Cost of going shags & other observations

Made a similar trip before, and this time I decided to quantify the trip in terms of the expenses. People upcountry ask why I visit so little and I try and explain that the distance and the cost are a burden.

Trip Costs
5,200 shillings ($72) for car fuel on the 950-kilometre journey
13,200 Car repair
10,000 (Pre-trip) car service
4,000 Cash handouts
3,200 Drinks
1,800 Fuel (diesel and kerosene for others)
1,500 Hotel
1,000 Food shopping (for others)
900 Food (mine)
250 Supplies
200 Newspapers
Total spent 41,250 shillings ($573)

Lessons learnt
– Avoid driving own car unless absolutely necessary. It’s better to take a bus and remove the pain (really bad roads) and cost of car travel out. (68% of this trip costs were car-related including 13,000 shillings for a pair of new shock absorbers after I hit a pothole)
– Keep your movements as mysterious as possible, just show up and leave before people discover you’re around and try not to be expected.
– Eating costs are not much, because food is served in households and it is so much that you can get by on one (lunch) meal a day.
– Radio and TV are still the primary way that people get information up-country. Newspapers are not widely circuited – I had to make 3 phone calls to arrange to get the Friday newspapers and reliable cyber café to browse the Internet or check mail are rare things – cybers are not seen as a viable business and have very short hours. E.g. at the post office
– All our roads should be built by Chinese engineers and companies as the roads they built have stood the test of time over many years. We should also beware of roads put up before an election, as they often collapse within less than a year. It is shocking to find two stretches of a road, done by two different companies, where one is in great shape and the adjacent stretch had as little gravel as a school tennis court. Actually, our roads collapse because load limits are not observed, and lorries on the roads are too heavy.

13 thoughts on “Cost of going shags & other observations

  1. Anonymous

    Thats a very well written and thought out observation. maybe like me you are also waiting for the consession or the railways to begin in earnest. with the train, we will have very confortable and cheap ride as well as lifting the load from our roads. normally the problem with taking a bus is the safety concerns and the rough ride. As for the cyber, why dont you get a laptop and edge card from safaricom with that you can browse anytime anywhere and you will also love the privacy!

  2. Ntwiga

    Great post Bankelele.

    Wow! I never quantified this before and the amount is just astounding. And the hidden car maintenance costs are also something that many do not take into consideration.

    I remember one trip when I had some mixed luck. I had the bad luck to have two wheels blow out on me out in the bush on then badly potholed Meru – Maua road and the good luck to have it happen maybe 500 metres from the only gas station for 30 kms around that sold new tyres.

    The only replacement tyres I could get that would fit my car were (very surprisingly!!) very nice low profile Firestones for about 8000Kshs. The same tyres would have cost me about 7500Kshs in Nairobi so it was not that bad a deal. It was painful to have to spend almost 16000Kshs that I was not prepared for to deal with the crisis but I am always happy to think that it happen where I could get things fixed.

    It did make me much more aware about the real hidden costs of travelling up country.

  3. egm

    Eye opening post for sure. I especially like your suggestion of travelling in stealth mode. Whenever I come home, the only people that know I am doing so are my immediate family and 1 or 2 very close friends. Everyone else finds out while I’m there (if at all).

  4. bankelele

    Odegle: Hoping for a railways revival – & when you look at the daily bus and lorry traffic, there must be a niche for them

    Will look at Safaricom next month, thanks for the tip

    Ntwiga: Thanks, unexpected car costs are never factored in – lucky for you that you were close to a help station

    egm: stealth mode rules

    Afromusing: Obsevred TM a few times in Eld, and he’s the master of stealth mode!

  5. Ig-know-rant

    Banks, are you planning to run for parliament? Dishing out 4k?? I hope you usually carry it in 50s (as in 50 bob notes). Anyone who asks money in shags usually get one straight answer from me, “You should have told me in advance to bring you some, otherwise I haven’t budgeted for you”. It may sound rude but it works, as most of the young chaps who ask for money end up spending it on cheap alcohol anyway. As for the old, I always try and give them non-monetary solutions to their problems.

  6. Kudrinketh

    I pulled a stealth mode visit on my family the last time i was home, they thought i had been deported!

    Banks highlighted the very reason why our economic growth will remain stunted.just travelling upcountry you end up spending 68% on car expenses! we need a strong infrastructure if we’re serious about 10% growth rate. no wonder Museveni keeps saying it costs more to transport cargo from mombasa to kampala than from singapore to mombasa, that’s insane!

  7. Holy Cow

    Just got fascinated by the idea that your Shags is 950km, come to think of it, could be Kapenguria 410km; Homabay 430km,Mumias 440km. maralal 498km.
    Anyway the road conditions are bad especially those in Western Kenya & parts of South Rift.

  8. Anonymous

    The handout are what kill me though as always i show up and leave bila notice only my immediate family is aware.

  9. bankelele

    Acolyte: Most of that went to a function.

    Ig-know-rant: Yep, I also carry those loose notes 50, 100, 200’s, a lot of it goes to unexpected requests

    Kudrinketh: Stealth rules & by the time some people called to find me, I was already back in town. Roads still bad, last time when I hit a huge pothole I only got a puncture, this time it was much more serious

    Shiroh & Holy Cow: 950km was the whole trip including many rounds in the bus. Not as far as Mararal, but most time was spent in Kitale

  10. The Alpha Quadrant

    I’m hoping the railways concessioning will mean more convenient transport between major towns in the country. and even outside.

    Now these car expenses are what discourage me from getting a car (considering i want a subaru), now that my parents live in Nairobi, and so the upcountry trips are less frequent.

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