Day 146: Tomorrow As It Used To Be

Sun. 6th January 2013

Moeraki bouldersWe liked what little we saw of Oamaru yesterday – particularly, the park and the crosses underneath the trees – and so we wanted to see a little more of it today. We must be getting better at this camper van malarkey as by 8:45 (yes, that is nearly a getting in to work time!) we were up and off for a walk in to town. Yesterday’s sunshine was gone and the sky was grey and it was decidedly cold. I thought that we had booked summer in New Zealand!

The old post office in OamaruOamaru is an old Victorian port and is clearly proud of its heritage – and why not. The Victorian Precinct which is still the centre of town is full of beautiful buildings built from the local, cream-coloured limestone. Many of the buildings have been repurposed with the facades intact. There was even an entire street with a brass band and string quartet alternately playing tunes (even at 9am on a Sunday morning) and every building seemed to have been converted to an art gallery. My favourite was the Lazy Cat Pottery where they produced ceramic tiles based on album artwork. I need to see what shipping back to the UK costs – and how many Janet will let me buy.

'Upgraded' Steampunk locomotiveThen next to the old station house, the old post office and the Town Hall was Steampunk HQ, with its ‘modernised’ steam train and miniature Zeppelin outside and proudly proclaiming ‘Tomorrow as it used to be’. I like the Steampunk style – not least because Clockwork Angels (Rush’s latest, and particularly excellent, album) has a Steampunk theme to it. The notice at the door said the exhibition/gallery opened at 10, so we went back to get the van (checkout from the campsite is also at 10) but on our return there was still no sign of life. Ah, well.

Lazycats Pottery album art. I want a 2112 cover!Yesterday evening we had the opportunity to go penguin spotting at both of the two colonies near town. We decided against it due to the pressure of time (and having seen the penguins back in Punta Arenas). But today we thought we would stop at one of the colonies on our way out of town and heading south to Dunedin. No sign of the penguins though – just grey skies and a grey sea and the cold wind blowing down the beach.

Moeraki bouldersFortunately, on our drive south, we remember the existence of the Moeraki Boulders – a cluster of large, spherical boulders on the beach and foreshore. The nearly forgetting was a reminder that we do need to spend time doing the research as to what the sights and activities are in the local area. Its hard work this travelling! We do get to see the boulders and what a strange sight they are clumped together in a 100 yard stretch of the shore. The Maori legend has them as the discarded flasks/gourds of a god and the signs dutifully present this story alongside the scientific story of them being concretions – built up layer by layer like a pearl in a framework of calcite. There is even one up in the sand bank gradually being exposed and waiting for the bank to be eroded so it can roll down an join it brothers.

What seals do second bestWe continue to follow the coast road in preference to the main highway where we can and our next stop is at Shag Point where there is a seal colony. It turns out that our Galapagos trip has inured us to the sight of seals (“oh yes, there’s another one”) but not to the smell of them. Seals in New Zealand are just as smelly as those in the Galapagos.

Not a cathedral in Dunedin - just an (impressive) church Our intention was to arrive in Dunedin by early afternoon to allow us to see some of the sights of what is a the biggest town (city?) we have seen since leaving Christchurch (not that we’ve seen much of Christchurch yet). However, the drive was a bit further than we thought and those stops cost us some time, so it was more like mid-afternoon by the time we arrived and found the tourist information office. We were too late to do the brewery tour  (which we did in Valdivia, Chile anyway) or to go to the Otago Settlers Museum (to brush up on our NZ social history).

Instead we decided to head out along the Otago Peninsula to see the scenery of sandy bays and hills and possibly penguins and albatross. The road followed the shore winding its way in and out of bays. The views were spectacular, but there were very few stopping places on the narrow road and the big van was not the ideal vehicle to take down the twisting road – indeed our plans to do a circular route, returning over the top of the hills were scuppered when the sign on the road said ‘Unsuitable for large vehicles’.

Boathouse on the bay in the Otago PeninsulaDriving the van is not the same experience as driving a car  (Don, Sheila & Jon are probably all nodding their heads at this point). The concentration required along with the constant changes of direction and the need to use the gears much more than in a car all increase the effort required. We need to get better at planning how long our drives will take so that we arrive at destinations at the time we want.  We also need to make sure we have the time to see and do the things we want to – there are so many little gems hidden away here it is easy to get distracted. There is much to think about as we settle into our new campsite and start to cook our supper. There is always tomorr0w.

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