by Charlie Paterson
This book tells the experiences of Charlie Paterson who discovered that there were surveyed, legal titles that could be bought in Fiordland National Park, in the abandoned settlement of Jamestown Bay which was originally designed to connect the goldfields of Central Otago to Sydney. If the local body rates were not paid, the sections reverted to the Southland District Council.
Charlie managed to locate the owners of two sections that were still in private hands and was able to buy the land. His intention was to build and operate an upmarket lodge to cater for trampers, hunters and nature lovers. The struggle he had overcoming bureaucracy, vested interests, and the severe climate is the theme of this book.
I found his account of getting the building materials to Jamestown Bay by floating them down the Hollyford river on a totally inadequate boat, and then across Lake McKerrow to the building site quite heroic. When the boat sank and deposited all his supplies into the lake, Charlie was plunged into the depths of despair, rescued only by the efforts of locals who aided him without thought for themselves or money.
He took two years to build the lodge, aided by friends and some tradesmen helicoptered in for brief periods. He succeeded finally, but the lodge did not prosper. The delay in building saw his idea overtaken by people with much more money to spend on advertising and transport, and they creamed the tourists.
Because Charlie had no money to buy a fridge or freezer, his diet consisted of venison he hunted, and rolled oats and other food that would not perish. This lack of fresh vegetables or fruit, and the continual stress of fighting bureaucracy affected his health, and Charlie became malnourished and ill. Finally, he was forced to sell the property, albeit at a significant profit.
However, the story is not a negative one. It is written in flashbacks, giving the story of the build. The scenes written in the present beautifully describe the peace of the forest and its inhabitants. Although Charlie is appalled by the harm done to the environment by introduced predators such as stoats, rats, and the destruction of the forest by deer and possums, he finds in the majesty of the wild mountains and the forest, the presence of a Creator and becomes firmly convinced of the existence of a caring God.
I found the latter part of the book a little disappointing because in several places Charlie expresses his desire for a meaningful relationship with a caring woman. Further on he includes a beautiful colour photo of his wife Bronwyn, and their two children, followed by a photo of him on a volunteer house build in North Malawi. However, there is no explanation of these events, and I felt that the book was not complete without telling these parts of his story.
The book is printed on good quality paper, which allows the inclusion of many colour photos which I really appreciated. There are several spelling mistakes which grate a little, but which do not detract from a really good story, and I can recommend this book as a good read.