Thursday, January 15, 2009

Too Good To Be True

We set out last Wednesday to follow (in the car) Multimap's walking route from Mirepoix to Caen. The idea was to check out that this, although on public roads, would be safe for me to walk next year.

If so, it would save me a great deal of trouble poring through maps with a magnifying glass in order to plan a course which would both stick as closely as possible to my pencilled straight line, and avoid autoroutes, routes nationales, and even the busier D-roads. It would also be a good way of avoiding the 800 Euros we estimated it would cost to buy and use the more detailed blue series IGN maps.

I thought it was too good to be true, and so it proved.

First we drove from home in Puivert to Mirepoix. This will be the stage for Day 1 of VBW. I already know which way I will walk - and it is not the road route proposed by Multimap. It will be via the old railway line with which I have already endlessly bored you.

From Mirepoix onwards we were in new territory. One of the problems with Multimap routing (and that provided by other mapping services), is that although it is very clear in its "turn rights", "turn lefts" "go straight aheads", et cetera, and in telling you which road number you will be on, there is no indication of which town or city you may pass or go through. If the mapping did provide that information, I would have known without checking that the route was not up to snuff.

The first 30 kms from Mirepoix , equal to Day 2 of VBW, was fine. A lovely quiet road, parallel to what may be regarded as the main road north. No traffic. And it stuck pretty close to the line. Day 3's road was also fine. The road slightly wider and busier, very little traffic, which, when walking, I would clearly hear in the approach.

Day 4's road started out fine until we came near to the Autoroute which crosses from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, parallel to the Canal du Midi. I would have expected to cross both these obstructions and to have continued heading north and slightly west. But no, Multimap turned due west, on the road which was presumably replaced by the motorway as the main east-west link, and which was quite busy. Too busy for walking. I assumed that this would be for a couple of kms, and that we would then be tuning right and north onto a D-road. But it became clear that we were heading into the middle of Toulouse, a large city, and a huge diversion from the straight line.

The mapping had clearly failed. Also the snow was coming down heavily to add to that already on the ground. For these two reasons we abandoned the operation at this stage. It is back to the drawing board to plan the journey through France.

The idea had been to travel that day to Sarlat, a famous market town 300 kms from Mirepoix and eleven walking days from home. The next day to drive from Sarlat to Chatellerault. The final day to Caen, or rather the port of Ouistreham, which is really some distance from Caen. As it happens, we discovered that much of France was deep in snow, which would have made it impossible to drive the D-roads listed on our plan.

Saturday we fly to New Zealand for warm weather training (that's my story). On our return I will replan the route, which will then need to be checked out - I think we have already proved the value of doing that. The checking out will probably take place in September. Certainly not in the snow season

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