Birds Lakes Light mountains Okarito

April 22, 2013 … where the heart yearns

Keri Hulme wrote a book called “Homeplaces: Three coasts of the South Island”.

It is one of my most cherished books. One of the “homeplaces she lovingly described was Okarito. The book was magnificently and lavishly illustrated by the late Robin Morrison, a superb photographer. I have been fortunate to have been an occasional correspondent of Keri Hulme, and was even honoured to have enjoyed the hospitality of her home. I also shared in some small measure, her great love of Okarito, that tiny coastal village by the lagoon in between Whataroa and Franz Josef Glacier.

Most people now think “white herons” though they nest on the Waitangiroto River and not the lagoon. Anyway, we were in the area yesterday, and decided it would be timely to refresh our memory of the place where we have previously rented a cottage on two occasions.

A grey day on the coast
Perversely, the wet days are almost as beautiful as the dry ones

Sadly it was one of those grey misty West Coast days. Such days have a beauty and charm all of their own, but I really would have preferred one of our recent sunny days.

Never mind. We went there, saw the old school-house, and visited the gallery of my other great hero from that area, Andris Apse.  If you are unfamiliar with the name, or even if you are, do browse his online gallery. This man does not usually do opportunistic images. He sees a landscape, imagines how it would look in certain conditions, and then goes there to wait for those conditions to occur before he presses the shutter. He is a master craftsman in the field of landscape photography.  Be warned, if you choose to invest in on of his limited edition prints you will need deep pockets.

Jetty, Okarito
This decaying structure has been shot from every conceivable angle by a million different photographers

The township was mostly as I remember, with a few new houses, and a few small businesses.  The jetty and the lagoon are unchanged, and I swear the same sandflies were awaiting my return.

Mystery ship
What story lies behind this sad remnant?

I was intrigued by a zodiac style dinghy sitting tied to the wharf. It was perished, partially deflated, full of water, but with an outboard motor on its transom. I wonder what the story is.

We stayed last evening in a self-contained rental cottage just out of Franz Josef, and on the way paused at lovely Lake Mapourika. A shag which I have not specifically identified sat on a curiously shaped log.

Shag perching, Lake Mapourika
He seemed secure enough in the middle of the lake

Despite the continued drizzle, we enjoyed intermittent views of the glacier from the verandah of our cottage.

The Franz Josef Glacier is up there in  those clouded peaks
… as viewed from our front door

And then to Queenstown.