I received an email message from 12MC reader Andrew a few days ago. He said that he and a friend have been playing a game using Google Maps. The rules are simple: try to find the longest possible Google Maps route by providing only a starting and an ending point. Both points have to be place names, not lat/long coordinates. Also, results have to be the default Google routing (no fair adjusting the route manually by pulling it onto other roads to create artificial extensions).
The best example they’ve uncovered is Agulhas, South Africa to Pusat Serenti Pengerang, Malaysia. Here is the default route that Google suggests:
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This is an amazing distance of 30,160 kilometres (18,741 miles) that should take 17 days and 7 hours if undertaken as a continuous journey and everything goes perfectly. I’ll ignore the obvious obstacles posed by Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan for someone of my nationality. Sudan and Myanmar probably wouldn’t be a picnic either.
I played around with this but I couldn’t improve upon the result. The best alternative I generated was Agulhas, South Africa to Magadan, Russia (route map) at "only" 29,619 km (18,404 mi).
The northern tip of North America to the southern tip of South America might seem to like a legitimate candidate using the famous Pan American Highway. However, as odd as this might sound and even after more than a century of automobile road building efforts, the grids of the two continents do not connect. This is known as the Darién Gap. Roads simply do not penetrate this 160 km (99 mi) stretch of swampland and rainforest in Panama’s Darién Province. Nor is the distance likely to to be bridged anytime soon. There are serious environmental concerns within this unspoiled region. Road projects have been proposed in the past and they’ve all been rejected. Sure, a few expeditions on motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles have penetrated the gap. However, an average sane motorist would never attempt to recreate it.
I’m assuming that Andrew & friend have already picked-over the most likely alternatives. Nonetheless, go ahead and give it a shot and see if you can improve upon it.
I think South Africa to Malaysia is a perfectly legitimate route although some might quibble with step 245, "Take the Algier, AL to Marseille, FR ferry…" I’ll always take a ferry if I can find an opportunity. Nonetheless, let’s take this as an opportunity to try a variation on this game. What is the longest route Google suggests that remains completely upon existing road surface without resorting to a ferry?
The best I could do was Agulhas, South Africa to Aswan, Egypt.
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Google suggest 17,661 km (10,974 mi) in an unusual reverse question-mark shape. The funny thing with this one is that there appears to be a route through Sudan along the seacoast that bypasses the loop through the Sahara. Nonetheless, that’s how Google routes it by default and that’s the result I’ll report. The other fascinating feature is that I can’t get anything to route through Israel. Ask Google to take one from Agulhas, South Africa to Amman, Jordan and it will return a message that says, "We could not calculate directions…"
The best non-ferry route I could find for Eurasia was Brest, France to Pusat Serenti Pengerang, Malaysia at 15,196 km (9,442 mi) (route map). For North America it was Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the previously-mentioned Darién Gap at 11,849 km (7,363 mi). I didn’t find much in South America. Google Maps still doesn’t provide very comprehensive routing down there.
There are plenty of other variations one could attempt. The longest route I found for the United States was Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Key West, Florida at 8,827 km (5,485 mi) (route map), albeit much of the path goes through Canada. Theoretically one can complete that journey in 4 days 15 hours. For Canada, how about Inuvik, NT to Labrador City, NL (route map) at 8,087 km (5,025 mi)? — although that does includes a ferry.
I’ll leave this game for now with one more example, the longest road distance I could find from my hometown.
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Google suggest 7,485 km (4,651 mi) between Washington, DC and Prudhoe Bay.
Go ahead and have some fun with this and be sure to post your map links or embedded images in the comments. Thank you Andrew for the great suggestion! I’ve had a lot of fun with this over the last few days.