The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles to Timbuktu

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salak-cruelest-journey-cover.jpg

The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles to Timbuktu

14.99

by Kira Salak

Restless Women Travelers

"Salak's trip is deeply personal, and she shares her fears, her triumphs, and her thoughts along the way with the reader, making it an accessible, involving journey for her audience."

–Booklist

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A young adventurer with a history of seeking impossible challenges, Kira Salak became the first person in the world to kayak alone the six hundred miles on the Niger River to Timbuktu—“the golden city of the Middle Ages” and fabled “doorway to the end of the world.”

 

While Salak ventures into one of the most desolate regions in Africa, looming as a reminder of the danger she faces is the fate of great Scottish explorer Mungo Park, killed on the same route in 1797. Enduring tropical storms, hippos, rapids, the unrelenting heat of the Sahara, and the mercurial moods of the river, Salak learns that little has changed since Park’s time. When she comes ashore each night to find food and shelter among locals in mud-hut villages, tribes alternatively revere and revile her, and Salak, in turn, is equally fascinated and infuriated by the traditions she encounters. Surviving dysentery and rapacious pursuers, Salak arrives at her destination weak but triumphant, and achieves her ultimate goal of buying the freedom of two Bella slave women.

Unputdownable and breathtakingly suspenseful, The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles to Timbuktu is a beautifully rendered meditation on courage and self-mastery by an audacious and inspiring young traveler and wordsmith.

Reviews

"A deeply personal travel memoir, Salak is not merely a traveller, she is an explorer, and her voyage is an expedition of self-discovery. She sets off in ominously stormy weather 206 years to the day after Park did, and shares in cutting detail the encounters of the Niger 'like a mercurial god, meting out punishment and benediction on a whim.' Salak seduces us with an honest audacious story of the splendour and austerity of a journey through a far-off land."

Kirkus Reviews UK

"Salak's second travel memoir takes her down the Niger River to Timbuktu, following the trail of Scottish explorer Mungo Park, who more than 200 years before he attempted the same journey. Salak decides to take the journey alone on a kayak, hoping to recapture Park's sense of wonder and determination. Salak's trip is deeply personal, and she shares her fears, her triumphs, and her thoughts along the way with the reader, making it an accessible, involving journey for her audience."

Booklist

"She raises travel writing to the level of explorer writing.... [he Cruelest Journey s] a riveting read.... [Salak is] a women who eschews the easy route, the cliché destination.... Salak’s poetic prose, like the parallel narratives of her journey and Park’s, meanders throughout the book like the bends and curves of the Niger itself.... Her deft handling of dynamics, coupled with the occasional sweetener of levity make The Cruelest Journey an energetic read. This Restless Books publication and Salak’s other books such as Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea, traverse the depths of the human condition, weaves between fear and bliss, and blurs borders of time and place."

Wandering Justin

About the Author

Kira Salak won the PEN Award for journalism for her reporting on the war in Congo, and she has appeared five times in Best American Travel Writing. A National Geographic Emerging Explorer and contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure magazine, she was the first woman to traverse Papua New Guinea and the first person to kayak solo 600 miles to Timbuktu. She is the author of three books—the critically acclaimed work of fiction, The White Mary, and two works of nonfiction: Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea (a New York Times Notable Travel Book) and The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles to Timbuktu. She has a Ph.D. in English, her fiction appearing in Best New American Voices and other anthologies. Her nonfiction has been published in National GeographicNational Geographic AdventureWashington PostNew York Times MagazineTravel & LeisureThe WeekBest Women's Travel WritingThe Guardian, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband and daughter in Germany.

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