I’ve white-water rafted the Nile. I’ve climbed Mount Kenya. I’ve slept on cold marble floors while waiting out airport delays. I’ve even managed to car camp (and still get some sleep) with P-Platers hooning all around me.
But despite my self-proclaimed credentials, I recently managed to find myself lost on a sedate stroll commonly undertaken by retirees, morning walkers and middle-aged tourists.
I’m talking about Wollongong’s Mount Kiera, which stands over the city at 464 metres tall. On a recent trip to Wollongong, I made it my mission to walk its Ring Track, which takes you on a journey around the mountain and gives you panoramic views over the city and coastline.
So far so Bored Sydneysider.
A short little walk to round the day off nicely, I thought at about 6pm. The idea was to have a gentle stroll, see the sunset at the lookout, and then drive down to Wollongong for pizza and wine.
Little did I know, a series of catastrophic errors (ok, they weren’t exactly K2 errors, but still) would lead to dinner almost not happening, and hours of wandering around in the dark, wondering how on earth I got lost this close to a major city (with the street lights twinkling in the background).
Watch the video below to see a blow by blow of the ordeal.
My first error was not parking exactly where Google Maps suggested, but rather prematurely on a random stretch of road where I saw some other cars, because I thought it would be two minutes quicker. Sunset was imminent, and I was rushing, as they say, for the (Insta)gram.
In my rush to add to Instagram’s database of photos with the hashtag ‘Mount Keira,’ I, not being able to see the signs to Mount Kiera Lookout, and running short on light, decided to do a walk called Mount Pleasant Track, figuring there must be some other half-decent lookout along the way.
It was far from pleasant. Much to my dismay, there were no lookouts. Worse: the track continued further and further down the mountain with no lookout in sight. My hopes of taking a lookout photo like the ones I had seen on Instagram began to fade.
As you do when you’re a bit annoyed and in a rush, I kept pushing on with no real plan in mind, hoping for the best, praying for some kind of lookout – any kind of lookout – to film before it got dark.
In my rush, it didn’t twig that there was no lookout ever promised by the Mount Pleasant Track signs at the beginning. I just assumed there would be one at the end, which is why I persisted. In the end, it just took me to a random house and a road. Disappointed, I turned around and started the slog back up the hill.
It got darker and darker, and I realised I had thoughtlessly taken quite a few forks while walking down. I realised this after walking 20 minutes in the wrong direction, which was great. No matter: I had Google Maps and a head torch!
With the help of technology, everything was once again fine… until I realised I couldn’t remember the name of the road where I had parked. So I put the ‘Mount Kiera lookout carpark’ into Google Maps and hiked there. At the Mount Kiera lookout carpark there was a toilet block and a very angry possum, but no car.
By this time it was totally dark. The rangers had shut the gates to the park. Wollongong’s restaurants were looking like a far off vision, replaced by a night of wandering around fire trails and cursing my decision to trust Google Maps rather than my girlfriend’s sense of direction.
Just as I had lost hope, I arrived at a locked gate, with a sign explaining that if you got yourself locked in, you need to call a certain number and pay to be let out. I walked around the fence and the car was there.
Not parking in the right place actually proved profitable, as I was then able to drive back to Wollongong without needing to call or pay anyone to be let out. I even made it to dinner. The pizzas tasted all the better knowing the night might easily have involved more walking in the dark.
Lesson learned. Never trust Google Maps. Or if you do; make a note of where you parked.