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Big Trip Blog Bigtripblog is a multimedia travel experience capturing the adventures of Kevin and Valerie during their one year trip around the world.

The Camel Cup

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 15 July 2007 | Views [7804] | Comments [1]

Kevin: Luck had it that our arrival in Alice Springs for our (free!) one week trek around Uluru from Intrepid Travel coincided with the annual Camel Cup. Once we noticed this good fortune, it was an easy decision to make; we would become camel racing fans for the day. Or maybe a lifetime, depending on how the event struck us.

The Camel Cup is an Alice Springs tradition, dating back to the 1970's when two locals made a friendly wager about whose camel would win in a race. Over time it became larger and larger, and is now a sponsored event, drawing riders from several countries. Supposedly there was even a "professional" camel racer from Japan, although I'm not sure how large the international camel racing circuit is.

It's more of a carnival or festival than a pure camel race, as there's all sorts of booths and food vendors set up, and they have events for children and spectators alike. Teams of four could compete in a wild rickshaw race, with the winners taking home $100. All of the events are presided over by a group of VIP "sheiks," dressed appropriately (or inappropriately, depending on your perspective) from the sponsors area.

But the main event, of course, was the camel racing. Each race had about six or seven camels, with inventive names like Flicker, Crazy Mazy, and Walter, ridden by a camel jockey with wildly varying levels of experience. The start position for the camels is down on the ground, feet folded under. If you've ever ridden a camel before, or just been around them, you'll know that they can be very stubborn and temperamental. Just getting them to all line up and sit down can take a while. Apparently they've been known to bite and spit at the starting line, though we didn't see any unsportsmanlike conduct.

Once the race begins, it's anybody's guess as to what will happen. Some races are close and exciting, with everyone pointed in the right direction. At full gallop the camels are pretty fast, but hanging on looks like it's a real challenge. Most races, however, see a spill or two and have at least one camel going in the wrong direction. The entire spectacle was enlivened by the two "camel callers," as they referred to themselves, commentating live from a booth near the start.

I'm sure it's not the only camel race in the world, but it has to be one of the most fun. I'll certainly be looking into camel racing venues when I get back home.

Tags: ambassador van, culture



Did you have a flutter at the races? Hope it was a big win day.

  crustyadventures Jul 16, 2007 11:15 AM

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