Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Small Town New Zealand: Murchison

I love small town New Zealand. Places that would have oozed cultural cringe and appeared mind numbingly boring to my tortured teenage self, looking for action and boys, are now full of charm and intrigue, yet still empty of people. 

Take Murchison for example; heading west from The Nelson Lakes it’s just through the Buller Gorge, State Highway 6, South Island, New Zealand. Population: 500. Murchison was originally a gold rush town, like many in NZ. And coincidently was nearly wiped out by a major earthquake in 1929. The self-proclaimed whitewater capital is also renowned for its second hand store.

I entered THE store. Boy-o-boy that place was crammed to the brim. A bargain hunters haven. My eyes bulged in fossickers anticipation. Well, until I spoke to Mrs Shopkeeper, surveying the scene with beady eyes from behind the glass counter. 


‘Wow this must have taken you ages to collect?’ I was focused on the squillions of china ornaments on display, hoping a Lladro figurine had somehow got misplaced amongst the milk jugs.

‘Nah, it comes in each week by the truckload,’ said Mrs shopkeeper, arms folded, crouched over the counter. An awkward position to maintain but possibly garnered her better security surveillance over her wares.

At that point my imagined, careful selection from the deceased estates of nearby Victorian homesteads, dissipated.

‘Where does it come from?’ I asked.

‘Top of the south island,’ she said. ‘And overseas.’

Suddenly everything lost even more value. Its carbon footprint bulged like a west coast coal cart. All that STUFF with its genuine kiwi kitschness in question. The shop’s selection process started to sound like those vintage denim outlet stores in the US that sell by weight, not label. Origin unknown.

A man with a mullet and ear plugs tried to haggle over some wooden shoe shapers. He looked like he belonged to the house-truck parked on the main street. It was painted purple and green and had a set of goat horns erected on an oval piece of varnished wood over the rear number plate. 

‘Everything’s as the prices marked,’ replied Mrs Shopkeeper. 

Hecklers be warned. I walked past the romance book case, thought about writing one for a moment, then exited. 

Those wooden feet would have made handy door-stoppers in the house-truck no doubt. They were only $28. Good value really. In fact everything I picked up (ignoring the signs which said don't pick up) were very reasonably priced.

This truck was parked behind the famous second hand store in Murchison. I wondered it if hauled all that china from China, or was just a hangout for local bored teenagers?

I bought five apples and four kiwifruit from the 4-Square and handed over $3.20. We hit the road west, hoping to catch the sunset...

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