ARM­CHAIR TRAV­ELLER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

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.

DEALS OF THE WEEK

Now Rio de Janiero is to be an Olympic city, LAN has su­per deals on re­turn flights form Syd­ney or Mel­bourne. Scan­di­na­vian Air­lines has win­ter in Copen­hagen spe­cials. Early sum­mer deals on ac­com­mo­da­tion in Noosa, Queens­land. Th­ese and other money-sav­ing of­fers are fea­tured in

hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily: www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel/dd

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