• Petra Vandecasteele

PART 2 – Never Trust your GPS

En route for a site inspection and a promising brunch in South Africa’s oldest national park, Hluhluwe iMfolozi, we decide to take a scenic route instead of the – according to our GPS – only 7 min. shorter main route.

As soon as we leave the highway, an entirely new landscape unfolds with traditional homesteads scattered all over the rolling hills. We are in the heart of Zululand and the innumerable cows bear testimony to the Zulu’s love for cattle. Needless to say, cows rule and rightly so; they are magnificent.

Only a few days ago, this part of the coast was hit by a deluge of note; the condition of the dirt roads with sinking holes and leftover puddles of mirky water makes me wonder if it was actually a good idea to leave the main road. The track meanders up and down the hills and valleys while I painstakingly try to avoid boulders, holes, and … cows. Against my better judgement I disobey the golden rule of off-roading: whichever road you take downwards, make sure you can make it upwards again. Did I mention we’re driving a modest Volkswagen Polo, not a Fortuner? “Don’t stress,” Enya says confidently when the road makes a steep turn downwards only to be followed by an even steeper uphill. “At the bottom, the GPS clearly shows a road to the left and then we’re almost there. We just can’t see it from here, yet.” I don’t have a good feeling about this and to top it all, there is no electricity in this area, let alone mobile reception. If we’re stuck, we might as well have to milk a cow for supper.

Slowly, slowly we make our way down until we finally turn left into a track that leads straight to a shepherd’s hut. So much for reaching a luxury lodge. I say goodbye to the anticipation of a mouthwatering brunch with home-brewed coffee and make a U-turn, praying for good luck so we can make it all the way back up again. I stick to first gear and slowly, but steadily make my way up until a cow stands in the middle of the track. She’s clearly decided not to move one inch. By no means am I going to stop and slide down backwards because of a cow. Enya opens her window and I wonder what she’s up to. “Wait and see,” she grins and as we get closer she slaps the cow on butt. “It may not be a horse, but the result is the same.” We laugh our way to the top of the track and back to the main road.

These little 7 mins turned into a full-on 3 hour detour. We never made it to the lodge, let alone enjoy a superb brunch. Instead, we got emergency cookies, a bottle of unappealing lukewarm water, and a fair amount of anxiety. Getting lost could not have been more pathetic for seasoned travellers such as the three of us. But, it was worth it. Without our treacherous GPS we would never have experienced this beautiful part of the countryside.

Travel Tips:

  1. Always check the bigger picture of what your GPS is showing. Zoom out and see if the suggested route makes sense;

  2. Take an old-fashioned road map with you so that at least you know where you are and where you're going should your GPS fail you;

  3. Always make sure someone knows where you are going, what your planned route is, and what your estimated time of arrival is, so that action can be taken to find you should you not arrive.

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