We arrived in Invercargill. A place we had been making fun of because we knew someone from there and it didn’t sound that thrilling. It is a pretty big city in New Zealand terms, but there’s not a lot going on. It’s mostly an industrial city so there’s lots of housing and businesses and factories. It seems like if you live in Invercargill, it’s cause your job is in Invercargill. Also, the whole place is flat and there aren’t mountains or hills in the distance. It kind of felt like we could have been in a small town in Canada.
We arrived in the evening as it was getting dark and found our campsite. This wasn’t like any campsite we’d been to yet, this one was a motel with some campground space on the property. We get out of the car and it’s windy, like storm windy. It felt like it could start pouring any minute. So we run inside to the reception and meet the nicest older woman. She’s the manager or owner or something, and was one of the loveliest people we met on the trip. She got us settled and we paid then drove around the back to park Shelley and set her up. It had been such a long day and it was so cold, windy and rainy that we just wanted to set her up as quickly as possible. So we run out of the car and unstrap the cover and get ready to pull the ladder out. Three of us pulled the ladder out for it to click and it clicked one rung more than usual. We thought nothing of us and then continued to pull the ladder to make the tent rise.
I watch the tent fall back onto the van and see two of my friends fall to the ground.
The ladder just snapped in half.
At the time this seemed like the end of the world. We have no idea how to fix the ladder and we really need to because it’s our only sleeping option. Even if we had another place we could sleep for the night, we can’t drive the car away cause we can’t put her back together. So we’re stuck.
And again I’ll remind you of the rain and the wind and the weird ghostly town and the run down almost abandoned campsite/motel.
That’s when Steph became a hero. She turned into beast mode and said “no. we have to fix it.” And she got to work. Looking at the latter and seeing how we could snap it back together. She makes tiny bits of progress. With every sound and bit of movement that came from the ladder we held our breath, hoping it was fixed. After a few failed attempts we studied the ladder. I noticed on the back the two screws at the very top. The other day when we had put the ladder away and it was uneven I noticed that one screw was covered while the other wasn’t and I didn’t think that was right. This time both the screws were uncovered. I mention this to Steph and the other girls and after a few minutes of trying to slam the ladder back over the screws it was fixed. The greatest cheers and yells came from our site. We very gently and slowly set up the tent, nervous something else would break. We finally were able to go inside and make our dinner. We had a good night after that. We were very uneasy to go into the actual tent, since it relies on the ladder being sturdy and we had learned the hard way that it was less than that. The little cherry on top of the sundae of bad luck was the wind. All night the tarp that is on top of the tent flapped in the high winds, making the loudest noises. None of which helped the uneasiness about the sturdiness of the tent.
So that was a night.
The next morning we carefully packed up the tent and headed into Invercargill. The really nice woman had told us about somethings in Invercargill. The only cool thing there was their Queens Gardens. It’s a huge park in the middle of the city with gorgeous large gates and rose gardens and ferneries and her gardens and gondolas and a thousand other things. We looked around a bit but it was raining, so we went to her other recommendation, the museum, which was in the park. It was an ok museum, but is mostly famous because of the Tuatara habitat. Tuatara are the only lizards native to New Zealand. They once covered all of New Zealand, but have now retreated only to Stewart Island because of new foreign predators brought over during colonization. The museum has a breeding program, with their most famous guy being Henry, their oldest lizard. He was hiding, but we did get to see little babies. Which were pretty cute considering they were lizards.
After we had spent probably too much time in Invercargill we drove an hour to a place we had heard of called Gemstone Beach in Orepuki. The beach is covered in all different stones, and they’re all so pretty. We hadn’t seen any stones or anything that looked remotely like that anywhere before. It was so cool, we spent hours picking up stones. The whole beach was a gem in itself since nothing like it exists. Then the hardest decision came, which stones would we bring home with us? This took another 30 minutes.
Eventually we took our stones and walked back to the car. We quickly stopped for coffee and then continued back through Invercargill and past towards bluff. On our way we made a stop at a beach where supposedly you can see Stewart Island, the third Island of New Zealand. But we couldn’t see that day since it was so cloudy. However, I did get my Shelley pic.
Rachel had given each of us one photo on her polaroid* camera of Shelley that we could take at any point on the trip. It was her gift to us and it had become a funny thing where we were always searching for our perfect Shelley pic. So we were on this huge beach and it was beautiful out and I knew that’s where I wanted it. So I took her polaroid and asked the other girls to hop in the photo and I snapped away. Here she is.
So we continued our way to Bluff, the Southern most town of New Zealand. We went to the top of the Bluff lookout but when we got out of the car it was windier than ever and freezing cold. So we ran to the top, looked for three seconds, took a picture, and ran back down into the warmth of our car.
We quickly left Bluff since there was NOTHING to see, and drove to our campsite. We arrived in the dark while the office was closed. So we drove in and took a spot, as we rolled in the first sign said “Danger: seal lions live on this coast”. Knowing nothing about Seal lions, this was not reassuring. The campsite felt like a corn maze, with tall grass block our view and no signs. So we parked wherever and made dinner and set up Shelley and went to bed, with the wind just as bad as the night before. In the morning we walked along the coast to enjoy the beautiful view.
We drove out of this strange windy part of New Zealand and ventured into the Catlins. But that’s a story for another time.
* It’s not actually a polaroid. It’s an instax camera. Instax cameras became really popular in the last few years since they started selling them in pretty colours and putting them in Urban Outfitters. Mostly everyone calls them polaroids, but polaroid is a company that went out of business. So it’s not a polaroid, but polaroid did make the instant photo famous, so that’s where the word confusion comes from. It’s kinda like tissue and kleenex.