The Day the Outdoor Camping Dream Died

January 28, 2017

We hadn’t necessarily planned to make it all the way to the southernmost city in New Zealand, but Invercargill was calling us (as was the opportunity to stay with the forest garden gurus of NZ which we will tell you all about in the next post). The bus ride was a bit long and we had to transfer ourselves and our bikes onto a second bus at Gore, but we made it safely to Invercargill by late afternoon. The skies were gloomy and the windy had a serious bite. I layered all my warm clothes on and still wasn’t warm enough. This was the heart of the southland and it certainly did not feel like summer. I haven’t warmed up properly since then.

Invercargill was a neat city with a beautiful big park and lots of outdoor spaces, but not a lot of people. It also felt pretty deserted, and it wasn’t until we walked along the main street past the cinema later that evening that we realized where most Invercargillians were hanging out. More on that later…

13 January: Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill for

So we arrive, put our front wheels on and head to the closest campsite we can find which is only about a kilometre from the city centre. After tackling some serious headwinds to get there, we arrive, pay for a camp site and start setting up our tent. We have a pretty awesome and speedy system by now, and we are unpacking, pegging and putting up the poles when there is a strange snapping sound and we realize that one of the poles has broken. This is rather ironic because not a week ago, we were talking about how trusty our tent was and how the only thing that could happen to it that would let us down would be a pole breaking.

Although we never gave her a name, she has been our trusty camping companion for over 6 years and was the very first purchase that Christian and I made together. After sleeping in her for the last 4 months for at least 70% of our nights on the road, she was full of mosquito guts, moth corpses, mildew and wayward feathers from our sleeping bags. But we loved and cherished her, and she had never once let us down.

So the pole breaks, but MEC is so forward-thinking that they include a spare pole brace that you can pop over the broken part until you can get it fixed. We breathe a sigh of relief and put the tent up again. Christian is just fastening the fly with a peg when we hear another snap. I think it is reinforcement not working, but it actually turns out that ANOTHER pole has snapped. We only have two poles and one reinforcement so we are really in trouble now.

13 January: Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill for

Luckily the campground has some little cabins that are very affordable (only $30 more than a site), so we bite the bullet because we don’t have another choice and pack up the tent sadly. We know MEC will replace the poles for us eventually, but what to do in the meantime? We have about 5 nights left in New Zealand where we planned on camping and we decide to sleep on the conundrum, check out some of the outdoor shops in Invercargill and see if we can either fix the poles somehow or afford a new tent and just send our beloved one home.

As we are relocating, a German guy who is staying next door to us asks us if we changed our minds about the camping. We tell him what has happened and he tells us that the SAME THING HAPPENED TO HIM!!! In the EXACT same campsite spot. Three days earlier. And he has been waiting there since then for a replacement to be sent through. Isn’t that just the most bizarre thing ever? We contemplated leaving a little “Don’t Camp Here: This Site is Haunted” sign, but decided against it.

13 January: Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill for

The cabin is a little tight so we have to do some furniture rearranging and decide to check out the town. We are both a bit tired to make dinner and feel like it’s been a tough day even though we’ve hardly done any biking, so we end up getting a $5 pizza (the only thing they sell cheaply in New Zealand it would seem), and are just deliberating whether to go back to the campground or not when we pass the cinema and finally get a glimpse of those elusive Invercargillians. Also, La La Land is playing and I am desperate for a dose of phantasmagoria. The timing works out well for us to also treat ourselves to a pint at the pub first. The movie was highly enjoyable and very much recommended, but it was hard to leave the cinema and be subjected to reality again: the cold wind, the rain coming down and a long walk back to our campground.

The next day, we have to sort our tent out and make our way to Riverton for our final woofing stay. We are feeling a little more rational today and find an excellent outdoor outfitters that gives us several options of either removing the old ones and restringing in new replacement along the bungee or just buying a new tent. They had some excellent deals and we decided that another segment of the pole could very likely break again. So after some serious contemplation….
13 January: Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill for

…we buy a Weka 2 with a little Kiwi on it to always remind us of our NZ adventures, pack our old tent into our new tent box, and ship it back to Markham via NZ Post.

13 January: Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill for

And then, it’s off to Riverton!

Author: Bronwyn

Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of

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