Pat and Richard in West Africa 2011 travel blog

Shea butter seeds waiting to be pounded and boiled

Pounding the shea butter while the chief looks on

Watermelons in the market

Today we hit the road to travel from Bamako to Segou in Kunta's 4WD. The temperature outside seems to be a constant 37 degrees - Thank god for aidconditioning! We bought watermelons from sellers on the side of the road and it was good to stop in the shade to eat them.

On the way we stopped to visit a village where they were harvesting the shea butter. This comes from the seeds of the large shea butter tree which they dry then pound and finally boil to extract the oil. When it cools it becomes thick like butter and is then sold to make cosmetics. Years ago shea butter used to be mixed with mud to make houses, to give it some waterproofing, but these days it is too expensive to use in this way. The chief of the village has 3 wives and they seemed to be doing all the work while he watched. But he was very welcoming and was happy for us to take photos.

After lunch in a small local cafe we continued our journey past numerous mud villages and fields with the (failed) crops of maize, sorghum and millet.

Segou is a beautiful old French town on the banks of the Niger River, with wide, shady tree lined streets and lots of old colonial buildings. Our hotel, Hotel de l'Independence, is one of these and is a beautiful place with an outdoor restaurant under the trees and also a swimming pool. Our room was comfortable and air conditioned so we could escape from the heat. Segou has a mud cloth factory but unfortunately it is closed on Sunday afternoons - luckily we are coming back this way in a few days so will visit it then. We did visit it 4 years ago but we look forward to seeing it again.

We had an early night ready for an 8am start tomorrow to drive to Djenne where we will stay one night.

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