Arrowtown is a sleepy old goldrush town on New Zealand’s South Island that wakes up every year for ten days when it puts on its Autumn Festival. It’s about 14 miles (20 kilometers) from Queenstown and it took us about 45 minutes from the Frankton Road bus stop close to our apartment. At Frankton we transferred to the # 10 Arrowtown bus and along the way we passed Lake Hayes, the lake that eluded us the day before (we rode the # 12 bus to Lake Hayes Estate expecting to see the lake but all we saw was a housing development!).
As we hopped off the bus we noticed a sign pointing out a boutique clothing store just up the path. We decided to look around and soon found ourselves in a small old house where Creedence Clearwater was blaring from a stereo. I remarked to the proprietress that John Fogerty grew up in the San Francisco East Bay near us and that I knew one of his brothers. Well, that just made her day even though she must have been born many years after the CC Revival’s heyday!
We walked back to the bus stop and my wife decided to browse among the many shops nearby while I walked along the river looking for a Lord of the Rings location scene. We agreed to meet in an hour and have lunch at one of the many cafes nearby and then we would explore the rest of the town together.
After about 20 minutes I came across the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where Arwen, pursued by the Nazgul, crosses the Ford of Bruinen. The Nazgul charges across the Arrow River here but the scene that showed the actual flooding of the river was taken on the Shotover River in nearby Skipper’s Canyon.
Gold was discovered along the Arrow River in 1862 and soon Arrowtown was born. In 1867 the citizens decided that they wanted their town to look more British and so for the next ten years they planted oak and elm and ash seeds from England along Buckingham and nearby streets.
The bus back to Queenstown doesn’t run too often in the afternoon and there was a large crowd at the bus stop. The bus driver arrived on schedule in a minibus and took one look at the crowd and called for help. We had to wait another 20 minutes for a larger bus to arrive. I guess the Connectabus folks forgot that the Arrowtown Autumn Festival was underway and there would be many more passengers than on a normal day.
The next day we checked out of our apartment and took the super shuttle to the Queenstown airport. We found some seats in the lounge and looked around. Scores of people were familiar-looking. Well, duh, they were all at the bus stop in Arrowtown yesterday! There was the family from western Australia. The father / husband recognized my Giants cap. And there was the Irish woman and her Italian friend. We swapped Lord of the Rings stories. They had been to Glenorchy on a LOTR tour and I told them about Wellington and the Hutt Valley.
Then it dawned on me. There wasn’t really much going on during the first day of the Autumn Festival. The big parade was today. And all of the musical events started today and continued for more than a week. So the only people who went to Arrowtown on the first day were people like us who were leaving New Zealand today!