Thursday, 6 May 2010

I've got a GPS!

I acquired a satnav or GPS at Christmas. I wanted a particular make, apparently the only make that is compatible with a South African digital map organisation, T4A, which is steadily mapping the whole of Africa, but this make is more expensive than the others, so I was forced to get the base model – no matter.

So I happily played around with it, pressing the various touch-screen buttons, and then eventually read some of the user manual. This is my usual practice, reading the manual after playing with a gadget. That is, if I ever read the manual at all.

Anyway, this satnav has a facility to enter a place by its longitude and latitude coordinates.

‘Oh what fun,’ I thought, being a bit of a nerd when it comes to playing with gadgets.

I opened up GoogleEarth on my computer and found the coordinates for the main junction in Kisii, called, funnily enough, the Junction.

I pumped the coordinates into the satnav. It thought for a while and then invited me to either look at the map or start my journey. I was a little surprised.

I elected to look at the map and, to my astonishment, it showed the confluence of the A1 and B3 roads in Kisii.

‘OK,’ I thought, if you are so clever, plan me the route!

The savnav thought for quite a long time before announcing that the route was 6,392 miles and would take 127 hours and 44 minutes. It displayed a map comprising Europe and most of Africa with a magenta line wiggling across it. I was astounded. I checked the system set-up which confirmed that the only maps loaded were for UK and Northern Ireland.

The next thing for a nerd to do would be to check the route. It took me through Europe to Istanbul, Turkey, on to Ankara, then Damascus. This is where it got a bit fuzzy, through Jordan and into Israel.

From there it took me down the west bank of the Red Sea, traversing Egypt north-south, into Sudan, Ethiopia, and then Kenya, where I started to recognise town names, Marsabit, Isiolo, Nanyuki, Nakuru, Kericho and finally, Kisii.

To me, this was impressive. I saved the coordinates for Kisii Junction and wondered what other places I should put in.

I eventually decided to enter the salient points of the route from Nairobi to Kisii, there are a couple of junctions I always nearly miss when I am driving, particularly onto the B3 from the A104, and a little later where the B3 hangs a left off the Old Naivasha Road at Mai Mahiu. From there on, it is plain sailing all the way to the junction with the C23, near Sotik.

I put in Keroka, as I have a friend who lives there. I entered the coordinates for Kisumu, Kakamega and Bungoma, all places I have driven through or to, and probably will again.

Now all I have to do is to find out if it actually works in Kenya. There is not reason why it shouldn’t. The satellites are up there, just looking for my little satnav to talk to.

I will have a chance next month, when I go to Kenya to continue working on my anaerobic digester, drum up some more business and “network” with organisations in the field.

My original intention, when choosing this particular make of satnav was to also buy the CD of East African maps from Tracks4Africa and load it. But will I need to?

OK, I don’t have all the off-road tracks and minor roads on my gadget, but do I really need them? I am not going on safari. If I do hire a car to go somewhere, I will want to get there quickly and safely – and not get lost like I did on my last trip.

I expect that I will eventually get the CD and all the software that comes with it. After all, I am a bit of a nerd, but I will take my satnav with me to Kenya and see just what it has to offer me in the meantime.

And I also hope that GoogleEarth will reinstate the Tracks4Africa overlay that used to be available.

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