Arrowtown is one of those former Goldmining town you can find all over the west coast of the South Island. However with one major difference: It kept almost its entire western town charm. Indeed, when you walk through Arrowtown's main road, you will be overcome by the impression that time stands still here and you are still in a 19th century goldmining story.
|Arrowtown's main street|
We have never seen a town so small, being so full of energy and life.
We immediately fell in love with Arrowtown's charm. We strolled up and down the main road, drank tea at a cafe and browsed through the sweet little shops and boutiques on the way. Then we took a walk down at the river, which also offers a delightful stroll on either side. The river also keeps two secrets, being revealed in our next posts.
Finally down at the river, we noticed some signs indicating preserved settlements of old Chinese miners, that caught our attention. Wow! you really can see and enter the houses those old miners built. And signposts outside the houses tell the story of those people:
Once Arrowtown was bursting with life, because Gold was found nearby, attracting courageous people from all over Europe. But then the gold supply of the gold veins ran dry and the people started to leave Arrowtown. In a desperate attempt to save the town, the town council invited Chinese immigrants falsely promising heaps of gold, where in fact only ebbed out veins were. And the Chinese came. Many with little more than what they wore on clothes. They built little houses of wood and stone nearby the town and started looking for gold. The remaining European inhabitants looked at the Chinese with racism, fear and ignorance. The Chinese well aware of that always tried to stay out of trouble and kept to themselves. But the the Chinese surprised everyone when by hard hard labour they indeed found gold, where others had already given up. Now to the feelings of the European people envy came along with the other prejudices. But other voices were also heard, speaking of the Chinese as fine, honourable and decent gentlemen that never wronged anyone, knew hard labour and good manners. And slow by slow some of the prejudices were overcome.
Bilge Rat especially laughed about one depicted episode, where a new paper reporter wrote about the little Chinese restaurant the Chinese had opened in their little settlement. He wrote: "In my whole life, I swear by God, I have never seen a kettle of such dimensions. The whole kitchen fills me with awe. The size of the cooking utensils, the quickness of the cooks, the smell and everything is out of that world."
Did that conclude our adventures in Arrowtown? Nay, only for the day, because the next day we visited the two surprises mentioned earlier being revealed later.