Growing up in the Fiordland wilderness
By Tony Orman
The Long family of Gorge River, on the north west coast of Fiordland have been well featured on television such as Ben Fogle’s “Where the Wild Men Are” while parents Robert and Catherine have written two best selling books respectively — A Life on Gorge River and A Wife on Gorge River.
Robert and Catherine’s son Chris grew up in this truly wilderness environment. It was a unique upbringing that taught Chris lessons in survival and resourcefulness and a positive attitude.
Away from the materialistic rat race
Chris has now penned his thoughts and recollections of growing up in the wilderness environment, escaping the capitalist materialistic system of urban-dominated New Zealand and living a self-sufficient existence.
From an early age Chris helped his father catch crayfish and yellow-eyed mullet – food for the home – his mother grow vegetables, while doing home schooling and correspondence school. At the same time he learned wilderness survival skills.
The author writes “there is a kind of beauty and a feeling of satisfaction you gain from hunting and gathering your own food that you don’t get when you eat food from a supermarket.”
A wilderness upbringing set him up for life
As a young teenager, Chris Long would trap possums that were beginning to colonise the area. He sold the plucked fur. “It was a fantastic way to explore new areas I had never visited before and it developed my tracking and bush skills.”
Keen on fishing, he would catch whitebait in season and kahawai at the river mouth from time to time. The wilderness life and outdoor skills he developed have resulted in positive traits in the youngster’s character. For example he writes “Whitebaiting takes a lot of patience and I had all the time in the world and unlimited patience. So I returned each day at low tide and repeated the process, come rain, hail or shine.”
Reflecting on his wilderness upbringing, he says “the values and skills I learned at Gorge River have helped catapult me to where ever I want to go.” Teamwork as a family and independence on his own in the bush, resourcefulness, resilience, determination, self-esteem, yet humility and other attributes were developed. Plus a strong yearning for adventure.
One cannot help but muse that many youngsters wouldn’t benefit from such an upbringing instead of the normal upbringing today’s society gives with all its detrimental distractions.
So since leaving Gorge River Chris Long has travelled to over 60 countries and six continents from the Arctic to Antarctica.
This is a brilliant book, a remarkable story about an amazing young man who had a remarkable childhood and upbringing. Excellent photographs feature and the author writes in an engaging style making it an absorbing read, personably written and with the humility of a young man with his feet on the ground and yet eager for more adventure.
The highest of recommendations for this book. Don’t miss it.
(The Boy From Gorge River: From New Zealand’s remotest family to the world beyond by Chris Long is published by HarperCollins NZ. Recommended Retail Price $39.99.)