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The loneliness of the long distance lunch mule

While trekking with a private camp in the Atlas Mountains, it's the lunch mule that's the unsung hero.

There seemed to be a kinship among our four camels.  They walked in each other’s footsteps, nosing against the next one’s tail and releasing their low resonant rumblings in companiable unison. 

Each evening, when their panniers were heaved from their backs, they loped off in their langorous gait, together, and grazed until nightfall when they made their way back to the security of our little camp and remained there untethered.

Our mule however walked alone.  He did not share in carrying our camp each day or walk with the camels.  His ungainly load was made up of two soft mattresses, stools, our mess tent and all the paraphernalia for our daily cooked lunch. 

An hour before lunch he and his muleteer and our cook would gather pace and disappear in the fold of a valley.  When we arrived at the lunch spot, beside a stream or under the shade of a walnut grove, a small camp was laid out and the smell of spices and barbequed lamb scented the air. 

Mattresses were laid in the shade, the stools and table, so precariously attached to the mule, were set up under the white mess tent and a silver water jug and bowl were ready to wash the dust of the Atlas from our hands. 

Berber lunch is something to enjoy and indulge in, delicious meals were produced from the kitchen on the mule, vegetable couscous, delicately spiced lamb on skewers, flat breads and bowls of olives. 

We lay in the sunshine after lunches, watching the eagles soaring the thermals above us and picking the sweet scented herbs that grow in profusion on these hillsides.

Then patiently our mule stood as he was loaded once again as we left to walk on, feeling the small sense of unease that our day seemed so utterly free of the usual chores of camping. 

Before long we heard him trotting behind us and then deftly moving past on the narrow paths. As we walked into camp as the evening drew in, there he grazed, alone, while the camels communed in the last rays of the sun.

Read about trekking in the Atlas Mountains, more about the luxury desert camp and also the desert light mobile camp. 

Posted by: Alex

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