It is easier to travel in the age of the internet. Especially if you look at how travelling used to be before the age of live translation, navigation and what not. It is incredibly disappointing then when technology fails you in the world where we depend on it for most of our days.
Google Maps did just that for a minute or two back in Kerala last September. It wanted us to drive off a cliff. It wasn’t life-threatening, it was oddly hilarious. Yet, it served as a nice reality check.
The idea was simple. Get a Zoomcar, drive to Athirappilly, check the falls out, come back in time for our flight, and go back to Delhi.
So, we picked our Zoomcar up from their collection point in Kochi. It was a red Hyundai i20. We headed out, Google Maps doing its routine job. It was usual and seamless like it always is back in Delhi. No one can memorise the behemoth of routes in the city, everyone uses Google Maps.
About an hour into the drive through serene forests, beautiful landscapes, and picturesque churches, we reached a sort of predicament.
Before us was a bridge that was under construction and hence, a stream and no bridge. Google wanted us to go right from this point. The problem was, the road on the right wasn’t much of a path. It was a trail at best. Peppered with houses on the side. It was a very rural establishment.
Since Google was our trusty sidekick, we listened to the navigation and headed right. After a kilometre or so, the road kept getting narrower. We passed some houses, no people to be seen anywhere. Ultimately, we reached this place where the road didn’t go any further. A pole stood in the middle of the road, an abyss after it.
Yet, Google Maps was convinced we should go through the pole and into the chasm. It was hilarious. No reroutes. Nothing.
So, we did what we could do. Rohit took one side, I took the other while Parmeet tried to reverse the car through the narrowest alley you could fit a car into for about two kilometres and a half.
Google was still convinced we were going in the wrong direction though. “Go straight,” she kept saying.
As we reached halfway through our constant calls of “Bas bas” and “Haan, kar peeche”, a man stepped outside his house. Obviously, he didn’t speak Hindi. Unfortunately, he wasn’t good with English either. So, we used the one word we knew he could understand. “Athirappilly?” we asked.
The man tried his best to point us in the right direction. However, Kochi was a nightmare when it came to the language barrier, really. This situation was no different. Still, we took the best of what we heard and made mental notes of the possible directions.
Parmeet kept reversing the car, and once I had complete trust in his abilities, I made a friend.
The whole debacle lasted some thirty minutes.
We had to backtrack all the way back to the main highway and take another route to Athirappilly. Apparently, there used to be a road there but it was being reconstructed, and so, Google wasn’t exactly wrong.
“How did people travel in the old days, man?” asked one of us to the rest of the group. It was a valid question after all. “I guess that is why most people didn’t travel at all in the old days,” I said.
This little incident reminded me of a similar one that happened in Agra, back in 2015.
Prateek, a friend I’ve travelled the most with yet, and I were in an auto-rickshaw. We were heading back to his uncle’s place who was kind enough to host us for a few days.
“Seedha le lena, bhaiya,” we told the driver.
“Pakka seedha lena hai?” He confirmed.
“Haan haan,” we said in unison.
“Bhaiya seedha lenge to road se koodna padhega,” he said plainly.
We checked Maps, which apparently wanted us to go straight. Then we looked up and saw how straight meant jumping off the road onto the lower one.
“Bhaiya aap apne hisab se hi dekh lo yaar. Ye to marwaega,” said Prateek.
We laughed about it when we were rested and rejuvenated. Guess you can’t really trust technology blindly after all, right?