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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Senegal: Tambacounda

Tambacounda train station
Tambacounda train station

I decided to get to Tambacounda with plenty of time to spare before the Wednesday train to Bamako, so I could make sure I got a seat. It's a huge journey from Tambacounda to Bamako, the capital of Mali – it says 20 hours and 30 minutes on the timetable, but it normally takes well over a day – and I wanted to try to get a good seat, preferably in first class, so there might at least be a vague chance of some sleep.

Ticket Trouble

Train tracks leading off into the distance
The train tracks as they head off to Bamako

Tambacounda is a pleasant place, and it's far enough off the tourist trap to be free of hassle. I was able to sit by the road, scribbling away, and nobody hassled me apart from the local beggar boys, who were more interested in my empty water bottles than giving me grief, and who were happy enough with the odd donation. My beggar policy, which I adopted from Chris the Australian, is to give something to the first beggar I see every day, and that's it until the following day, when the first beggar gets a few pennies again. Of course, if someone comes along with an awful physical disability, or some other good reason for charity, then I break the rule, but it seems that there are only three ways to give to beggars: you either give to nobody, which is between you and your conscience; you give to everybody, which is between you and your bank manager; or you give to somebody, which is a darn sight easier if you make up a rule and stick to it. As they say, a handout a day keeps the conscience at bay...