Bruce thought he was saving time when he followed Google Maps’ advice to take a diversion in his off-roader. However, the route, deep through Australia’s Blue Mountains in New South Wales, took him deep into the unknown. And although he got completely lost in the wilderness, he also learned a vital lesson along the way.
Bruce had set off to meet his friends in a camp site in the mountains. Google Maps flagged up a 15-minute short cut and Bruce, who says he is “reasonably experienced in 4×4” driving, took on the route. And he had come prepared, as he later posted pictures of his 2017 Ford Ranger 2017 on Imgur, showing its new customized features to make it extra resilient for off-roading.
Bruce’s jeep boasted an assortment of accessories and upgrades, including bash plates, off-road racing shocks and 33-inch wheels. And his work attracted an array of supportive comments on his Imgur post. “If I had a car like that I’d never take the highway,” wrote one user.
Another user on Imgur posted, “Really hope you actually take this off-roading. There are so many people in my town with tricked out trucks that are just for show.” And off-roading is exactly what Bruce did, though the journey presented some remarkable surprises.
With his strong and sturdy truck, Bruce didn’t feel concerned about taking Google Maps’ suggested diversion through the mountains. “… I have a reasonably heavy upgraded Ford Ranger, so when Google Maps told me there’d be a quick 15-minute saving [going] off-road I thought, ‘Yeah, let’s give it a try’,” he wrote on Imgur.
And as it turned out, it was fortunate Bruce’s car was in good order. The fact he was going to meet up with friends to go camping also meant he had plenty of gear in the event of an emergency. As he explained on Imgur, “I had about 1,000 kilometers of fuel left, a tent, a CB UHF radio and enough water and beer to survive the night.”
Bruce was keen to meet up with his friends as they only managed to hook up as a group every once in a while. So perhaps the chance to get there quicker to make the most of the catch-up was tempting. He told Bored Panda, “[We had planned] just a quick one-nighter because we rarely managed to bring the five partners together for that one night.”
The one-hour route Bruce planned to follow took him from Jenolan Caves Road. Named after one of the world’s oldest caves, it’s a stand-out site in the Blue Mountains. His destination was Cox’s River Campground, which sits on an old route used for horses. The website for this popular spot informs people to drive in a 4×4 or access it on foot, suggesting that the tough terrain would be rather too much for standard vehicles.
Bruce set off on the road suggested, but as the pictures he posted of his trip on Imgur show, the route was almost completely overgrown with grass and flowers. He said, “The road Google Maps took me down hadn’t been traveled for a while.” Nevertheless, Bruce continued following the route, passing alongside a pine plantation.
Having a satellite navigation system is a handy tool indeed for modern travellers. From locating a meet-up point in a foreign city, to working out how to avoid heavy traffic, there is no limit to the convenience that apps like Google Maps offer. Nevertheless, sometimes the idea of simply getting lost in an unknown wilderness can be just as alluring as making it to a chosen destination on time.
And this leads to the question: does satellite navigation take the fun out of traveling? In the right circumstances, getting lost can sometimes offer the chance of discovery, and new experiences we may not otherwise have. And that’s certainly what Bruce’s trip was about to offer, as he made his way through the Australian Blue Mountains.
Meanwhile, Bruce continued following the diversion, driving through a thick carpet of daisies with no sign of a road. He then began thinking that he might be in trouble. He wrote on Imgur, “After this bit I did start to think I had bitten off more than I could chew, due to the fact [that I had] very limited space to turn around.”
And Bruce’s tribulations continued when he started descending a steep mountain. Indeed, he realized he was in a sticky situation, as he would really struggle to go back up again if he needed to. Bruce then decided that there was only one way to go, forward, and he would just have to deal with the consequences.
Meanwhile, Bruce isn’t the first person to drive into the unknown while trying to reach a destination in the Blue Mountains. In 2017 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that hundreds of people had found themselves completely lost after typing “Blue Mountains” into the Google search engine or app and following the directions.
Indeed, people looking to reach the Blue Mountains instead ended up in a small, unassuming residential street called Valley View Road in Dargan, New South Wales. And a succession of lost motorists attracted the attention of residents who live in the area, which is about 30 kilometers north of the town of Katoomba.
Interestingly, a sign reading “Google Maps is wrong” had appeared in Valley View Road, alerting stranded drivers to the mistake. And Karen McLaughlin told the Sydney Morning Herald that she would see “a car every few minutes” arrive on the cul-de-sac during holidays and long weekends.
“People following Google Maps to ‘Blue Mountains’ are usually non-English-speaking tourists, and I don’t blame them at all,” McLaughlin continued. “I feel sorry that they’ve come 35 kilometers out of their way and then have to go back again.”
Coincidentally, McLaughlin is actually a retired cartographer, and the error irritated her. “Google can have all their super technology, but if the data has millions of errors it is useless,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “They need to employ more people to verify their data.”
Meanwhile, Bruce continued on his off-road trek, but even more difficult terrain awaited him, as he began descending a hill in his vehicle. He said, “There was a lot of ‘controlled’ gliding on the hand, that’s where you literally slide on the belly of your car, making use of the steepness to let you glide, without guaranteeing that [the] wheels hit the ground.”
