I’m not a great sleeper. The hours from 2 – 4 am are often spent lying awake thinking about a project I’m working, kids and whatever else that may be happening at the time. There are phases where I can breathe deeply, relax and head back off to sleep for which I’m forever thankful but a fair portion of nights these hours are waking times.
There is a bit of a benefit to this sleeplessness though and that’s the time when I’m keen to get out into the pre dawn air and go for a wander with my camera to see whats out there, which is where I found myself at 4am in Okarito late December 2015.
Okarito is a sleepy hamlet on the West Coast which happens to be the home of New Zealand’s most famous landscape photographer Andris Apse and also home to some stunning wildlife and surrounding landscape.
We’d only just arrived the night before and were staying at the absolutely stunning DOC – Okarito Historic Schoolhouse, an open plan bunkbed house with comfy couches and friendly chickens.
The only downside of an open plan bunkbed room is trying to sneak out at 4 am without waking the kids and I did have a German Backpacker moment as I rustled through a plastic bag to find a water bottle. Luckily all ( our 2 and 4 year old ) remained asleep and I was free to carry on with only a semi guilty conscience of waking my partner.
Having only arrived the night before and not getting heaps of time to scope my surrounds I decided to head down to the estuary where there is an old building that was used for the flax trade in the early 1900’s, also in the hope that I may capture one of Okarito’s famed White Herons. I wandered down and spent 30 mins getting some shots but felt like i wasn’t quite getting the vide as I’d shot there the night before.
I was in the photographers conumdrum. Stay where I was, or leave and go find another place to shoot. The only other place I thought could be good was at the top of the Trig…..I hadn’t been there, but I figured as a trig it should be a sweet spot for views. Minutes ticked by as the sky very slowly started to brighten and I made the choice to pull the pin ( no not go back to bed ) and head up the trig.
As always ( I’m a bit scared if the dark sometimes ), as I wandered through the lower bush in darkness I imagined ghosts of old miners or warriors jumping out of the bush which added th=o the haste in which I climbed the hill, aided also by the thought that the sun rises pretty early down here and I best get a hurry on. Luckily the Trig walk is all pretty straightforward and 30 minutes late I popped out onto a viewing platform where quite honestly my breath was taken away.
270 degree views of the coast from North to South opened up and the clear skies for a southerly tickle had left the Southern Alps haze free and basking in some pre dawn gloriousness.
There’s certainly something pretty nice about going to a place like this, the solitude, zee natures and for some reason no sandflys yet. I took that all as a big win and enjoyed one of the last mornings of 2015 in a pretty special place.
Cheers NZ, you’re full of choiceness!