It's a long walk to the big smoke

New author Robert Long in Dunedin prepares for the launch of his book about life in a remote part...
New author Robert Long in Dunedin prepares for the launch of his book about life in a remote part of South Westland. Photo by Craig Baxter. Photo supplied.
Along the Red Hill Range, over the Cascade River and through the bush to Jackson Bay - it has been a long walk for new author Robert Long from the wilds of South Westland on his way to Dunedin for his first book launch.

Home to Mr Long, wife Catherine and their children Christan (18) and Robin (14), is a small hut next to the sea at Gorge River in one of the most rugged parts of the South Island's West Coast.

His book, A Life on Gorge River - New Zealand's Remotest Family, describes how he came to arrive there almost 30 years ago and how he and his family have survived since.

Home on the Gorge River. Photo supplied.
Home on the Gorge River. Photo supplied.
Better known by his nickname of "Beansprout", Mr Long was a young man interested in a way of living that was less materialistic.

Originally from Auckland, he lived in Australia, travelled widely in Asia and eventually found his way to Gorge River, where he moved into a New Zealand Forest Service hut and never left.

Often barefoot, used to sleeping under the stars, and with a diet consisting, in part, of kelp and native plants, Mr Long has roamed much of South Westland accessible only on foot or by air.

He worked the crayfish boats at times, and set up whitebait stands when cash was needed.

He now makes what money he and his family need by carving greenstone and painting.

In the process, he has become one of the region's best-known characters.

Mr Long says he was approached by Random House to write the book, which he completed in longhand at night beneath their wind- and solar-powered fluorescent light.

"When you're writing, you don't have to see as well," he laughs.

Mrs Long had then transcribed his "scribble" on to computer and the editing process had involved emails via satellite internet connection.

Mr Long's book recounts the events that enlivened his time in the wilderness - roaming the Red Hills Range, taking the coastal route to Milford Sound and the impact on nearby huts of the carcass of a dead whale being blown up with dynamite.

Mr Long will speak at the Dunedin Public Library today from 5.30pm to 6.30pm and at the Lake Wanaka Centre on Wednesday June 9, at 7pm.



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