Tag Archives: Ryszard Kapuściński

Vanishing train to Bamako

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Dakar train station (Image: ginaber.blogspot.com)

This time I’m writing about a trip I have not taken, I wish I could have taken, but unfortunately I’m not likely to be able to take any time soon. A train trip. Dakar, which I did have a chance to visit, is the Western terminus of the railroad built by the French almost a hundred years ago. The railroad connected Dakar with the city of Bamako, today the capital of Mali. The line opened in 1923 and linked the biggest cities in colonial French West Africa, connecting the Atlantic coast with the vast, mineral-rich hinterland along the Niger river. Nearly 800 miles across the arid land and baobab-studded savanna in between… Although once considered one of the most luxurious train rides in Africa, sadly its glory days are over. But even after its heyday, the trip must have been quite an experience and, vicariously, I feel I’ve had a taste of it through the writings of a Polish traveler and author Ryszard Kapuściński. In his great book The Shadow of the Sun he vividly describes a trip from Dakar to Bamako he took back in the 1960s, reflecting upon larger changes underway in Africa at that time. Read the rest of this entry

Crossing the border

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This was only about crossing the border – somewhere. It made no difference which one, because what was important was not the destination, the goal, the end, but the almost mystical and transcendent act. Crossing the border.
– Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus

It started when I was 15. I’d been abroad before but that was the first time I actually paid attention, maybe because 18+ hours on the bus from Poland to UK gave me ample time to take things in. Ever since travelling has pretty much become a part of my existence, spanning regular back and forth over the Atlantic with occasional forays into other corners of the world. And it is more than anything about crossing the border, about taming and embracing the differentness of another country, city, place.

A big part of that for me is understanding why things work the way they do, mostly in the spirit of open-minded curiosity punctuated by moments of pure rage. I like imagining what the frame in my viewfinder looked like 50, 100, or 200 years ago. In most cases that gives me a unique perspective on where I am but more often than I’d like it also shows how the more things change the more they stay the same in some dysfunctional way.

If life is a journey, I certainly don’t know the destination. But if you – like me – feel the excitement of crossing border after border of space and time, join the ride.

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