Thursday, August 7, 2008

Risky valley of the Bourne

I'm about to talk about a geographical entity, the valley of the River Bourne, which runs below my home place, Gamone. I assume you're at ease using browser keys to move forwards/backwards with respect to my blog. You might click the following photo of a typical corner in our road to see a local map of places I'm about to mention.

As you can see, Gamone lies between Pont-en-Royans and the village of Choranche. Just to the south of these three places, you see the road (in yellow) that leads eastwards to the winter ski resort of Villard-de-Lans. And a thin blue line indicates the River Bourne, which flows just below the road, in an east/west direction. That's to say, Choranche, Gamone and Pont-en-Royans are located on the right bank of the Bourne. As the crow flies, I'm quite close to Villard: some 20 km. It's a delightful little town, with good restaurants and bars. I rarely set foot there, however, because I'm daunted by the narrow mountain road that runs through the Gorges of the Bourne.

During the ski season, particularly of a weekend, hordes of vehicles from the Valence region and the Ardèche department use this itinerary. It's a magnificent scenic road, but there are many places where vehicles have to halt to allow the passage of those traveling in the opposite direction. For me, driving in such circumstances is strictly unpleasant... no doubt because I never got accustomed to this kind of environment when I was younger. So, I stay at home.

For many years, we've been aware that we live alongside a rickety road that's often disturbed by fallen rocks. When I purchased Gamone, in 1993, I proudly informed my family and friends that I had found a rare place devoid of rocks that might fall onto our heads. And that state of affairs remains perfectly true today... as long as I stay at home. If I go out driving, that's another kettle of stonefish.

This morning, we received a surprising publication from the local authorities, revealing the results of a recent study of risky places along the road up to Villard-de-Lans. You might click the photo of work at the level of the home of my great friends Tineke Bot and Serge Bellier to see a graphical outline of these dangerous places, marked in orange or red.

I learn with delight but stupefaction [even though I'm not bothered unduly at a personal level] that the Isère departmental authorities have decided to invest in a huge 14-year project, costing 15 million euros, aimed at saving our roadway along the valley of the Bourne. The only problem is that this road will be closed for five months every year. So, I'm less and less likely to spend sunny afternoons and balmy evenings soaking up the Vercors atmosphere of Villard-de-Lans. What the hell. My Gamone descendants will...

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