I don’t travel much these days to shags (rural village home area) and it has been over a year since my last visit. The main reason is the bad state of the roads - with what used to be a 5 hour journey now taking at least 10 hours - on some of the worst possible roads in the country e.g. from Naivasha to Nakuru (including an additional rough 20km diversion) and the last 60 km to Eldoret town.
Driving one’s own car is an unwise decision and likely to lead to tyre, suspension or other serious problems (bottom of car was scraped over numerous rocky road stretches) during or soon after the journey.
Besides the bad roads, other things contribute to delay;
- The occasional pot holes even on good stretches of road - which is where I got a puncture
- In many places where the roads are good, local people have put up humongous bumps to slow you down. Many of these have no warning signs and I hit a few at quite high speed. I later learnt that whenever you see any building esp. school, town, or even a signboard, it’s a good idea to slow down and expect to find some bumps
- police road blocks – there are too many of these and they appear to serve no purpose than to extort money from commercial vehicles. These guys should be performing security operations, not harassing motorists.
- Petty errands. It’s always best to drive non-stop, but some passengers (esp. women) always want to stop for lunch, visit relatives, buy fruit or vegetable etc.
Advice for going shags
- carry small denomination notes – have a separate wad of 50 and 100 and 200 shilling notes.
- avoid giving mobile number or you will be pestered by anyone who later visits the city.
cousins: I have cousins who have been ravaged by alcohol and unemployment - lazy guys who drink all day and are prone to violent outbursts of frustration. I always wonder if I would have turned out like them I had grown up there or if my folks had never left the village to further their education.
They are hustlers who work on you, like Samuel Jackson’s great character in Jungle Fever for your money (hence the wad of loose cash). One said he wanted to replace a stolen mobile phone, 2 asked for money for fertilizer for maize fields, and one was honest enough to ask for drink money – but I suspect they all ended up in same drinking den where nothing like Tusker is served.
news: Going shags used to mean going incommunicado for day. Now one can listen to KISS or Capital FM, use mobile phones, play pool, and newspapers are easier to get. There's still no cybercafé even though I am told the post office was the only internet place but it was closed on Sunday which I checked.
clothes: We used to be take old clothes - torn, worn, too small etc. to donate to our cousins. Now they enough have mitumba clothes sold on each market day and they all have the same fake Arsenal shirts and hip jeans as urbanites.
dogs There seems to have been some crossbreeding since the usual shags dogs now show signs of having some Alsatian and Spaniels genes.