Autumn in Arrowtown

The next morning I decided to start the day with a stroll through some autumn leaves. It was one of those cool, clear autumnal mornings where everything was covered in dew. I noted that before too long, on mornings like these a heavy frost would have settled over night. It was clear that winter was approaching so, I was pleased to be able to enjoy my surroundings as I walked along the banks of the Arrow River. Eventually, after a number of scenic distractions, I pointed myself towards my intended target. The historic Chinese Village in Arrowtown. 

In 1865, when the initial Otago Gold rush had settled, many of the miners ventured to other gold fields. Such as on the West Coast of the South Island. So, the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce decided that they wanted to keep the economy going. To do this they invited Chinese miners to the region. For many of the invited miners, the plan was to send large amounts of money home before returning themselves in a few years. So it was that by the mid-1860’s the first of the recruited Chinese miners reached the goldfields in Otago. When they arrived, they discovered they were not allowed to have claims of their own, instead being granted permission to pickover the claims European miners had abandoned. By 1876, around 4000 male Chinese could be found on the goldfields. Spread over a number of locations throughout Central Otago, one of these locations was Arrowtown. It’s a sad tale really, as many of the miners never made anywhere near enough money to send home. In fact, many of them never made it home. Penniless and persecuted by many of the Europeans, a large number of those invited to the Otago goldfields died, never seeing their families again. 

The last time I visited the Chinese Village in autumn, everywhere was covered in a blanket of colour. An autumn palette of orange, red and ochre had taken over and there was something very tranquil and surreal about the whole scene. I was very much looking forward to seeing it once again. When the Chinese miners first arrived at the gold fields to work claims that had been abandoned, they weren’t allowed to settle in the main part of the village. Instead they set up homes and market gardens on the outskirts of the town beside the river. Not more than a 5 minute walk from the town’s main street, the Chinese Village and associated tracks beside the river used to be separated by a number of paths that twisted and turned through the trees and past streams until you reached the main car park. From there, the main shopping area was a short walk past buses and vehicles of various sizes circling the town looking for a parking spot. 

In my walk to the Chinese Village, I discovered that In recent years, to solve this problem and to provide enough parking spaces for the overflow of traffic that arrives each day, the main car park has been extended towards the river. This now means there is no separation between the carpark and the scenic vistas that people have come to see. So, while there is ample room for all the daily traffic, it also means you can step straight out of your vehicle and onto a walking track. You can stroll by the Arrow River or stand by landmarks of national significance while a campervan parks right beside you or you can watch families disembark from their SUVs as the kids squabble over who’s turn it is with the iphone! There really is nothing like having a gleaming white SUV as a backdrop for a piece of 1870’s history. Feeling a little disappointed that some of the tranquillity had been lost, I meandered back through the car park and went in search of a bakery for some morning sustenance. 

A short time later, I found myself standing in a short but busy line making a careful selection from the menu on the wall behind the counter. When at last my turn came, I approached the counter and said “good morning” in the friendliest voice I could muster, while realising this was the first person I had spoken to in 12 hours! “How can I help?” came a direct yet short tone that suggested urgency and speed was paramount. Placing my order at speed that I hoped would satisfy the lady standing behind the counter, paid and waited for the transaction to complete. I waited and waited and waited as the machine whirled. I waited and waited and waited yet the machine didn’t seem to want me to leave. As I continued to wait, I could feel the unease and grumblings of the customers behind me that were being held up. I could sense their frustration and annoyance at this idiot at the front of the line as the machine continued to whirl. Just as I was considering cancelling the order (out of embarrassment as much as anything else), the machine announced ‘approved.’

Feeling a sense of relief and having held up a line that was now snaking out the door, I collected my things, apologised to everyone and scurried out onto the street hanging my head in shame! Clutching a fresh cup of coffee and a Cinnamon Scroll, I headed to my car with a mind to enjoy the fresh morning air of Lake Hayes, and that’s where I headed next.

One thought on “Arrowtown”

  1. Too many vehicles everywhere it’s quite horrific wherever you go and of course the drivers of these vehicles are not always that proficient and mostly impatient. Let’s hope some of the beautiful spots stay car free

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