An Aussie Character piece in Australian Traveller Magazine about Eddie the Camel Man… Got a question about our fascinating ships of the desert? Just ask Eddie. He may, with some coaxing, even show you his favourite camel recipe . . . By Danielle Lancaster.
Whoever was in charge of the sunrise dial had it turned right up. Predawn light bathed the unspoilt sands of Rules Beach in muted oranges as the surf pounded the shore. Nearby a solitary seagull strolled casually, picking and pecking the cleanly washed sand. We knew then we’d taken the right advice to escape the crowds by setting up camp under the shady coastal she-oaks at the mouth of Queensland’s Baffle Creek, one of Australia’s largest estuaries, 105km north of Bundaberg.
Streams of light spewed across the sky as a moving black object much further down the beach caught our interest. Our dream of having this deserted beach to ourselves was broken. As the speck grew larger, so did our eyes. “Whoa!” the man called out. And with another command, inaudible against the salty wind and breaking surf, his companions Acacia and Mimosa – two large camels – sank to the sand. This was how we met Eddie the Camel Man, a self-confessed wag, staunch camel activist, colourful character and slightly eccentric tourism operator who you won’t find mentioned in any of the “must see and do” lists of Australia’s glossy tourism brochures.
“Brilliant, ain’t it?” Eddie asked us, nodding towards the horizon. “I call it paradise,” he said, securing his old felt hat firmly on his head and inhaling long and deep the heavily salted air. “Lightning storms are the best. I saw four arcs at once, all glowing green – bloody brilliant, mate.”
Almost unnoticed, the dawn slipped into day as we laughed and yarned with Eddie. It became immediately evident that he’s a walking, talking encyclopaedia on these ships of the desert. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out his wallet and handed over a worn piece of paper. “This may be of use to you if you’re camping, though don’t come looking for the meat at my place,” said Eddie. The scrap of paper, entitled “Eddies Favourite Camel Recipe”, was guaranteed to feed from 30 to 100 hungry souls. All you need is one medium sized camel, one large whole lamb, 20 chickens, 60 eggs, two kilos of almonds and 12 kilos of rice! We assured Eddie our camp oven definitely wasn’t big enough to prepare such a delicacy.
“They’re very emotional animals,” explains Eddie. “Each one has its own personality and they’re completely misunderstood. Maybe it’s because of their size and the loads of codswallop most people think is fact. Did you know it’s only the male camels that spit and drool? The females are very affectionate and love a pat.” He reaches back and gives one a rub. “Mimosa here cried for three days after one of her calves died. Real tears and all.”
With a toss of his head, Eddie continues his unstinting pro-camel soliloquy. “Much of our interior would never have been opened as quickly as what it was without the camel and the hard-working Afghan cameleers. And then there’s their role in WWI. The Imperial Camel Corps fought gallantly to deal with the revolt from the pro-Turkish Senussi tribesmen across Egypt’s western desert, yet we never hear much about that.
“Environmentally they’re worth a mint. They eat out Prickly Acacia, a weed devastating northern Australia, and camel poo, well, not only will the steam off it keep you as warm as toast, you won’t be bitten by a bloody mozzie the whole night!”
We were captivated. Eddie unleashed story after story, each more intriguing than the last, from his own illustrious life as a nomad to camel etiquette and everything in between. “I’ve been here 19 years,” he says with a mischievous grin. “And, of course, I’ve got a patch of dirt over the back there called Camelot.”
He’s no Sir Lancelot. He wears not an ounce of shining armour, relying instead on humour for protection. With a tip of the hat, he bids us goodbye. “Hey, don’t forget now,” he chuckles. “You keep on humping.”
* For more info on Eddie the Camel Man, aka Eddie Boardman, call (07) 4156 6267 or 0448 626 665. Although we were lucky enough to meet Eddie on the beach, it’s best to ring first to organise a camel ride as Eddie still travels to a few shows with his camels. Rides start from $25, which includes a good old yarn and plenty of free camel trivia.