Out of the Wild

7 Years in the New Zealand Wilderness

Non-Fiction - Adventure
184 Pages
Reviewed on 06/26/2018
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Author Biography

Charlie Paterson was born 1966 to a farming family in Southland, New Zealand, being the youngest of 5 children. Although having no formal qualifications Charlie has worked in a variety of roles from being in the NZ Army to stoking coal fired boilers on a tourist steam ship in Queenstown, from managing remote seacage Salmon Farms at Stewart Island to running a charitable Outdoor Education Centre in the beautiful Doubtful Sound, Fiordland and owning, operating his own motel. Most of his working and recreational life has been spent in some very remote wilderness locations that few people get to visit, until getting married to his lovely wife Bronny in 2009. They have since had two young children and now lives happily in the small city of Invercargill. “Out of the Wild” is Charlie’s first book and only came to fruition after Bronny encouraged him to publish his raw & private journal manuscript detailing his 7 years living alone in the rainforest of the Fiordland wilderness, 3 days walk from the nearest road end.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorite

Out of the Wild: 7 Years in the New Zealand Wilderness is exactly what the title promises. It is Charlie Paterson’s vivid record of his struggle against everything – poverty, bureaucracy, loneliness, and ill-health – that undermined the roots of his dream to survive as our ancestors must have done. The “wilderness” is within the vast Fiordland National Park and his chosen location is very remote. Out of the Wild comprises the history of this amazing part of New Zealand, with illustrations and maps, but most of all it's a unique story of one man’s determination to survive and his growing faith in God. Nobody who reads it will be left unmoved, or under any illusion that living without everything we take for granted – supermarkets, freezers, easy communication – is “a walk in the park”.

Reading Out of the Wild, I grew to love and hate The Devil’s Trail and its surroundings in equal proportions. Anti-blood-sports, I constantly reminded myself that this was hunting for meat to eat as wild fruits are gathered. The sheer beauty of the wilderness, and it is vividly described, took my breath away. Loneliness was a huge problem for the wannabe hermit, but not totally unrelieved; there was Jane! Charlie Paterson’s views on women, sex, and morality are intriguing. His advice to his daughter, born in later years, about choosing a husband is rock solid, but he confirms his sense of humour with “it helps if he’s rich”. Join Charlie Paterson in his wilderness years. Out of the Wild is a book to treasure and reread.

Jack Magnus

Out of the Wild: 7 Years in the New Zealand Wilderness is a nonfiction adventure memoir written by Charlie Paterson. In 1995, Paterson embarked on a grand plan to build a lakefront tourist retreat in Fiordland National Park, a designated World Heritage Park. He gave up the modern conveniences most take for granted and lived an austere life in a remote and relatively inaccessible location. Getting the land and permits to build upon it was no mean feat. The land in question was originally envisioned to become the West Coast Port. It would provide a stopping point for the gold being mined in Central Otrago during the late nineteenth century. A surveyor was sent out to establish a township that would encompass 124 sites with streets connecting them, but those promoting the development of Jamestown had not reckoned with the realities of the natural environment. Paterson was able to acquire several of those sites. Out of the Wild details his experiences building that retreat and living on his own in the wilderness.

Out of the Wild is a well-written and engaging account of the author’s time spent in Fiordland National Park. I was fascinated to hear about the validity of those sites that had been established so long ago and awed by the magnitude of the challenge Paterson took on in floating his construction materials to his site and building his home. He includes photographs throughout his work which show his early campsite and chart each aspect of his building experience. The author’s nature writing is especially impressive, particularly his discussions of the different bird species that are native to the area, and the seasonal changes that affect life in that part of the world. While I understand his passion about the destruction caused by introduced animals, particularly the deer, brush-tailed possum and stoats, I was not entirely comfortable with those pictures where he brandishes aloft a deer’s severed head nor did I really appreciate his enthusiastic instructions on how to kill a possum. That aside, I had a marvelous time vicariously spending time in the wilderness as I read this book. Out of the Wild: 7 Years in the New Zealand Wilderness is most highly recommended.

Jane Finch

Out of the Wild: 7 Years in the New Zealand Wilderness by Charlie Paterson tells the story of the author’s disillusionment with his work as manager of a salmon farm, and his determination to fulfill and live his dream. That dream was to build a home in a remote rainforest in New Zealand. The book tells the story almost in the form of a journal, detailing the forest and wildlife around him, his ongoing struggles with bureaucracy in building his home, the effects of loneliness despite being surrounded by the beauty of creation, his clear love for the area, and his developing spiritual awareness and relationship with God. The author lived in the rainforest for seven years, and the book details each part of his journey, as well as delving into historical facts not only about the area, but also of previous pioneers to the land who had not fared as well.

As the author, Charlie Paterson, rightly points out at the beginning of his book, this is not a wilderness survival tale. Rather, it catalogues his battles with the authorities, but the story is interspersed with snippets of the way of life, of standing naked on a remote shore to watch spectacular storms, of sitting at a window with priceless views while writing his innermost thoughts, and his love of the bay that captured his heart. His descriptions of the negatives, the sand flies, the incessant rain, the loneliness, and the struggle for mere existence on little income are all an example of the author’s determination to make his dream a reality.