bactrian camel training Mongolia

5 Challenges of Mongolian Camel Journey

Procrastination is a human vice we all have. We’ve been procrastinating writing about our recent trip to Mongolia with 13 other people joining this adventurous (crazy) idea. Not because we don’t want to share, but because sooooo much happened within the seven days while we were there that’s it’s a little overwhelming which makes us not quite sure where to start, not to mention that we’re still ‘digesting’ what just happened! What’s the answer to our woes? One would think, start form the beginning, but we’re leaning towards starting at the first things that pops into our head when we think about our recent Mongolia Camel Journey. So… Here we go…. The raw and fresh perspective (only being back for just over a week)…

Mongolian Camel Journey bactrian camels mongolia

Challenging.
This ‘gig’ was definitely one of the most challenging things we’ve done since our company started five years ago. We’re not going to romanticise it – what’s the fun in that!?

There’s something you should know about us… We THRIVE off challenges. They are one of our favourite things and the ultimate in personal development as well as our professional development. Let’s put this into perspective shall we: We were approached by the Steppes To The West expedition team after they had their camels for a month or so (in Mongolia), purchased by one of their main supporters (Westward Productions). They were not getting the results they needed to start their 12,000km journey from Mongolia to London (yep, you read that right) and felt they needed professional support and training. For reasons unbeknown to us – we believed in what they were doing. To put that into perspective, almost every other day we get emails from people asking us to ‘sponsor them’ in their camel expedition idea, train them (usually for free) or give them some camels (again, for free) and… usually in a very small space of time. The STTW people were already invested and we could see and hear their frustrations. We felt we couldn’t pass up on this epic opportunity – whatever that opportunity was at the time, we weren’t too sure. Many Skype consultations and conversations later with the STTW expedition team, and scepticism on both sides, we put forth a random idea to really make something of ‘this’ ordeal – we’re opportunist after all. So, why don’t we invite some of our ‘community’ and make a proper Camel Training Camp out of it that way all the ten camels can build trust and bond with their own ‘human’? We KNEW that people (you know who you are) would jump at this opportunity as much as we did (birds of the feather flock together)! Truthfully, we could have booked it out twice. Sadly we were knocking people back on this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Tara Lea Russell Osborne Camel Training Mongolia
(Tara & Russell) Loving the challenge set before us – even the camel (Shamrock) is happy we’re there!

5 Challenges of Mongolian Camel Journey

Challenge #1, which we chose to accept, was to teach, support and train 13 ‘freshman’ cameleers on how to train camels through our Camel Connection Trust Based Camel Training™ – in four days… AND get ten bactrian camels into expedition/trekking mode – in three days. PLUS, try to teach everything we know about camels, expedition and everything else in between to the Steppes To The West expedition team members – in… seven days. Training the people/camels by day, by night we were still teaching as much as we could with mini-seminars, we were even teaching in our sleep – dreaming about what we need to teach next. Luckily there were some kind donations of alcoholic beverages and chocolate – without that, we might have failed!?

But, it wasn’t all serious (just in case you were thinking it was)! What’s a camel training camp without every second line of speech being a direct or in-direct joke? Rest assured our points were taken and being implemented amongst lots of laughter of how “Australian” we are.

Without sounding like know-it-alls, from the beginning we knew we could execute this massive undertaking. What’s that saying… “…If you think you can you will, if you think you can’t you won’t”. We recall a conversation over Skype from the Australian Camels HQ (us) to the Steppes To The West team in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia ending in us saying “we’re 100% positive that our training will work for you and your bactrian camels!”

Steppes To The West Camel Training
Camel Training Camp, Mongolia

Challenge #2 – We’ve NEVER worked with bactrian (two humped) camels before, but were 100% positive that our Camel Connection Trust Based Camel Training™ methods would work on these wonderful creatures – and they did! Many people have asked us during and since the trip, what’s the difference in training bactrian (two humped) and dromedary (one humped) camels…? We’re saving that for another blog post, so make sure you’re on our emailing list!

camel connection trust based camel training
No matter how many humps, all camels need connection (Russell with Shamrock and his mouth froth)

