An unexpected trip to the middle of nowhere.

We haven’t been away for a while so we decided to nip away up towards central Otago just overnight, a mini break seriously needed right now by both of us. The added fact that I had run out of data all the more poignant; off the grid for a bit. Where to go though. It’s a couple of hours drive from here in any direction go anywhere and with limited choice of routes and only one night, we were trying to go somewhere we haven’t been. Not easy given all those variables!

Middlemarch Camp ground kitchen / dining areaWe decided upon Middlemarch. It’s a wee village out in the middle of nowhere at the head of the Otago rail trail cycle trail. If it were in England I would call it in the middle of the moors. I’m not sure what they call that here. We have passed through and stopped in its coffee shop but that’s all.

Middle of nowhere, tiny, perfect for what we needed.

Or was it….

We didn’t book ahead at the camp site, we rarely do. The owner tells Mark ‘there’s a ball on tonight, lots of kids going to it, but it’s ok, I’ll put you on a site as far away as possible.’

We go to find our site and the cute wee railway carriage kitchen / outside diner is already filled with young people and crates of beer. The bathrooms are filled with girls and large makeup bags. We can hear the booming music from the marquee on the other side of the village loud and clear. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all.


As it transpires, we just happen to have chosen the tiny place that a nationwide famous singles ball takes place in bi- annually, and TODAY is the day of the ball. 700+ students expected, the Taieri gorge railway is temporarily dubbed a ‘love train’ and is shipping students up here from Dunedin in droves. Superb. To top that all off, the tiny village’s tiny hotel with its tiny bar is hosting them all as they get pissed prior to going to the ball.

We seriously haven’t seen this many people in a bar anywhere in New Zealand – ever! What’s even more hilarious about this is? We mused over the fact that this scene used to be a normal Saturday night in almost any local bar back in England!

We squashed ourselves into the bar in the hope that if we hung around long enough the crowds would leave and normality would return. But meanwhile surveying the scene was highly amusing!

Is this seriously how the youth of New Zealand find a date? By going to a ball in a tent in a field in the middle of nowhere?! They seemed to have come from far and wide! And I mean many many hundreds of KM in all directions!Mark decided that because most of the industry is farming which is a solitary life, this was the only way farmers could find a mate!

It was quickly obvious to us who was experienced at this and had been before. Young beautiful ladies would rock up in droves and from the other side of the tall bar table I was sat at, they looked perfectly normal. What I couldn’t see was some had huge red polka dot gum boots style footwear on with their ball gowns while others had wee open toed sandals! Guess who’s been before?!

It was clearly ‘the place to be’ if you were of a certain age, one lad declared to a guy he met he’d come from Christchurch and had $1000 with him to help him find his match!

We were truly baffled by the whole concept and the unfortunate set of circumstances that placed us here at the same time as these 700+ drunken youngsters! I feel like I’m turning into my own mother scoffing at it all and stating how I can believe I used to be of an age where I found this sort of thing fun!

We managed to persuade the bar staff to put the rugby on and we sat and watched that till all the revellers left and normality was restored.

Then there was the morning after.

To be honest I didn’t get too disturbed in the night be returning drunk people, however the scene the next morning was, quite frankly, hillarious!

People lay scattered around the field of the camp site, discarded underwear and clothing all over: some in tents but most just lying on the floor! Two were on the verandah outside the toilets and one in the lounge / kitchen are (who seemingly had managed to pump up an air bed too!)

I had my morning shower to the sound of periodic up chuck by a constant stream of visitors (nice!) but what amazed me the most was, most of them were, in various states of undress, ready and leaving by the 10am cut off! (We did comment to ourselves about the seeming lack of sober drivers and the morning after a huge drinking session driving danger, I just hope they all got back to their homes ok).

We set off in the opposite direction – off on a ticky tour of the mountains, plains, moors, whatever you want to call it. Scenery I will never get bored of, quite frankly. We covered almost 500km on the detour return trip and barely saw any other people.

We stopped in a tiny wee place on route, hoping their tiny bakery was open (despite it being Easter Monday.) we sat outside wondering if it was of a while before trying the door. Seriously, I don’t know what happened next but suddenly people sprang from everywhere and followed us into the tiny place, a queue quickly forming right out the door (and several more joined us in a seated area outside where we decided to stop and drink our coffees before continuing)!

A preamble along the road to Balclutha then on through the Catlins completed our return trip, seemingly uneventful compared with our stay in Middlemarch!

We stopped for dinner and one more coffee one last time, in the Whistling Frog Cafe: a must stop if you ever drive through the Catlins as their food is devine. It was there that I saw this poster. I NEED a copy of this plastered on my wall at work, so I’m going to look on the internet and source one!