Are you going my way?

Posted on 14 August 2017

Sure, GPS will take you places – just not always the right places.

rwanda, trees

A serene landscape shot by Teagan Cunniffe.

I was in Rwanda with Teagan Cunniffe, Getaway’s photographer, and she had just shown me how the GPS on her phone works. For years I’ve shunned Google Maps and GPS. I’ve always said I want to be in touch with my surroundings and have a more authentic experience, but actually it’s because GPS is technology and when it comes to technology I am a small arachnophobic girl and technology is a large spider.

But it turns out that GPS is quite easy to use, especially if you aren’t the one paying for the roaming data, so when a driver picked us up in Musanze to take us to a hotel somewhere outside town, I was quite keen to help.

‘You should take the second left,’ I told Habimana.

Habimana frowned. ‘I don’t think so,’ he said.

‘No, look, here’s the map,’ I said, waving the phone in front of his face. Habimana was very polite so he pretended to look at the phone, nodding appreciatively. Then he said that maybe he knew a better way.

‘How long will your way take?’ I asked.

Habimana said maybe half an hour.

‘Ooooh, I don’t know, Habimana. The map says it’s only 20 minutes. It’s getting quite late… I think maybe let’s take the quicker way, what do you say?’

Habimana considered this thoughtfully, then he smiled and nodded and sort of shrugged to himself, and took the second turning left.

I settled back in my seat with a warm, contented feeling. Why hadn’t I embraced technology before? Technology is great. Technology has turned me into an expert. Teagan had gone silent. She had a thoughtful look on her face as I imagine a scientist might have who is wondering whether it was such a good idea, after all, to teach that chimp to use a firearm.

The second turn left was a fine dirt road that lead away from the tarmac road, and passed through a kind of field and then turned uphill. The further uphill it turned, the less road there seemed to be. There was more rut than road. The wheels started struggling for purchase. Habimana hunched over the steering wheel in concentration. I hunched over the screen.

‘We should be almost there,’ I said.

Habimana wasn’t quite as convinced because he wasn’t looking at a screen, he was looking at the dark mountain rising ahead of us.

We’ll be at the river any minute now,’ I assured him.

‘No river on a mountainside,’ muttered Habimana.

I looked to Teagan for support. We technologists must stick together, but she was reading an article about a woman in Bellevue, Washington, who drove into a lake because the GPS said it was a road. Even when the water reached the windscreen, she didn’t press the brakes. She assumed it must be a very deep puddle and carried on driving forward.

‘Stupid Americans,’ I said.

It felt like Teagan was going to say something, but then we were distracted by the fact that the car wasn’t moving any more. The engine was running and the wheels were spinning, but we weren’t going anywhere. We peered out of the windows at the impenetrable Rwandan night.

Habimana said: ‘Someone needs to push.’

I looked at Teagan.

‘I’m not going out there,’ she said.

‘Someone has to stay with the GPS,’ I replied.

We sat in silence while Habimana slipped the car into neutral and let it roll backwards in the darkness down the hill. At the bottom we bumped gently into
a tree, and Habimana turned and looked at me until I put away the phone.

‘Now,’ he said, ‘we go to the hotel?’


Read the story in the August 2017 issue of Getaway magazine.

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Our August issue features 14 Northern Cape treasures, a trip along Mozambique’s pristine beaches on a fat-bike, holidays to take if you want to learn a new skill and so much more. 


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