A Surprising Glimpse Into a Heartbreaking Past

Queenstown is nestled in a bend in the “z” shaped Lake Wakatipu, with the dramatic Southern Alps as an awe-inspiring backdrop. Its main draw is the crazy sports it has on offer – bungy jumping, sky diving, canyon swinging, jet boating – basically anything that gets your heart beating fast!

The last time I was here I stayed in and around Queenstown. This time I wanted to explore the area … driving not hiking. Here hiking is called tramping (I’m so not doing that!) I measure a hike by how long it takes … in hours, New Zealanders measure how long … in days! So if you are into tramping, here’s the place for it.

Before we arrived in Queenstown, we happened upon Kingston at,the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu. It’s a cute little hamlet with a library to match!

We drove the length of the lake all the way up to Glenorchy where we stopped for a cuppa before driving back along the lakeside to Queenstown

The scenery was beautiful.

We stayed in the Bella Vista Motel and it was really nice. A similar standard to Holiday Inn Express but with smaller rooms. I was surprised at how quiet the place was at night – it being Queenstown and party mecca and all that.

The guy checking us in was from Newry, (just down the road from Armagh – my hometown in Ireland) and of course, being so far from home, we all made friends immediately.

My Husband and I, being too sensible now for the chronic partying I used to suffer from, went to a quiet restaurant (again I was surprised that we even found one) and had a lovely dinner. The English lady serving our table chatted about what it was like to live so far from home – a phenomena we have some experience of but on on the scale she had.

We had a lovely walk around downtown Queenstown. The atmosphere is an infectious feel-good mix of tired adventures and excited revelers. There was music and street performances to watch, as well as look out over the lake at the always on-duty scenery.

I just had to take this photo of this fine statue – the New Zealanders really do love their sheep.

The next day we headed to Arrowtown, a 25 minute drive from Queenstown and really worth a visit.

Here we had a glimpse into a sad past when we visited the Historical Arrowtown Chinese Settlement. Here we learned just how hard life had been for the men who had immigrated from China in the 1870’s to work in the gold fields. Many were Cantonese, like My Husband, and thus our visit was more painfully poignant.

Hard working and pragmatic, the Chinese worked the goldfields abandoned by the Europeans. But pickings were slim and they rarely made their fortune.

Their living conditions were harsh.


Their dwellings tiny.

Many never did manage to return to their loved ones, living a life victimized because of racial discrimination,  eventually dying lonely and far from home.

This was most likely a storage hut.

I have to hand it to the New Zealanders. This memorial is a tribute to the men who lived here but also to the historians for spotlighting their plight. The New Zealand Government owned up to the persecution and abuse doled out to this community and formally apologized in 2002. It won’t erase the past but it bodes well for the future.

The park did a really good job of describing the conditions these poor men would have had to deal with. As I read the information posted around the park, I thought of  these poor lonely men who’d left home, sometimes forever, and received such cruel treatment because they were Chinese and only because of that. It squeezed my heart to think of treating any human being in such a way.

I took a sidelong glance at My Husband reading the posters, his gaze heavy, his face troubled. It broke my heart to think of him being treated in such a way just for being Chinese.

But worse of all was knowing that somewhere in the world right that very minute someone was suffering at the hands of another only because of their differences in race.

I thought, we humans don’t seem to have learned anything despite the wars and the horrors of things like the holocaust. This ugly side to our nature surfaces time and again.

But as I took My Husband’s hand to walk up the hill, and looked at the wonderful man that I love so much, I realized that so much has changed for the better… after all, if we’d been there 150 years ago we’d not have been allowed to look at one another much less hold hands. Perhaps there is hope for humanity and it might just start with small changes snowballing. Go hug a human today!

Byddi Lee

1 reply to A Surprising Glimpse Into a Heartbreaking Past

Comments are closed.