Tales From Down Under: The Camel Cup

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On my recent trip to the Northern Territory in Australia I had the chance to really soak up the culture and take in a lot of what the region has to offer visitors. That included making a visit to Kakadu National Park to take in the Aboriginal artwork that adorns the rocks there and while in Darwin I had the opportunity to witness the famous (infamous?) Beer Can Regatta. But those two experiences were just the tip of the iceberg for what the NT has to offer and in the days ahead I’ll be sharing more of my experiences from the Outback.

One of the more unique events that I attended while visiting Australia was the Lasseters Camel Cup, which I wrote about this past weekend for Gadling. The Camel Cup is an annual event held in the town of Alice Springs that pits professional camel riders against one another in a series of races that are held on an oval track not unlike what you’d find horses racing on. And while the event didn’t hold the same prestige of a Triple Crown event, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the stands, where many in the crowd came dressed in their finest clothing and wildly cheered on the riders – and their mounts – in each race.

If you know anything about horses, you know that they often love to run, which is why horse racing can be such a compelling sport. If you know anything about camels, you probably already know that they are not the most cooperative of animals. They can be stubborn, strong willed and down right nasty at times, all of which came out on the track in Alice Springs. Sometimes the camels refused to run and sometimes they refused to slow down. I saw camels throw their riders, run in the wrong direction and trot around the course completely ambivalent to the fact that there were 5000 people in the stands watching them go. The personalities of the beasts manifested themselves on the track in various ways and that helped to give the event a personality all of its own as well.

For more than 40 years the Camel Cup has taken place on the second Sunday in July and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. The locals absolutely love this event and support it whole heartedly. Most of the proceeds go to support the local Lions Club and revenue generated helps to fund projects within the community. On top of that, the camel has played an important role in Australia’s history and is now a part of the culture in the Outback. That legacy is celebrated in the event which has a feel that is undeniably Aussie.

Read more about the Camel Cup in this post at Gadling.com.

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Kraig Becker