Braving the glide down the hill, Bruce then found himself in what he refers to as “a bit of a rainforest.” And mesmerized by the beauty, he took some snaps of the surrounding trees, before he encountered his next challenge. That’s because a river lay ahead, and, undeterred, he pushed on.
Luckily, the shallow waters of the stream allowed Bruce to drive straight through, and he continued on his journey in the wilderness. The stream itself ran down what appeared to be the road with pebbles on the bed underneath the water.
Thankfully, Bruce didn’t reveal his fears in his post. But he certainly had reason to be scared of driving further into this green wilderness, given the previous experience of others. Indeed, British backpacker Jamie Neale had got lost himself in the Blue Mountains in July 2009 and survived for nearly two weeks before being found alive near the town of Katoomba.
Teenager Neale had gone missing on July 3 and had last been seen at the Ruined Castle landmark, before heading to Mount Solitary. Almost two weeks later, two hikers heard his desperate calls for help near the Narrowneck Plateau, which is 15 kilometers from Katoomba.
Once leaving the landmark, Neale had lost his bearings, The Telegraph reported. And he then became concerned when he could no longer hear aircraft overhead and feared rescuers wouldn’t see him. After going into what he called “survival mode,” Neale tried to come up with a strategy to get out of the wilderness, rather than wait to be found.
Neale isn’t the only person to have had to struggle their way through the wild and rugged Australian landscape. And if panic mode sets in, this can affect a person’s ability to think rationally and help them stay alive, according to survival expert Bob Cooper.
Cooper told News.com.au in October 2015, “Survival is a mind game first of all. If you get emotional — and most people do — that will block off any common sense and then the person will start making decisions that aren’t based on reality.” Indeed, he said this way of thinking can be the difference between life and death.
Cooper continued, “People should never wander off from their cars in the event of a breakdown in remote areas. Stay with the vehicle, there are so many resources there,” he said. “It’s a signal for [a] start, then you can put the hood up, take mirrors off to signal with and get water from the air-conditioning.”
Meanwhile, fortunately for Bruce, he didn’t rush or panic. He showed some concern about the route, given the fact he was sloping down a mountain and would be unable to turn around. However, as his Imgur photo gallery states, after concluding his predicament, he simply consoled himself with the amazing sights around him.
And at times the road just disappeared in front of Bruce, forcing him to find another way. He said, “I had to reverse 500 meters at one point due to the road not existing.” The temperature became an issue too, rising to 45 °C at one point, though thankfully he had the shelter of the car to keep the heat at bay.
And Bruce’s tricky journey continued, after Google suggested he take a left turn to what he referred to as a “sheer drop.” But he continued on, writing, “When I realized I was kinda lost I just started to take photos as I was already running late. Better take it slow than rush and create safety issues.”
Meanwhile, after encountering the water, Bruce posted shots of an amazing green landscape which surrounded him. Then the terrain became less wet as he emerged from the watercourse and followed a route he described as a “scenic drive.” A number of kangaroos then popped out of the wilderness, and his camera was at the ready to capture these fantastic creatures.
Bruce posted some awe-inspiring shots of the furry animals sitting in the grassland on Imgur. He wrote, “[Hello] there. The Kangaroos were pretty laid back and didn’t really care that I was driving up next to them.” He was even able to get a close-up of one of them too.
After this picture, which showed the kangaroo almost looking straight at Bruce, he posted another amusing greeting to the animal. “Hello Buddy, apologies for the fuzziness but the phone camera was zoomed. Come at me bro,” he said.
Then there were two kangaroos staring at him from the grassland area. He snapped them both and one hopped away. And not long later, Bruce finally made it to his campsite, journey, which ended up taking over two hours. But he’d experienced an amazing adventure, which had come straight out of the blue.
And despite the risks, Bruce had come out the other side with some outstanding photos and wonderful memories. Meanwhile, after posting his photo story on Imgur, he attracted over 300 responses, with several sensing the potential dangers of being in the remote Aussie landscape alone.
Indeed, many online commenters couldn’t believe that Bruce would commit to such an endeavor. One user joked, “In Australia even Google is trying to kill you.” Meanwhile, another expressed their concerns, saying, “Off-road in a country where even pollen can kill you? I’m good mate.”
Bruce’s trip was so life-affirming it should be an advert for having a great time in Australia, one respondent wrote. “It would make a gold ad for tourism, instead of ‘where the bloody hell are you,’ [it’d be], ‘come to Aussie and get lost,’” the user joked.
Bruce should be grateful to Google for sending him the wrong way, another user said jokingly. One wrote, “Looks like Google sent you on an adventure. Send them a thank-you letter.” Another concurred, “This is what life is all about, living the moment.”
And then the perfect finale to Bruce’s journey was finally joining his mates and carrying on with the planned camp. He wrote on Imgur, “As soon as I [had finished], it was beer and steak with the boys. We do these trips every few months – because we all come from different areas, it’s a way we can always meet.”
Meanwhile, the next morning Bruce had another surprise: a reptile. He concluded, “… This little man gave us a visit the next day.” Certainly, Bruce’s adventure proved a hot topic, with his photo log receiving nearly 140,000 views and the chance to learn, as he did, that life can sometimes veer off course.