A couple of weeks ago we were in Okarito.
A little nugget at the West Coast, it has been a thriving gold mining town in the 1860s. Population quickly rose to 1200 or so, but only 18 months later it was all over. I tried to imagine the industrious busyness walking down the main (only) street but couldn’t really picture it.
Nowadays, only around 35 people live here. Strange to think about the ebb and flow of population and its impact on the environment. It’s hard to imagine so many more people in this spot now. It feels like this place is made for stone-skipping, sticks-picking, sandfly-swatting lazy afternoons on the beach and hanging out at the only cafe, both of which we did thoroughly.
The only child in the community, Monty, was kind enough to take Otis out fishing, which made his day, as he’d been very interested in it lately. There’s a little boat house at the lagoon which provides a perfect backdrop for children to fish from. Monty’s parents are Edwina and Richard, two lovely people, who own afore-mentioned cafe and adjacent Okarito Nature Tours, which facilitate kayak trips in the lagoon. The world seems small here, and very perfect…
I could have stayed there for much longer, but having no internet connectivity apart from in the cafe meant we had to move on. I’m sure we’ll be back though one day. Maybe we’ll have to stay at that awesome, cute, 6-bunk DOC-hut then.
Okarito is almost surreal in its beauty. It may have only been the stunning weather we had but it felt like some idyllic, quintessential New Zealand town from a movie, a place you don’t expect to really exist.
On our last day in Okarito we climbed up to the trig point, which gave us a view over the settlement and also over the highest peaks of the Southern Alps. And squinting, I almost managed to see smokey chimneys, dirt streets and horse carts below us, nestled between this amazing coast and its wild lagoon.