Readers share their tales of woe under canvas — from tornadoes to tiger sharks.

It was May 2015; me, my wife and our son (then 2) camped at the base of Mt Maunganui (in the beachside holiday park) with our Coleman tent.

That was the toughest night of our lives, with heavy rains and fiery winds trying to bring down our tent. We were really scared with the mighty mountain behind, and, the sea right next to us making horrendous sounds which made us feel even more insecure. It was utter dark outside and rainwater started seeping inside. We considered leaving immediately but somehow managed to hold on, saying to ourselves the conditions will ease. The following day we read the newspaper and realised we actually survived a tornado which blew away the roof of Mt Maunganui stadium! We felt really lucky to have made it safe.
Amjad Khan

Camping in a dodgy area in Brazil, I locked myself into my tent one night using a combination lock. Rather flimsy security I know, especially with the constant sound of gunshots ringing out. My woes began when I needed to use the bathroom only to find my torch batteries were dead, and I had no way to read the numbers on the lock. Stuck inside, in desperation, I ended up peeing in a plastic bag and prayed it wouldn't leak. It did. That was the last time I locked myself in a tent.
Kate Lawless

Some years ago, while we were living in London, my husband applied for a job in St Ives.


He secured an interview. His thoughts were that we should also take in the sights. On a tight budget, he decided camping was the way to go. Off we set, our little Citroen 2CV groaning with the load. In the back, tent, bedding etc but also cardboard boxes containing a hearty amount of food. We were voracious eaters in those days and, unable to splash out in cafes or restaurants, we had to go well prepared. After a pleasant journey from London, we arrived at St Ives. Already enchanted by the glorious cloudless day, the sight of the sea glistening in the sunshine was indeed seductive. The cliff above those "light touched" waves was the only spot for tent pitching. Our little campsite was soon shipshape. Tent pitched and an extra duvet put under the assemblage of sheets/quilt that was our camp bed for extra comfort. Beside the bed the boxes of food had been neatly placed.

Job done, we set off across the cliffs towards what we assumed was the village in the far distance. A lovely day's sightseeing was had, but we had lingered. Our little campsite atop the hill awaited, as did our evening meal. Shock! Horror! Our tent, still a little way off, appeared to be flapping in the breeze. It seemed quite "sail like" in the wind. Woe! Closer inspection revealed seagulls had sabre-beaked the canvas into long tears.

The food inside was just too tempting even for the seagull palate. What a mess! Food everywhere. That night it began to rain heavily. As we became more and more drenched, our bed a sodden heap, fears of being washed towards the cliff edge and out to sea began to take hold. Camping abandoned! We made a sorry sight heading home to London wet through, our trip thwarted. I have wanted another tent since, but alas not yet. My food arrangements would be different these days - and, by the way, my husband didn't get the job.
Viki Wybrant

The following tale of woe is not - surprisingly - about the weather, which was perfect.

Late February, the children would all be back at school and we would have the DOC camping ground at Stony Bay, Coromandel pretty much to ourselves for our much anticipated day walk to Fletcher Bay. Not so; as we set up our small tent the welcoming party of resident ducks arrived. The whole family.

Long story short, they made our short stay a hell! They tried to enter our tent, got into food containers, even leapt on the table while we were cooking and tried to lift pot lids.

We pretty much had to take turns to go to the toilet or leave the camp. We would return to find them all set up under the table.

The manager was unfazed: "Oh the children love to feed them in the holidays and now they have become scroungers."

The final straw came when the bush telegraph called ahead to the ducks at Fletcher Bay.
As I settled down with my lunch sandwich, my husband said "watch that duck". Too late, it swooped down and took the sandwich out of my hand!

To add to our woes, the camp was alive with mice; holes in the bread, droppings through the tent and even on the car seats when we came to leave. They had apparently entered through the steering shaft.

We are slow learners, still love our camping.
Colleen Taylor

Two Christmases ago our family stayed with my sister and her husband in Kerikeri. We all enjoy our time with them, especially our adult children who are "fishing mad".

We take our boat there, loaded with all our paraphernalia. To accommodate us all comfortably, we take a tent and erect it on their lawn at the end of the driveway. One morning our son, who was sleeping in the tent, came in and said we should come and have a look at the tent.

There was a very slight incline on the drive-way, which we hadn't noticed. Overnight, while he was sleeping, the boat had slowly rolled down toward the tent - the engine had cut through the tent above his head and he woke looking directly up at a large propeller.

He is now known as "The Boat Whisperer".
Scary stuff!
Kathleen Barber

Years ago I was working in Queensland. My girlfriend and I decided on a road trip north to a town called Karumba, in the Gulf of Carpenteria. We put our tent up beside a seedy looking caravan. Two blokes emerged and a short time later, my girlfriend disappeared with them to go to a party. They turned out to be drug dealers.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of beer and recrimination. I moodily walked the beach that night until a local warned me about the crocodiles.

We ended up "fishing" with our neighbours in a tiny runabout on the Gulf. They hooked a huge slab of meat on a chain and laughed as the tiger sharks lunged at us. I left early and on the way home a group of aboriginals tried to tip my car on to its roof. With me inside.
My girlfriend remained in Karumba.
Paula Buchanan

Some years ago my wife and I took our 10-year-old son and his cousin of similar age on a camping trip to Waihau Bay on the East Coast. We were given the option of a large field to pitch our two tents with one of them occupied by the boys. One morning we awoke to shouts and laughter from their tent and upon investigating dxiscovered that the whole field was occupied by a herd of rather large and intimidating cattle beasts! On hearing us some of them trotted over to our tents and at this stage the boys broke into a run and dashed into our own larger tent for protection. I dodged the cattle by avoiding the largest ones and reported to the camp office. The owner swore under his breath and muttered about the stupid worker putting the cattle into the wrong paddock!

I returned to reassure my family that help was on its way and after a period holed up in our tents with cattle all around, the farm worker duly arrived to round them up with a motorbike and take them to a more suitable paddock. Once the "paddock" was emptied we resumed our camping holiday.
Chris Emsley
We'll have more readers' nightmare camping tales next week when we'll also name the winner of the Kathmandu Quest tent.