Jump to content

A cautionary tale of hirecars and Google Maps


Peter Connan

Recommended Posts

Peter Connan

This weekend I was lucky enough to join some friends at a private camp in the Timbavati.

 

For those that don't know, many of the large private reserves bordering the Kruger have both lodges (where guests are entertained for money) and private camps (which may be accessed only by friends of the owners, and beds may not be hired out).

 

The situation is made more complex by the fact that there are no fences between these properties, and very few signposts. These land owners are often irascible when they find uninvited strangers on their land (understandeable, this kind of exclusivity is ridiculously expensive).

 

On Friday morning I was sitting next to a wild fig tree growing on the bank of a largish dry river bed, trying to get some decent photos of the birds enjoying the bounty of ripening fruit, when a Toyota Corolla with two people came past on the jeep track, down into the river-bed. And there, they promptly got quite well stuck.

 

The noise they generated in the process chased all the birds away, so I moseyd down to see what wass going on.

It turned out they were a young German couple, trying to get to their lodge. They were following a mixed set of directions (given to them by their bookign agent in Germany, who had also hired the car) and Google maps on a cell phone. They firmly believed they were on the correct route.

 

I towed them out of the river bed, led them to an air strip, told them to leave their car their, packed their luggage in my car and drove them to their lodge, still following their cell phone as I do not know the area and did not know the location of their camp.

 

Suffice to say, the route they were on would have completely destroyed their little Toyota. Suffice to say also that the lodge is easily reachable by normal sedans, assuming the correct route is followed.

 

I am not really sure what the moral of the story is, or what advice I would have given beforehand, but if I had not been there, they would probably have spent a very uncomfortable night there... 

Link to post
Share on other sites
pomkiwi

@Peter Connan I hope both the tourists and the lodge were grateful. From my trip to the Timbavati I do remember the occasional very battered sign and tracks leading off seemingly into nowhere. The guides were very careful to respect seemingly invisible property boundaries. I also remeber that the signs to the commercial lodges were clear and their access tracks obviously well maintained. I must admit thatI find Google (or Apple) maps useful in built up areas but not very helpful in the wilderness.  Anyway if I see you or them on Wednesday on the way to Kambaku I will wave (don't worry we're getting a transfer) :D

Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter Connan

Unfortunately i am back @pomkiwi.

 

However, the farm I was on is Joubertshoop, which i believe is right next to Kambaku, and they share a dam. We saw a very nice big buffalo bull there a couple of days ago, and yesterday morning there were two hippo in that dam.

 

I hope you enjoy your trip.

 

The point you make about Google maps is a good one. But for newbies on their first trip out of the developed world, this may not be immediately obvious.

 

Even my dedicated GPS with the Southern African overlander's go-to mapping program (Tracks for Africa) could not plot a decent route to their lodge, and I eventually had to resort to the off road mode (which basically indicates distance and direction only) to find the place.

 

I think the most important advice I can give is, if you think you may be lost or on the wrong route, chances are good that you are, and it's often better to turn back and seek advice.

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Peter Connan said:

Google maps on a cell phone

 

The moral of the story is that people (younger mostly) are trusting the electronics (GPS, apps, etc) way more then their common sense! There are almost weekly stories from Costa Rica about folks driven through mountains and rivers because they have followed the sweet voice of GPS device (mostly Google app on smart phones). While driving a narrow (but paved) road in Sri Lanka, Google on Zvezda's iPad wanted to get us off that road ... and into the valley ... where only a river was visible (and yes, there might be a path down there but reachable only by foot or on a mule).

As a newbie I am always buying myself a paper road map, and plot the itinerary on it. Sometimes approach roads to specific locations are not that obvious ... but one can always ask directly the lodge for specifics, before starting that drive. And yes, when one think it might be lost ... he/she is already lost!

Those Germans has been very lucky for you to be around; they might be stuck there for quite a long time. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Tdgraves

They were very lucky indeed that you came along. I don’t really think that these lodges expect people to drive to them. The last time we went to Sabi sands, we only had the lodges directions, which seemed sensible enough. Turn right at the crossroads, where there is a large sign with all of the lodge names on it. The problem was, that the “crossroads” on a sand road in a village was really not apparent and that the sign is constantly being removed for firewood, as it was the large, carved variety! We knew we had missed the turning, but this was confirmed road turned back to tar. Lucklily some locals were able to point us in the right direction. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

From above linked article. "Police say the couple was following a GPS for the shortest route  ..."; it is not the application or the map, it is how the user is using the tool; setting it to the shortest route, tool will chose the shortest route ... no matter what that road(s) condition(s) might be! My grip with Google Maps application is that it puts a thick blue line on forecasted route and the roads below are difficult to be recognised. Thus I prefer those navigation applications that only shows me my current position; that allows me to decide if the "turn left" is really the one I wanted to follow.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter Connan

@Tulips, that is considerably scarier than being stuck in a dry river bed in the African bush!

 

I love the convenience of a GPS, but one definately needs to be able to navigate the old-fashioned way too!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Ritsgaai

 

@Peter Connan, I can only imagine your surprise when the small car suddenly appeared from nowhere and took that strange direction. They were lucky to have an experienced traveller like yourselves close-by, who took the initiative to investigate and assisted them to their lodge. 

 

This is a very interesting discussion and selfdrivers going off-road must never ever put all their trust in Google Maps only. 

 

We always take a hard copy map with us on a journey and find the large scale of it makes it easier to orientate oneself.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...
pault

You spoiled the potential experience of a lifetime @Peter Connan :D  If only they hadn't disturbed the birds. 

 

And good on you for doing so. That was really generous - especially since they were so adamant Mr Google knew best.

 

Among other morals, it shows that you can't beat first-hand, local knowledge and experience.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter Connan

Thanks @pault

 

Indeed. I guess one should never be too proud to ask for directions.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 9 months later...
luangwablondes

Having been an early contributor to Tracks4Africa, I learned a bit about how Google Maps developed their maps of Africa. A long story short, they were adding "roads" from sat pictures that were often remote tracks, seasonal roads, and just plain 'I don't know', but must have looked good from space. Btw, Google Maps did end up working with T4A, but a lot of what Google had was not corrected and then there is the garbage that was collected from other sources.

Edited by luangwablondes
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy