Friday, 19 June 2009

Thursday 18th June 2009

Ser Sirant, Petichet/St. Theoffrey (ACSI2009-1071) N45.00012 E5.77744

After yesterdays experience with the satnav, an executive decision is taken and we depart with the satnav turned off. The route looks straightforward enough, join the N96 just outside of Oraison, and head north to Chateau-Arnoux-St-Auban, then follow the N85 (known as the Route de Napoleon*), still North, past Sisterton (an impressive hill town, worth a visit at some future date), to Gap, stay on the N85 to our destination. The expectation is that it will be generally signposted Grenoble, which is north of our intended destination.

A hiccup in the flow of information from means that we take a wrong exit at a roundabout after Sisterton. We end up on the N75 (still signposted Grenoble, but set to bypass Gap and our destination). The error is not realised until we pass Serres, shortly after that we are able to take the D994 and get back on track for Gap. The consolation is that the scenery is impressive as we travel along a classic alpine valley, with high mountains, some still with snow on them, on each side of an almost flat valley floor. We are now in the Haute Alps region.

Those of you who are following closely may be wondering why I have not included some photographs of this spectacular scenery, well, if you have been following closely, you will recall that the lead to connect the camera to the computer was left at home by one of us.

After Gap, we stop in a picnic spot for lunch, and meet two more Brits, Jack and Marilyn from Devon. By chance they are heading for the same site as us.

Across the road from the picnic spot, there is some police activity, including a recovery truck. It emerges that there has been an accident between an ancient Renault 5 (which now has a wheel missing, and a broken windscreen) and a motorcycle, they are recovering from where it has come to rest down a steep embankment.

As we get nearer to our destination, we come to a fork in the road, both directions are signposted with a height restriction of 2.6m, and we are 2.9m high. According to the signs the restriction is 13km ahead, and according to the satnav (which we have now switched on again), we have only 10km to go, so we decide to take the risk and continue on the N85.

All is well, and we reach the site without encountering a height restriction.

Since we have to go that way tomorrow, I decide to cycle ahead the 3km or so and check if we can get through. The problem appears to be a very steep and long hill, rather than a height problem as such. I elect not to cycle down the hill, on the basis that I will have to cycle up it again, and the signs indicate it is 5km long! There are signs suggesting some form of control point 500meters down the hill. So I walk the 500metres down the hill to the control point. It is unmanned, but I can see there is a height barrier which we have no chance of negotiating. Fortunately, there are two chaps doing some kind of surveying task just a few more metres along the road. So I approach then and using my “O” level French (failed) I ask “Excusez mois, messieur, demain, je dois aller norde dans la direction de Grenoble, dans un campervan de haute trios metres”, this I hope translates as “excuse me, but tomorrow I need to travel north towards Grenoble in a campervan which is 3 metres high”. My French fails at the point of asking “how do I negotiate this control point”, so I settle for a helpless look and a gallic shrug of the shoulders. I am amazed, they understand!, they tell me in a mixture of English and French, that the problem is not really height, but rather a means of traffic control to limit the number of large vehicles attempting to negotiate the steep hill at the same time, and I must take the righthand lane, approach the barrier and press a button. This will summon up a controller who will be able to interact with me via CCTV, and will let us through. We will see what actually happens tomorrow.

So to round off for today. This is the second day we have had satnav problems, and today we resorted to human control. It did work, we got to our destination. I thought I would summarise what I have learned from this:

Satnavs may not always give the correct instructions, but on the other hand, nor do they get distracted by creaming their legs or other such activities at crucial points in the journey.

Sometimes satnav instructions may be wrong, but they are precise ie turn right, turn left etc. They do not give instructions such as “oh, just do whatever you think”, or “that way”.

No matter how bad things get, Satnavs do not lose their temper.

Kathleen says she is better than the satnav, and I know better than to disagree.

* My history was not up to knowing why it is called Route Napolean, but I looked it up on the web and "Route Napoleon was the rugged trek that Napoleon took in 1815 after he had conquered most of Europe, made his way back to Egypt and then quietly returned back to France after his exile on Elba."

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