Tuesday 11th & Wednesday 12th September
My apologies for the lack of blog posts of late. 2 days of not particularly fun travel followed by a serious lack of both technology and, most distressingly, Mrs P.
Tuesday 11th – We need to be near Geneva on Thursday. Aosta is a long way from Geneva if you are too miserly to pay the toll through the Chamonix tunnel (this miserliness will come back to bite us) It’s ok though because Mr P has a cunning plan. The plan, it turns out, is flawed in many ways, at this juncture we are however unaware of any such flaws and Mrs P is blissfully ignorant of the effect these flaws will have on Mr P’s mood which, unlike the weather, is due to turn stormy. Those of you in long term relationships know what happens when one party gets grumpy. Said party takes it out on those nearest and dearest. Mrs P is in for a rough ride and I have no idea how she puts up with me. Anyway, all this is yet to come. Currently Mr P is quite pleased with his idea. Drive a few hours to Lake Annecy, partake a little climbing and then deposit Mrs P at Geneva airport refreshed and feeling fit early on Thursday Morning. The following tale is a reminder that one should always stick to plan A (or possibly pay for the tunnel).
So, still Tuesday morning, it is a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. We shall drive over the Petit de Saint Bernard Pass into France. Only about 3 ½ hours. However, the SatNav has other ideas. 10 minutes out of Aosta it takes us up the wrong road. Sometimes the turnings are close together on the screen and in real life, also, I rarely turn on the sound. “Not a problem,” says Mrs P cheerily, “just turn around, only a couple of minutes and get back on track.” A couple of minutes later Gandalf (I blame him) is faced with 4 lanes and 2 choices. Gandalf chooses the wrong one. Mr P is less than impressed. Mrs P doesn’t understand why. “Just turn around, only a couple of minutes, and get back on track.” Mr P has already looked at the map, before leaving, he is aware that it is not a couple of minutes. The Italians like Looong stretches of road with no turn offs. Also, we are now on a Toll road. 16km later, the toll booth machine requests €14. Mr P swears at the machine. “Not a problem,” says Mrs P, not quite so cheerily, “just turn around, and get back on track.” Gandalf takes another wrong turn and takes us back onto the b****y toll road. The toll booth machine requests €14 for a second time. Mr P swears at the machine. A pattern is fast developing. 1 hour after leaving the campsite we drive back past it having travelled precisely 0 miles (or 0 kilometres for our younger readers) at a cost of €28. It is a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the… oh, hang on… a very dark cloud has appeared over Mr P’s head. Meteorological experts follow this storm cloud anomaly via satellite for 2 days. They have never seen such an active weather front condensed over one persons head. Divert all traffic.
We arrive at the Petit de Saint Bernard Pass (you guessed it, like the big one only smaller) at around lunch time.
Mr P, for some reason best known to himself, decides to embellish Plan A. Why not drive along a section of the Route de des Grandes Alps from Bourg-Saint-Marice to Albertville. Popular with cyclists, tourists and, unfortunately for us, idiots!
Now, I have to tread carefully here because Mr P’s father-in-law used to drive rally cars but the idiots were in rally cars. I should’ve realised there may be issues when I saw 3 such cars covered in rally stickers head in the same direction as us. At the beginning of the opening section of the route there where about 6 old, classic rally cars lined up in front of a man with a clip-board. Not a good sign but, he waved us and some other vehicles through and we headed up the very narrow, very short, barrierless switchbacks into the hills. A few minutes later I heard the first car, then saw its lights, then, in my mirrors open eyed with horror, watched it overtake the car 2 behind me on a narrow, blind bend and try to overtake me and the van behind on a short straight with a large van coming in the opposite direction. I was less than impressed. “I’m less than impressed.” I said to Mrs P cowering in the foot well. He was now so close behind me that I couldn’t see him in my mirrors, he was revving his engine and trying to pass while the van behind sounded his horn in a ; You foolish cad you!” kind of way. He managed to pass me on yet another blind bend and I vowed to have a chat should we come across his broken body further up the route. Other cars from the group were considerably more sensible but, No. 74. I’ve got your number (it’s number 74 for clarity). Climbing mountains isn’t dangerous. Idiots in cars who think they are driving on closed roads are dangerous. The annoying thing was that once past the bends all of these cars then slowed to a crawl and the only reason I didn’t overtake was that I was worried they would then start going fast again.
After more hours than I care to admit to we eventually found a nice free spot to park in and Gandalf went into stealth mode.
ASIDE: How to poo in the woods.
The downside to a small camper-van like Gandalf is the lack of toilet facilities of the number 2 variety. Number 1’s are never a problem, bushes being readily available in most countries. It is important however to know how to deal with the number 2 issue from an ecological and aesthetic point of view. Most people don’t have the faintest idea how to do this and think that leaving a pile of scat and a secondary pile of tissues is the best method. Whilst this does appear to be the De rigueur way, this is definitely not how it should be done. Parking spots and beauty spots across Europe are blighted with this unnecessary evil. How do we deal with it and how should you deal with it? There are 2 methods. You choose:
Hold on until you find a toilet – not always an option
Bury it and burn the paper – METHOD: Dig a hole; do your business; burn the paper in the hole (only if there is no risk of fire); fill in hole. IMPORTANT: Do not leave the spot until you are absolutely sure the burning paper is extinguished. If in any doubt, miss out the burning stage.
On Wednesday morning (12th September) we rise early and head to do some climbing. Still 1 hour from Annecy. Anyone do the maths/comparison?
- Chamonix tunnel option:
- Cost – €48
- Driving time – 1 ½ hours
- Estimated cost of fuel – €12
- Effect on temper – minimal
- Potential for climbing – High
- Petit Saint Bernard Pass option:
- Cost – €28
- Driving time – 7 hours!!
- Estimated cost of fuel – €7million
- Effect on temper – Catastrophic
- Actual climbing achieved – Nil
I did say the plan was flawed.
Wednesday makes Tuesday look so good that I will skirt over it apart from the following bullet points:
- We (Read: Mr P) bought an expensive, out of date climbing guide for Lac du Bourget written by a dysfunctional spider with writing like a distillation of all the doctors you ever met condensed into one seriously bad example of the art. We will never use it. “Whatever happened to Lake Annecy?” I hear you ask. Don’t ask. I will only say that Lake Annecy falls generally into flaw number 86 and plan A amendment number 267: Section 7; subparagraph 18
- We visited one climbing area right next door to a noisy dusty quarry that was so overgrown Stig of the dump would have turned his nose up (if you’ve never read Stig of the dump you have never lived)
- We drove, stumbled around for most of the day on a gloriously sunny day and barely set foot outside Gandalf
- Each of the above flaws added to the storm clouds above Mr P’s head
- The storm clouds finally broke
- Mr P spent much of the evening apologising to Mrs P for shouting despite the fact that none of the issues were her fault.
The morale of this story is that any day not sat in front of a laptop working long stressful hours is a good day but, sometimes, just sometimes…
Tune in soon to find out under what circumstances it is ok to have Ice cream for lunch and beer and cookies for tea (For our posh southern readers, ‘tea’ is the same as ‘dinner’).