Twenty-five years at Owen River

"Are you here for fishing?" Owen River Tavern and Motel co-owner Kim Siu asks me.

It is a fair question, because the Murchison area is a well-known magnet for fly-fishers from all over the world.

When I tell her I am visiting the area for a few day walks, she nods and smiles as if to say: Yes, we get some of those here, too.

Kim and John Siu grew up in Hong Kong, but chose to leave before the city was to be handed back to China. The couple are very much locals now, having raised a family while running the Owen River pub for the past 25 years.

Owen River Tavern and Motels co-owner Kim Siu. PHOTOS: RUDY ADRIAN
Owen River Tavern and Motels co-owner Kim Siu. PHOTOS: RUDY ADRIAN
Nestled deep among towering, dark mountains, about 18km north of Murchison, Owen River can instil a sense of foreboding for some, but as far as Mrs Siu is concerned, it is "paradise".

"Sometimes, I stand here and look at the trees and the sky and the birds and go ‘where can I find a place like this?’ We are very, very lucky. Some people might think this is very lonely and isolated, but we find this suits us."

Over the past 25 years they have seen their four children grow up, eventually moving to the big cities and even overseas.

Their identical twin sons, Philip and Jason, now live and work in Hong Kong, where they have also become well-known as K-Pop dancers.

The duo perform under the name The Siu Twinz, doing synchronised dance moves a world away from their upbringing as boys who played rugby and basketball in the Murchison area.

"While studying in Wellington, they saw a K-Pop competition with prize money of $5000 plus a holiday in Korea with five-star accommodation. So they taught themselves the dance from YouTube," says their proud mother.

The duo won the competition and perhaps the trip to Korea helped give them a taste for living overseas, eventually seeing them settle in the very city their family originally came from.

Owen River Tavern and Motels — ‘‘the most beautiful place in the world’’.
Owen River Tavern and Motels — ‘‘the most beautiful place in the world’’.
Many roadside pubs such as the Owen River Tavern have become uneconomic operations thanks to the opening of bottle stores in town, as well as changes in attitudes to drink driving.

The Sius have adapted to the change by building a block of six motel units. The new accommodation block, plus a large turn-around area for trucks, means most nights they can count on at least one or two truckies breaking their journey by staying over.

After almost half a lifetime at Owen River, the Sius are now considering retiring and putting the historic tavern on the market.

Mrs Siu believes the two-story wooden hotel, built in 1928, would make a good lifestyle home for someone who loves the outdoors, with the motel units providing an additional income.

But she says they are in no rush to leave.

"We have no regrets, especially since the Hong Kong protests. We think the Owen is a safe haven and the most beautiful place in the world."

- By Rudy Adrian