There we were sitting in the shade of an Acacia and the silence of the desert, enjoying lunch as the sun heated the land to 42°. Imperceptibly at first, the silence was accompanied by what may have been the sound of a motorbike. After a few minutes it was definitely so as the sound drew closer. The bike stopped at the junction where we had turned off the main track and after a minute or two began to head up towards us.
A turbaned Moroccan hove into view and he stopped his motorbike beside where we sat and began the usual greetings which always last a minute or two. He spoke no French so in sign language he attempted to tell us something and it took us a few minutes to work out what the problem was. We started at “his motorbike had a puncture” which did not seem correct as the bike’s tyres looked perfectly set for the track that were on. He did have one word which seemed to be French and it sounded something like “Chamaux”, which with the accompanying gestures indicated that a “Chamaux” need pulling. At last the penny dropped; perhaps a camel was stuck in the mud of the Oued Draa. Indeed that could be a very plausible problem as the winter rains had been and even though the temperature was in the low forties there would still be glutinous pools of mud that would suck any animal into its mire.
I used my Arabic to let him know that we would follow. We soon had our chairs and remains of lunch packed away and with his motorbike leading the way we set off back down to the track. After about a mile he turned off onto a faint track that lead towards the river and an area of tall trees which suggested water was the norm here for a least a good part of the year. As the track dropped down into the riverbed we could see an area of dark mud with a camel stuck up to its belly at the far end.
I worked the Range Rover round to an area of stone and got into a position so that we could effect the rescue. You could see where the camel herder had tried to remove some of the mud to free the camel, but to no avail and we could see that he had given the Camel some branches from the nearby trees so that hunger would not be a problem. We later found out that the beast had been stuck for three days.
The camel herder squelched into the mud and aided by Gerry (one of the Impala Support) they positioned a couple of ropes around the camel’s shoulders and hips to give me somewhere to attach the winch. The camel was not sure about the ropes and the herder had to keep pushing her head away as she kept trying to bite him. Carefully we pulled the camel free. It took a little time as the mud did not want to release its captive but inch by inch and with the herder making sure that the camel’s legs were freed we had our prize back on dry land, looking somewhat bemused it must be said.
We spent some time getting the ropes free and insuring that the camel was sitting up correctly so that when she had the strength and inclination to get up, she would be able to.