Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Place, Okarito

Okarito is where I choose to live. For me it represents NZ's last frontier far away from an urban centre. The surrounding landscape is 95% natural coastline, forest and wetlands. It is still a blokes' paradise but liberty is being eroded by the steady onslaught of urban rules.

Okarito is often described as a haven but in reality, peace and isolation exists only during the winter at Okarito. During the summer months, a stream of urbanites arrive every day around mid-morning to peer at the mishmash of cottages and homes wondering what on earth could happen in such a place. They kayak or boat tour on the lagoon or walk the beach and tracks. By evening most head back to civilisation, known locally as Franz Josef township.

Okarito living is village life in every sense. Social life can be hectic with potluck dinners, coffee club, culture and entertainment in Donovans Store. Locals meet and chat constantly during their daily lives. Even when busy, eye-contact and a wave are universal. If you need exercise don't walk through the village - head south along the coastline to three-mile beach. Even there, you're bound to meet locals, DOC workers or tourists along the way.

To leave Okarito you travel north over a winding hill climb known as Mt Hercules to reach Hokitika. Travel south and you strike a worse winding road over the Weheka Hills between Franz and Fox Glaciers. An old-timer once said "If you live south of Mt Hercules you're half mad". "And the poor buggers south of the Weheka Hills are totally mad". He followed that by adding, "All South Westlanders are either missionaries, mercenaries or misfits - take your choice".

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