Dec. 19, Sun. ARROWTOWN, NZ –
Arrowtown is an old gold mining town surrounded by mountains. The Main Street is about 10 blocks long and made up of shops resembling buildings from the miner’s heyday in the 1860s.
A candy store, This Remarkable Sweet House, was open early. Shelves that stretched to the ceiling were covered with colorful jars of candy. Rum balls, rhubarb and custard pips, sarsaparilla drops, pink smokers, sharp red bottles of Dracula’s milk and chocolate hokey pokey which was honeycomb covered with chocolate. “Lots of memories for adults and children,” said Mimmi busy making fudge behind the counter.
THE GOLD SECRET…
In 1862, miners Thomas Arthur and Harry Redfern harvested several pounds of gold with a butcher’s knife in Arrowtown. The pair agreed to keep it a secret. Within two months, word was out and diggers were coming from all over the world. In the second half of the 19th century, 10,000 Chinese men arrived in Arrowtown to search for gold. They brought with them the opium trade.
It had to have been the drugs that spurred the Wallenda-style entertainment: The Wonderful Performing Fleas. Black and white posters screamed “MARVELOUS PERFORMANCES” and pictured sword fighting fleas playing leap frog, and manning a chariot with a whip.
“We practice no deception – every item of this act performed or we will forfeit $50 to the Charities.”
“Do not let the small charge of admission detour you from seeing these WONDERFULLY EDUCATED FLEAS.”
– I’m earning my street cred; managing well; however, on a bike with limited gear. Marcello from Sport Cycle in Rotorua is a Kiwi transplant who once hailed from Madison. “So you’re from the mistake by the lake,” he said, referencing Milwaukee.
Marcello lived in New Zealand going on 12 years. He visited and stayed, lured by the bike shop, liberal vacation, sound health insurance and economic stability.
Marcello listened to my adventures, noted the biker in me, my fingernails black with chain schmutz. He also advised I treat my luggage situation with a good dose of “wait and see.”
Making me feel at home, Marcello reached out and set me up with a series of Allen wrenches, should I encounter a bike-repair emergency. He also brought out a pair of used bicycle shoes. “Some guy was going to throw these away. They’ve been sitting in back for a while; I think they’re your size.”
Tools and shoes – in my low-maintenance lifestyle it felt like he had given me a ring.
– Rotorua postal delivery woman Diane took me in Wednesday night. She lived with her son Jackson, 7, and husband Paul. She volunteered to drive me to the Rotorua airport Saturday at 5:30 a.m. It was her day off.
Diane was a spitfire and 35-years-old when she had Jackson. “I was ready for him by then,” she explained with the rasp of someone whose friend in youth was “Par-tee”. “Named him after Michael Jackson,” she said of her son. “I know all the moves.”
Diane knew my name, but constantly referred to me as Buddy. It took me a while before I realized she was talking to me.
Jeannie and Sing literally pulled me off the street Monday evening in Templeton. It was past 7:30 p.m. and I was weary and still tracking down a place to stay. I stopped the couple on their bikes to ask for directions; they adopted me on the spot. The pair were originally from Malaysia; they lived in New Zealand since 2002 with their quiet daughter Rachel, 15, a self-proclaimed bookworm, and caffeinated son Josh, 13.
“My room has been declared a disaster zone and is totally off limits,” said Josh setting his boundaries early.
After an hour and a half of get-to-know-you conversation I retired to my bedroom – a mattress with a three inch cushion on the living room floor. Sleep was like a 10-hour coma.