SUNDAY STAR TIMES – MARCH 4, 2001
Oasis in Paradise
BY ROSEMARIE SMITH
You can find Charlie’s Place on the corner of Lake and Bay Streets easy enough. But don’t address a letter to him there. The postman hasn’t called in Jamestown since the 1870s.
In fact Jamestown, at the coastal end of Lake McKerrow in Fiordland’s Hollyford Valley, never amounted to much. Not even enough to be a ghost town.
But 120 years after the site was abandoned, there is one resident: Charlie Paterson has built his dream home on a bush-clad section behind the beautiful little kowhai-fringed bay.
Jamestown has been harsh on dreamers. It gobbled the hopes and dreams of its 19th century settlers, sent there in a fit of ambitious optimism by an Otago Provincial Council with delusions of a weest coast Otago port and abandoned just as quickly.
Paterson’s dreams of establishing a small accommodation business in a home of his own in Jamestown have been almost as hard to bring to fruition. The story of how he acquired three of the five remaining titles to private land in Jamestown – an historical anomaly in the heart of a national park – is an intriguing tale of detective work.
The initial motivation, he candidly admits, was greed, in the belief that land for so long overlooked would eventually be very valuable.
|But having acquired it, his vision of a Jamestown home began to
take shape. Then the hard slog began, with reams of red tape to be negotiated, especially as his planning application was one
of the first dealt with under the Resource Management Act and there was no lack of objectors. The building process was no
easier. There are other cribs on private land in the Jamestown-Martins Bay area, but Charlie’s Place is a three-bedroomed
149sq m house, built to the standards of a commercial dwelling. This is still a remote, inaccessible, unforgiving, expensive
place to build and the best-laid plans can go awry.
Limitless cash can fix contingence, but Paterson lacked this luxury and had to put in some epic feats to get everything on site. The bulk of the building materials were handled four times and many arrived only when whitebaiting neighbours from up the coast took the initiative to raft the big stuff down the lake after a helicopter deal inexplicably went sour.
Paterson shares stories of his long labours with an engaging air of bafflement and care not to cast aspersions on anyone else.
How did things get so complicated? “I suppose I was a bit naive,” he says. His tale of paddling a dinghy 9km down the lake with one oar and no rowlocks after a capsize in the Hollyford River on a lonely winter trip should become part of the local mythology. Dramas have unrolled on his doorstep. A drowning, a rescue from drowning – the lower Hollyford is not what you could call a busy place, but the isolation and demands of the environment leaves little margin for error.
The house is now complete, but the dream is not yet fulfilled. Guest numbers are slowly building
|as word spreads of Charlie’s Place, the refuge in the rainforest
with the comforts of home.
Large, fully screened windows look out on to lush ferns in a clearing backed by tall trees. The birds sing, the wood stove purrs; there is an endless brew of tea to accompany the homemade bread and warm welcome starting to make Paterson famous with passing trampers. The visitor’s book is full of tributes, with some guests making repeat visits.
The hunting and fishing are excellent, the climate mild (if damp), the swimming brisk – no shivering in the shallows here, the bay shelves steeply for the quick plunge. The energetic can apply themselves to vigorous activity, walking or sea-kayaking. Others may prefer to laze and unwind, to blob out with a book, in solitude. But anyone who takes pleasure in the outdoors will relish ending the day tending a small driftwood bonfire on the beach under shimmering starts undimmed by city lights, then retiring to hot showers, clean sheets and soft beds not found in back-country huts.