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Decisions, Decisions!

January 26, 2011 3 comments

I have mentioned before my little Scoobi car, a Subaru Justy. It is a nice little car, economical to run and quite nice to drive. It is a bit tatty, but looks do not detract from the ability of a car to get me from where I am to where I want to be. And this car has four-wheel drive, which was very useful during the snows last year.

Peugeot 306 MeridianBut I have been offered a Peugeot 306, 1998 model. It is a year newer than the Scoobie, a bit bigger, more comfortable and a lot tidier. It has been standing for over a year, so there is no MoT, VEL and the battery was rather non-responsive.

I now have the car at home. The battery is charged but the car misfires occasionally. The electronic odometer doesn’t work and I need the code to get the in-built radio working.

Being a 1600cc petrol engine, the car attracts a higher rate of VEL than the Scoobie and I guess the fuel consumption will not be as good. Insurance may be higher as well.

But, it is a lot tidier, much more comfortable, and that little bit bigger, meaning that I do not have to struggle to get Mum’s wheelchair in the boot.

So, this is my dilemma. Do I keep the very cheap-to-run Scoobie, or go for the newer, more comfortable and more expensive-to-run Pug?

Oh yes, and the Scoobie has a non-standard exhaust system which I have to weld up from time to time, whereas the Pug is standard in every way.

I always dread the sound that precedes the Scoobie’s exhaust falling apart, but it is not worth getting a new standard system. It would cost more than I paid for the car!

So, I could sell the Pug for the owner and receive a 10% commission on the sale, or sell the Scoobie and pay for the Pug for myself.

Of course, the Pug might fail the MoT big time, in which case there will be no decision to make, but I cannot find much wrong with it, so I think it will get through.

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A Gentle Drive to Kenya?

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment
The dream of a “gentle” drive from home in the UK, through Europe, Asia, and some of Africa to home in Kenya, a total of about 6,500 miles.

When I returned from South Africa, I wanted to go back. I wanted to drive the length of Africa. That was my dream.

Since my first visit to Kenya, I have dreamed of driving there one day – not in my present vehicle as I doubt it would get to Dover – but in a suitable conveyance, an old Landrover 110, for example.

Then, this Christmas, I got a Garmin GPS, into which I can enter Long/Lat. coordinates, so I did. I entered the coordinates for the Junction in Kisii and lo! A map popped up of the Junction in Kisii – brilliant.

So I told the Garmin to calculate the route from my home in the UK to Kisii, and it did, giving a distance of 6,497.2 miles. I love the .2 miles, how accurate is that? And I will arrive at 23:03 if I leave now. It doesn’t tell me which day though, just the time.

So, could I do the trip, or will it remain a dream? Frankly, the logistics frighten me more than the trip itself, but then, I get nervous flying out to Kenya, and let’s face it, when flying, virtually everything is done for me! It’s not like I have to fly the plane. Actually, I wouldn’t mind giving it a go, but I would need a navigator, unless I could fly low enough to pick out landmarks.

I had imagined getting sponsorship to cover the trip expenses and make some money for Twiga and KCIS, but people have done the whole of Africa, so a trip to Kenya is a bit tame really. Would I get sponsorship?

And then there’s the vehicle. I don’t have the funds to buy even the oldest and tattiest of 4x4s, let alone all the kit I would need en route.

I have just realised that I am being very negative, which is not allowed in my New Year’s resolution.

So, keeping a positive frame of mind, of course I could do it, of course I can get a suitable vehicle, of course I can get sponsorship.

So, how long would it take, driving through Europe, around the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and then following the Nile (roughly)? 6,500 miles, 8 hours driving a day, at an average speed of … 15? 20?

I reckon that driving every day, it would take about 54 days or nearly 8 weeks, almost 2 months.

I also reckon we would need about 800 gallons of fuel. At present UK prices, that alone would cost almost £1,000 – wow! That’s two return trips to Nairobi by air (off-season, of course).

Next question, could I find someone who could put up with a grumpy old man to accompany me? How about a Kenyan wanting to return home from Europe? I might learn a bit more Swahili on the trip.

I have come to the conclusion that I don’t have a clue about how to plan a trip like this, let alone have the ability to raise the money to put it into action.

So, if there is anyone reading this who has a fantasy of driving through Europe to Kenya, get in touch. Add a little reality to my dream.

Categories: Africa, driving, Europe, Kenya

Driving in Kenya

January 15, 2010 2 comments

The first thing anyone asks me is what side of the road Kenyans drive on.

Well … I am no expert, but I have covered a few thousand kilometres on my various visits to Kenya, so here goes.

Officially, Kenya drives on the left, like the UK, but unlike the UK, this rule has conditions, like which side has the fewest potholes, least traffic, fewest pedestrians, cyclists, other obstructions. That is the side you (or at least, they) drive on. Oncoming traffic is not a consideration. Flash your headlights, sound your horn … and go!

On occasion, where the road is in a very bad state of repair, you may will be overtaken by matatus driving along the verge. Marvel at how they miss the pedestrians.

Traffic lights – these work the same way as in the UK, when they work at all, the difference being that no one takes any notice of them, even the Police, who may wave you on against a red light.

Note: Arm signals from the police are not the same as in the UK. For a start, the officer will rarely stand in the middle of the road, he values his life too much. So he will stand on the edge of the road and wave at you. Don’t wave back, just go. If it is raining, the police officer will be hampered by his umbrella, so take extra care. He may not be waving you on, but just clearing excess water from his umbrella.

Whilst on the subject of the police, when driving, you are likely to come across a lot of roadblocks, comprising a hand-written ‘STOP’ sign and then two metal strips with 6” spikes in the road. At night, they may be illuminated – or not.

These roadblocks are manned by several officers carrying AK47 assault rifles and are there to catch drivers without licences, un-roadworthy vehicles, etc. for which an on-the-spot bribe fine is levied. The offender is then allowed to go on his way.

You may find several roadblocks in the space of a couple of kilometres, especially towards the end of the month, just before pay day.

Direction indicators. Where these are fitted to a vehicle and working (which is not always the case), they are used to indicate that the vehicle is about to turn left or right – perfectly normal.

A slow vehicle may use them to indicate that it is/is not safe to overtake it (right indicator = not safe; left indicator = safe to pass). Don’t blindly take the driver’s word for it. He does not know how powerful your vehicle is, or how hard you are willing to gun it.

Rear lights. These are compulsory, which means that about 50% of vehicles have them with at least one bulb working. Matatu, motorcycle and bicycle drivers think they are exempt from having working rear lights, or brake lights, come to think of it.

So if you are thinking about driving at night, a word of advice – don’t!

Roundabouts. The rule is if you are on the roundabout, you have right of way. No one follows this rule. The unwritten rule is, if you are bigger/braver/suicidal, you have right of way.

Motorbikes. These are indestructible and the riders are immortal. They will be driven anywhere on the road to avoid actually having to stop.

Matatus. See motorbikes. Also, expect a matatu to stop in the middle of the road without warning in order to disgorge or pick up passengers. Have patience, the poor guy is only trying to make a living and he doesn’t care if his passengers are mown down when they get out. After all, they have already paid.

Categories: driving, Kenya, matatu, motorbike