dune where I left the camels. According to my GPS, I’ve done a round trip of nearly 40km. My exhaustion nearly turns into tearful relief when I see not only the camels, right where I left them, but the young bloke from a couple of days ago, sitting patiently by their side.
He rises and rushes eagerly to meet me. This is an edited extract from
by Paula Constant (Bantam Australia, $34.95); www.constanttrek.com. Susan Kurosawa’s column is on holiday.
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