June 23, 2008

Arrowtown and vineyard

After the thrilling time at the Kawarau Bungy Bridge, we drove to Arrowtown, about 20 minutes away. The fascinating little settlement of Arrowtown literally sprung up overnight with the discovery of gold in the Arrow River in 1862. Thousands of miners from around the globe flocked to the area and the river became famed as one of the world’s richest source of alluvial gold. At the height of the rush, the population of the town rose to over 7000 people. These pioneers constructed small cottages of stone and timber, established churches and planted handsome avenues of trees, leaving a legacy of a picturesque town that retains much of its original character, with many of its old shops and cottages still in use today.

The main street in Arrowtown and the Lake District Museum (bottom right)

The beautiful avenues of trees

The Lake District Museum is recognized as one of the best small museums in the country. Exhibits present an authentic picture of early Maori in the Southern Lake Districts, of the harsh pioneering days of the European settlers, the exciting gold rush era, plus a recreated streetscape from the time of the gold-rush. The museum includes the town’s original Bank of New Zealand premises, the bank’s stables and the town baker’s oven all built circa 1875. A short walk from the main street on the banks of the river is the Chinese Mining Settlement. The Chinese miners came after the European settlers, often working over ground which had already been tried by European miners for residual gold. Information placards tell of hardships and harsh conditions these settlers endured.

Chinese mining settlement

The LOTR trilogy was also filmed here. The Ford of Bruinen where the Nazgul charged as Arwen ferried Frodo across the river on Asfaloth was filmed on the Arrow River. A short walk away beyond the wide expanse of Wilcox Green is the Gladden Fields, a series of marshy paddocks where Isildur was ambushed by Orcs on his way to reclaim the Northen Kingdom of Arnor. Attempting to escape, The One Ring betrayed him when it slipped off his finger, leading to him losing his life. In later years, a group of Hobbits settled in the area, eventually leading to the rediscovery of The One Ring.

Top: The Ford of Bruinen; Bottom left: Gladden Fields; Bottom right: The local Saffron Restaurant, one the the cast’s favourite dinner locations in Arrowtown

Leaving Arrowtown, we made our way back to Queenstown to visit the beautiful Chard Farm, one of the more than 80 vineyards in Central Otago. The vineyards were heavy with grapes, clothed in reds and gold against bright blue skies, making for picture-perfect reminder of the region’s highly acclaimed wine producers.

Spectacular views of the Kawarau River, used to portray the Anduin and Argonath (Pillars of the King), can be seen on the way to the vineyard. We then left Queenstown and headed to the Fiordland.

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