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Sahara

Day 36: Dakar to Bamako

Dakar, Senegal 
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Pensive moment in the buffet car of the Dakar-Bamako express, when the shirt was still clean and and the delay only three hours. It grew to eight.
Michael Palin - SaharaThe railway line that runs for 760 miles from Dakar on the Atlantic Ocean to Bamako on the River Niger was built long before the countries it connects came into being. When work began in Bamako in 1907, Mali was called French Sudan, and when the railway reached Dakar in 1923, Senegal was an anonymous part of French West Africa.

Not surprisingly, the station from which we are due to leave at ten o'clock this morning is a confident example of the colonial style. It consists of three arched bays, framed by red and brown brickwork, with wrought-iron canopies, pilasters supporting decorated tile friezes, separate entrances marked 'Départ' and 'Arrivée', and a big working clock in the central tower. On either side of the central façade are louvered galleries, which look to be occupied. Laundry lines swing in the breeze and I think I can see sheep up there.

We've been warned that Dakar is the pickpocket capital of the world, and exploratory arms have already stretched through the minibus windows. An opportunist salesman tries to interest us in a range of 'Titanic' sports bags, which, as the volume of our luggage is already proving a problem for the porters, is an act of mindless optimism.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 36
  • Country/sea: Senegal
  • Place: Dakar
  • Book page no: 115

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