We got up early to have breakfast with Iris and Tom (and to celebrate Calif. New Year which was at 8 a.m. here since we didn’t stay up for local New Years celebrations). We met Iris and Tom in Kedougou, Senegal at dinner one night. They left Switzerland by bike in May and biked the whole way (minus crossing the Mediterrean). They are mostly staying on good roads as their bikes loaded weight about 55kg (120 lb.). I’d guess ours weight about 65 lbs. They ended up in the same hotel at the same time as us in Segou–of course we’d never expected to run into them again. It turns out they had taken the same route as we had in western Mali (a blog to come) and we exchanged horror stories. They reinforce the idea that the most important part of travel such as this is the people you meet.
Segou is on the Niger or more properly on a part of the Niger delta. The town was very quiet. The day before was the weekly market and the town was bustling–the post market day combined with a holiday closed many stores. Segou is more laid back than some other towns of its size. We took a stroll along the river bank which reinforced how hard life is for people here. Although there is running water in Segou (although most probably get it from a public tap), many women bring their pots and pans and dishes to the river to wash them. And they often bath themselves at the same time. This is in a river that appears to be where all the sewage is directed. We then watched sand shoveled from large canoes (pirogues) to pallets that were then carried on shore and dumped. Then the sand is shoveled up into trucks or onto donkey carts. We also watched two guys load sections of reed mats about 6-ft. square onto a donkey cart. It took them about 20 minutes. The mats are used as fencing. They piled them about 20 high and tie the load with a light rope. The donkey couldn’t even move the cart, but with four pushing they got the card moving and up the bank from the river. Unfortunately the rope broke and the whole load ended up on the ground. Lot of unloading of goods to and from other pirogues going to islands in the delta. Women (mostly) washing clothes. Men tending gardens planted on the river banks (the area covered during high water). Weeding and carrying water to the garden in buckets.