Lumsden, NZ to Invercargill, NZ

57.3 mi / 15.1 mph / 306 ft. climbing
Home: Central City Camping Park

The campground was already one of the most-comfortable we’ve ever stayed in, but it cemented its position by drying every bit of condensation from the tent before I packed it up. Is this a service that can be added to other campgrounds?! The ease of packing up, plus the proximity to the kitchen and bathrooms meant that we could have achieved the elusive 2-hour alarm-to -departure, but Rett got distracted talking with another bike touring couple. That’s ok, she’s the one who gets frustrated when we don’t meet that arbitrary goal; it gave me time to lube our chains and pump up our tires, minor maintenance things I never seem to find time for, so I guess we need more distractions for her!

We knew today would be our longest distance in New Zealand, but even Rett wasn’t stressed about that (clearly!), because we were scheduled for our second day in a row of perfect tailwinds. Miraculously, as our route was revised to a straight southward ride rather than the east-southeast ride we’d originally planned to now-booked-up Gore, the wind forecast had shifted with it over the last couple days. It’s as if all the forces of the universe were trying to keep us out of Gore and send us to Invercargill. Manipulate away, universe!

We had to choose between a directly-south 13-mile stretch on the SH1 highway, with a 250-foot up-and-down hill, or a 3 mile backtrack north and west to a country road on the west side of the river with nothing but a slow, steady downhill for 50+ miles. We went with the latter, and given that about 20 cars passed us from behind in 40 miles on that country road, I think it was the right choice.

Doing a few miles of backtracking, the one bit where we got a slight sense of what riding into the wind would be like.
Farmland here still has mountains not far (the other side of those mountains hide the valley that we rode from Queenstown to Te Anau last week).

Easy riding seems like such a rarity for us, we tried to be conscious of every moment, and for once felt like we must actually be riding e-bikes that everyone always asks if we have. Yesterday we had a downhill tailwind, but only after a long uphill. Today it was literally a 50-mile downhill, with only the rare minor uphill interspersed along the way. It was only a 700 foot drop from top to bottom, which is very little over 50 miles (it’s not unheard of for us to drop 700 feet in a single mile!), but that nearly-undetectable yet always-present slope is the best kind of helping hand.

So even with the tailwind being less-strong than yesterday’s, we ended with the fastest average speed of our nomadacy (partly because Rett couldn’t resist adding her own push on top of everything else).

No cars, beautiful farmland, multiple pushes from behind, what could be better?!

Assisting us in counting our blessings were two poor souls riding the other way. The second was inspiringly unbothered (or dementedly cheerful?) only asking if we’d noted anything about a potential alternate camping spot we’d passed, if she couldn’t make it all the way to her goal of Lumsden. But as she pushed off again into the wind and up the hill, she still seemed to be assuming Lumsden, even though it was already after 1pm and that would mean another 5 hours of soul-grinding riding at a minimum!

The Return of the Hedges (this one even more squarely-trimmed than most) indicates that wind-blocking is a frequent need on this southern tip of the island.
One challenge of the day: a half-mile gravel road shortcut ended with two five foot tall earthen berms enforcing the “road closed” sign posted at the start (I’m standing atop the second, looking back at the first). Luckily a quick sprint alongside our bikes gave enough momentum to get them to the tops without needing to unload them.
Rett finishing the second gravel shortcut, this one officially signed, with a bit of deep stone being the only issue.
Even before she got off her bike, this entire herd of teenage moo-cows began crowding to the corner of their field to meet Rett. In the background you can see them still coalescing.
It’s like they’re all waiting for her to do something, but no one knows what.

There are only four cities in the world that are both larger and further south than Invercargill (all in Chile and Argentina). The increase in traffic had me dad-joking that they call it InverCARgill for a reason, but when we did a long hot walk from the campground for groceries and had to cross a busy roundabout to get to the liquor store, the traffic was definitely no joke.

Overall the city reminded me a bit of a Detroit, in that past-its-prime way (as NZ’s center-of-gravity has shifted north over the last century), but still containing those strong classical bones from its heyday (particularly the parks, filled with avenues of majestic trees).

A minor park on a main road in Invercargill.

The campground was much more crowded than last night’s (not surprising for a place with “Central City” in the name and literally in the backyard of a house on a residential block!), but much of the crowd was backpackers and they’re usually pretty unobtrusive. The problem was the car-camping couple next to us who were inanely shouting and chortling and singing back to videos on their phone late into the night.

The crowded tent area at Central City Camping Park.
Beauty in a decaying church next to the campground.


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