Okuru Beach Holiday Park.
The man burst into the communal kitchen followed by around 30 dishevelled travellers.
"OK, we're here now. We need the kitchen, and the rest of you can just clear off. And don't leave a mess. I hate people who leave kitchens messy. If you leave a mess, I'll throw it at you."
His body left the door where it was framed against the rain outside and entered the room. His 30 followers staggered in behind him, many of them already drunk and obnoxious, ready to whip up their super culinary creations using nothing but noodles and three cans of peaches. Outside in the rain, their big orange bus sat creaking as its engine cooled. I quickly took stock of the situation, and was glad I hadn't opted for one of these booze bus type tours. Dodging the couples who were already getting amorous on the couches, I retired to my tent.
I was at the Okuru Beach Holiday Park, situated on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The site is located on the long dead end road to Jacksons Bay, about 14 kms from the small settlement of Haast. There is not a lot at Jacksons Bay, and many tourists travel the road every day, only to take a photo and then drive back again.
Okuru Beach can only really be called a settlement because of the camping ground. When the camping ground is empty, the owners are the only settlers settling there. And that is only when they are actually there. The day I arrived, I was greeted at reception by a 10 year old boy who informed me that his parents were away, but if I had any troubles I could call on him. This was all very well, as long as my troubles didn't need him to reach up any higher than 4 feet.
The shop at the site was well stocked with food and other camping needs (like gas), and there was a payphone on site. The kitchen was large and clean (well, before the Stray Travel bus turned up, anyway), and attached to it was a large lounge and TV room.
The tenting area is huge, but a bit prone to flooding when it rains (which is most of the time, apparently). But it is close to the relatively clean and small toilets and showers (the hot water is free). All tent sites are $12.
For those who do not enjoy tenting in the rain, there are also small caravans available, as well as cabins and family flats.
The beach is a 15 minute walk from the camp site, down the road and across a few fields. It is a typical West Coast beach, devoid of people, windswept and interesting. Gulls hover above the waves in search of fish, and dolphins are sometimes seen swimming in the swell. Lone chunks of driftwood scatter the coarse sand as if thrown there by bored giants. The water, however, has dangerous rips, and is not suitable for swimming.
The fishing in the Okuru River and the Haast River is brilliant. But apart from that, the region is just a good stopping off point on the way up the Coast, or through to Wanaka. [more ]