Residents of an otherwise sleepy rural cul-de-sac have been experiencing a very peculiar issue, particularly on holidays and long weekends.
Hundreds of confused sightseers, following Google Maps directions to what they thought was a picturesque tourist destination, have ended up in Valley View Road in Dargan, New South Wales.
They had typed “Blue Mountains” into the search engine or app, but for some reason this had pointed them — with the usual Google certainty — to a dead-end street about 30 kilometres north of Katoomba.
Those who call the tiny street home first noticed something was wrong in 2015, when Google Earth showed photos of tourist spots like The Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls, Wentworth Falls and Mount Solitary attached to their address.
The following year they noticed an influx of tourists, and after talking to some, they realised what Google Maps was doing. By the end of 2016, tourists were flooding into the street daily during the summer holidays, forcing the residents to erect a sign explaining the error.
Karen McLaughlin, 61, has a cottage on the street with her partner and says that, during long weekends and holidays, there can be “a car every few minutes” driving into their once-quiet cul-de-sac looking for the Blue Mountains.
“People following Google Maps to ‘Blue Mountains’ are usually non-English-speaking tourists, and I don’t blame them at all”, she says.
“I feel sorry that they’ve come 35 kilometres out of their way and then have to go back again.”
But the lost tourists cause some serious problems, Ms McLaughlin says, even beyond the inconvenience of having strangers wandering through her and her neighbours’ private property day and night.
“These tourists do not realise they are quickly coming to a cul-de-sac, over a crest, and often approach the end of the street at speed and have to brake sharply”, she says.
“Yesterday there were children playing on the property which would be directly in the pathway of any vehicles losing control”.
Another common issue is that the cars (or occasionally small buses) full of people have often been travelling for hours and the occupants generally want to use the toilet on arrival. Ms McLaughlin said it’s not uncommon for people to knock on her door asking to come in and use the bathroom, or for them to use residents’ gardens.
But the most worrying issue is that the tourists have a tendency to light up cigarettes as soon as they exit their vehicles.
“They would be unaware of the fact that there is a huge fire danger in our surrounding bushland, particularly leading up to summer when we have had no rain”, McLaughlin says.
“It would only take one butt thrown in the wrong direction to potentially cause a large fire”.
The majority of the visitors are well-mannered but frustrated, Ms McLaughlin says, with only the occasional car-load behaving badly. Still, she and the other residents have been dismayed by the intrusion to their serene slice of bushland, especially the owners of the four houses at the end of the street that cop the most traffic.
“Personally, because I have a health problem and have to rest a lot the noise is very disruptive, especially after years of living in a very quiet street”, she says.
Ms McLaughlin is herself a retired cartographer and so is bemused and frustrated that a mapping service could mess up such a prominent landmark.
“Google can have all their super technology, but if the data has millions of errors it is useless”, she says.
“They need to employ more people to verify their data”.