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Weekend Trips and Google Maps

I am a self confessed Fan (yes with a capital 'F') of Google and its products - my GMail remains open on my laptop as long as it is switched on; I visit Google to reach every 9 in 10 websites I visit; I save most of my documents as GMail attachments or Google Docs; all the websites which I manage are managed through; and almost every time I drive to a new place, I use Google Maps!

The resolution and detail on Google Maps for India has improved a lot since I first blogged about MapMyIndia version of Indian mapping software (incidentally, the makers of MapMyIndia now power Yahoo! India Maps). However, Google Maps has forged far ahead of Yahoo! Maps or MapMyIndia thanks to its colaborative features - most of the landmarks and addresses which I find on Google Maps are tagged or identified by users themselves. This kind of crowdsourced mapping info makes Google maps an ideal tool to find anything from businesses (say CD Shop in Powai) to picnic spots and weekend getaways.

My Google Maps habit has also been increasing with the same speed as Google's capability to map the Indian landscape. So much so that I Googled my way to the Borivali Railway Station yesterday before visiting it to double check on the one-ways round the station. On one incident, I had Googled for Kolkata's metro station nearest to the KPMG Guest House where a colleague was staying. I was doing this while she was in her flight to Kolkata, so that I could direct her to the guest house on phone after she reached!

Here's a Google Map I gleaned when I had to visit Viman Nagar in Pune on a business trip and I did not know the way.

Google Maps has also of late become the most indispensable tool for me to plan weekend getaways in and around Mumbai. I went for a trip to Shirdi and Shani Shingnapur with my parents and brother in May and last weekend I went to Malshej Ghat.

But, the mobile signals in rural India are still not strong to rely on Google Maps on one's mobile. So I have devised a workaround. I chart out my travel on Google maps and then take screenshots of the map at a very high resolution. I paste all screenshots (which make up the complete route from source to destination) in a Powerpoint PPT and then transfer the PPT on my HTC Touch P3000.
My cellphone now acts as a handheld navigation device. Every time I cross a landmark or come across a diversion in the road, I open my PPT and check the route. Also, often local people may not know about the road to your final destination but they may know the shortest path to the nearest town on your itinery - so having a map of all major pit-stops on your way is handy. You need not then ask the 'shortest path' to Shirdi but you can ask them about the shortest path of Sangamner, Sinnar or Ghoti (see the Shirdi route map above).

My travel has become free of the hassle of figuring out roads in rural India and relying on the knowledge of local population which is often very unreliable given that most locals in villagers know only the way to the nearest town and often their advice may lead you to kaccha roads or longer and circuitous routes.

Here's the PPT form navigation map for trip to Malshej Ghat and Shivenri Fort


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