Challenge #3 – Mission ‘Find Camel Feed”. Where do we begin… We were in an unfamiliar country therefore almost everything seemed like such a challenge to obtain – like camel feed and equipment making supplies. The locals were very helpful, but seemed baffled with some of our requests basically saying those things don’t exist. We arrived during Autumn, just as everything was dying off for the harsh winters ahead, camel feed was a major concern and we all (15 of us) we’re feeling concerned about camel feed situation. Creativity and extra trips towards to city for “Mission: Find Camel Feed” were in order. To give you an idea of the people that joined us for this Mongolian Camel Journey, on the travel to camel camp and trying to translate to a driver that didn’t understand english, they somehow managed to get him to pull over and get some hay off a truck that had slid off the icy roads (very common) and paid a fair price – out of their own pockets! Seriously so grateful that we had such wonderful caring people on this journey with us. Rest assured the camels had a great feed that day and for the remaining days after (once a feed source was secure). All suggestions in our Camel Husbandry eBook we’re taken seriously and implemented immediately to make sure the camels are in excellent condition for the harsh winter ahead of them and the three month trek to the Chinese border.

camel training, camel husbandry
Camel Feed, “more please!” (photo credit: Gillian)

Challenge #4 – The Environment. We had sunshine, wind, snow and snow blizzard and…Loved it! But, it was a challenge to readjust our camel training schedule to suit the weather – after all, we were on a mission! We all remained flexible and understanding and had fun doing so. It was our first time (and I’m sure many other participants) trekking/training in the snow with camels – does it get any better than that? We were in Mongolia for a trip of a lifetime and we certainly got everything within 7 days. The camels remained our first and foremost priority throughout the entire journey and everyone else happily followed suit. We stood out in snowing weather to shepherd the camels, we asked the camels to understand us in freezing conditions when all they could think about was food and we adjusted and changed plans accordingly.

bactrian camel care camel training
Frosty humps were always so compliment under the trying circumstances

Challenge #5 – The Execution. “What the hell have we gotten ourselves into?” flooded our minds almost every other minute, but, like instant coffee (which was consumed like it was going out of fashion) we reassured ourselves that “we can do this and we ARE doing this!”. Instantly we would think about the camels and make them our focus rather than our cold toes, cultural differences, missing our kids (human and furry) and lack of chocolate (FYI, when you’re constantly cold you constantly want to eat and drink – especially chocolate and coffee). As said above, we had to remain flexible and readjust to suit either cultural or environmental circumstances… Or simply the fact that these camels have two humps when designing a harness (aka ‘spider’) for string/caravan training. By the time we left Mongolia all the camels were walking one behind the other with packs on – which was the ultimate goal for these incredible beasts that are about to embark on an epic (and deemed impossible) journey of 12,000km from the Steppes of Mongolia (in minus 30 degrees celsius) to London over a three year period. We know for a fact that the challenges we experienced in Mongolia will be nothing compared to what lies ahead for the camels and people of Steppes To The West.

Camel Training bactrian
Training camel’s for expedition in snow
Camel bactrian Training in Snow Cameleers
Camel’s and their handlers working together
Steppes To The West Camel Expedition
The completed goal – a camel string/caravan ready for expedition.

The Show Must Go On. As major sponsors of the Steppes To The West Camel Journey the team will be checking in with us along their journey asking any camel/expedition question or queries that need answering and offer them the support they need. With that said, so too will all the people that joined us for the Mongolian Camel Journey will be watching closely (on social media) the progress of ‘their camel’ [that they trained] while they were on this journey. From our Mongolian Camel Journey meant that all camels were ‘sponsored’ (and named), meaning they were given a lump sum of money to secure their feeding, health and veterinarian maintenance regime (massive “thanks” to those generous people).

Not only was ‘challenging’ the first thing that springs to mind when we think about our Mongolian Camel Journey, the running second word is… Gratitude. Gratitude to the wonderful people who joined this crazy, epic Mongolian Camel Journey and helped make the journey possible and get the Steppes To The West bactrian camels on their way to London!

Mongolian Camel Journey
The whole team that made it possible for our Mongolian Camel Journey and the Steppes To The West Expedition team

Special Thanks to Off Road Mongolia for helping organise the logistics of this trip.

Russell Osborne & Tara Lea Australian Camels

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