Gustato spiritu, desipit omnis caro.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.


Cruelest Journey


"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."



Kira Salak became the first person in the world to kayak alone 600 miles on the Niger River of Mali to Timbuktu, retracing the fatal journey of the great Scottish explorer Mungo Park. Enduring tropical storms, hippos, rapids, the unrelenting heat of the Sahara desert, and the mercurial moods of this notorious river, Kira Salak traveled solo through one of the most desolate and dangerous regions in Africa, where little had changed since Mungo Park was taken captive by Moors in 1797.

Dependent on locals for food and shelter each night, Salak stayed in remote mud-hut villages on the banks of the Niger, meeting Dogan sorceresses and tribes who alternately revered and reviled her--so remarkable was the sight of an unaccompanied white woman paddling all the way to Timbuktu. Indeed, on one harrowing stretch she barely escaped with her life from men chasing after her in canoes. Finally, weak with dysentery but triumphant, she arrived in the fabled city of Timbuktu and fulfilled her ultimate goal: buying the freedom of two Bella slave women. This unputdownable story is also a meditation on courage and self-mastery by a young adventuress without equal, whose writing is as thrilling as her life.


Publisher: National Geographic Society
Date Published: November 2004
ISBN-13: 9780792274575