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Sahara

Day 37: Dakar to Bamako

Mehani, Mali 
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At Mehani in Mali, the local train we've waited two hours for pulls in, and becomes an instant shopping mall.
Michael Palin - SaharaAfter a night of slow jolting progress, during which I dreamt of baobab trees and disorder, we've reached Kidira, on the Senegal-Mali border. It's been daylight for almost an hour and the train has been firmly stationary since then.

This is up-country rural Africa, with none of the shouting and hysteria of the city we left twenty-one hours ago. Because of the great heat, people move slowly, if they move at all. Employees of the railway unload packages without urgency, breaking off at the slightest excuse to slap hands, exchange jovial greetings and
embark on long, animated conversations punctuated by inexplicably hysterical laughter.

When we finally depart Kidira at half past nine, we've slipped four hours behind schedule. Five minutes later we cross the Falémé, a tributary of the Sénégal, cutting north to south with a red earth escarpment rising on its eastern bank. We're now in Mali. By midday we're alongside the Sénégal itself, flowing strong and substantial, through the arid bush country, known by its French name, la brousse.

A long halt at Kayes, which has the reputation of being the hottest town in Africa, set in a bowl surrounded by hills full of iron-bearing rock. Check my thermometer. It's 39°C in the shade, 102°F, not bad for February. The barman and restaurant car staff are out on the platform, seeking relief beneath an umbrageous mimosa. Opposite is a big handsome run-down colonial building, an uncommon mix of Franco-Moorish styles, red brick combined with horseshoe arches and elaborate balconies. It appears to be occupied by dozens of families. By the side of the railway track the words 'Défense d'Uriner, 3000 Fr.' are fading slowly from the all.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 37
  • Country/sea: Senegal
  • Place: Kidira
  • Book page no: 119

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