DNA Magazine - - TRAVEL -

As the sun sets on Uluru, drink and dine be­neath the stars at the Sounds Of Si­lence din­ner af­ter ar­riv­ing in the most iconic way – by camel. Along the way, the cameleer guides at Uluru Camel Tours will tell you all about the flora, fauna, and their herd of friendly drom­e­daries. When­ever the farm needs an­other for the sta­ble, they go out and cap­ture one.

Camels were first in­tro­duced to Aus­tralia in 1840. That year, a sole sur­vivor from an or­der of nine ar­rived from Tener­ife in the Ca­nary Is­lands. Camels soon be­came in­stru­men­tal in car­ry­ing goods across the con­ti­nent. They could take desert heat and heavy loads with lit­tle wa­ter and travel into re­gions where rail­ways did not reach.

The first cameleers were called Afghans, though these la­bor­ers most likely orig­i­nated from what is now western Pak­istan. Camel teams con­sisted of 70 camels and four Afghans who were ex­cel­lent at load­ing packs and trav­elled up to 40km per day un­der the re­lent­less sun. A large camel could carry up to 600kg, but the record be­longs to one im­mense bull who was loaded and stood with 1,500kgs on its back. The camel took three steps, col­lapsed and died, but the owner won the bet. Or so the story goes...

As re­liance on pack camels de­clined in the 1920s, so did the Afghans’ im­por­tance and they dis­ap­peared – most re­turn­ing to their an­ces­tral home­lands. But first, they set their camels free.

They are now con­sid­ered a feral pest and a con­tro­ver­sial na­tional camel cull re­cently spent $19 mil­lion to erad­i­cate 160,000 of them. To­day, an es­ti­mated 200,000 wild camels still roam the Aus­tralian Out­back.

more: Ulu­ru­camel­

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