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Sahara

Day 36: Dakar to Bamako

Michael Palin - SaharaAs the Bamako express only runs twice a week, there's a certain amount of nervous tension as we walk ourselves and our procession of porters through 'Départ' to the platform where our train, twelve coaches and four freight wagons long, sits waiting in the sun. The coaches, old French railway stock painted light and dark green with a red stripe, bear the barely legible name Chemins de Fer de Mali. A General Motors diesel is panting heavily at the front.

We pull out of Dakar twenty-one minutes late and run for a while past red-brick, red-tiled sheds. These soon give way to a depressing run of goat-attended rubbish dumps and people squatting down beneath fading signs that read 'Défense d'Uriner et Déposer ses Ordures' (No Urinating or Dumping of Rubbish).

The train is a huge consumer unit, a small town on wheels, and wherever we stop we attract crowds of suppliers. As we crawl through the suburbs of Dakar it's like taking a train through the middle of a department store. On both sides of us are piles of handbags, underwear, men's fashion, ladies fashion, shoes, scarves, robes and hats. All within inches of our rumbling steel wheels.

The restaurant car is going to be a vital part of our survival strategy. First signs are encouraging. It's comfortable enough, with a mural painted at one end, and not too busy, as most of the passengers bring their own food or buy at the window.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

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

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