I learned very quickly in Wellington that Google Maps is an entirely different entity in this city of shortcuts, staircases and alleyways. It did take me quite a few instances of missing a nearly hidden turn while walking around town before I realized Google was telling me to take that staircase that looks like it leads to someone’s house, or that path that definitely resembles a hiking trail. First of all, I was amazed that even the all-knowing, all-powerful Google knew about these seemingly secret twists and turns that pop up out of nowhere. I have had a GPS try to direct my car up a snowmobile path before, but that was in Vermont, after all, and it most definitely wasn’t a valid shortcut for someone in a Passat.
To sum up just how impressive Google’s abilities are, I’ve compiled some pictures taken during my first two months in Wellington. Each time I encountered a shortcut or path and thought, “Google knows about THIS?” or “Google just told me to turn WHERE?” I took a photo. I’ve now become quite adept at interpreting the strange squiggles and switchbacks that appear on my map app, but I still do occasionally find myself in someone’s yard.
This was my first encounter with Google’s directions in Karori. Man, that staircase requires at least one stop to catch your breath on the way up.
That one really threw me off, seeing as it goes under someone’s house. At the end, I was forced to decide whether I was trespassing in someone’s yard or still following that blue line on my map. Turns out I was trespassing, and I made the (right) choice to turn around. Thanks, Google. Kiwis are so nice that they probably would invite me in for some tea if they caught me on their property, though.
That one is more awkward than anything else, because it isn’t wide enough for two people to pass one another comfortably. Every time you encounter someone going the opposite way, you have to do that strange sideways shuffle so you can both move along. Never mind if someone decides to walk their bike…
Sometimes, the path is so overgrown you start to wonder if Google is leading you into some sort of trap. HOW DOES IT KNOW THIS IS A LEGITIMATE PATH?
Most of these paths are amazing timesavers that allow you to cut corners where a car never could. Every trek around Wellington feels like an adventure, with hidden pathways to discover around each bend.
The stairs can be a bit brutal, especially if you go down a long flight only to discover you took a wrong turn and need to go back up.
I never knew how out of shape I was until I moved here. No one in Wellington would ever have to buy a StairMaster. Wellington IS a StairMaster. I am now officially a Master of Stairs. OK, maybe I arrive at the top huffing and puffing a bit, but I still own those stairs.
Sometimes, Google leads you over the river and through the woods, but I haven’t arrived at Grandmother’s house yet.
Seriously, how does Google know this sketchy sidewalk exists? This is exactly why I don’t trust Google at night, because it is probably trying to get me murdered. I’ll take the bus, thanks!
Sometimes, the views are incredible.
This staircase is one I take on a regular basis in Brooklyn, because it’s the quickest way to get to some great hiking trails. The view also provides a great excuse to stop on the way up.
Google even knows all the trails through local parks.
There’s that “over the river” part. Google Maps back home in the States needs to step it up. Who needs “Street View” when Google takes you on an adventure every day?
Even after living here for a couple of months, I still get that nagging feeling that I am sometimes trespassing. Why is there a woodpile next to this “public” pathway?
I may never have the answer to some of these questions, but I do know that exploring this city is made a lot more interesting by all the shortcuts and stairways. I’ve always been excited by secret paths and hidden alleyways, so I know that Wellington is truly the right place for me. Back in Boston, a secret alley is often either infested with rats or just plain creepy (except maybe Beacon Hill), but here, the paths are covered with greenery and surrounded by trees and stunning views. Even the steepest ones are worth the climb, just to see what awaits at the end.