Monday, 20 May 2013

Oamaru 27-28 April

We set off at about 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, driving first west through Riccarton and Hornby then southwest towards Timaru. We’re driving through the wide flat expanse of the Canterbury Plains so not that exciting, but we’re getting glimpses of the snow-clad Southern Alps to our right as we go.

Timaru turns out to be quite a large town, but, being famous for pioneering the export of frozen lamb, it hadn’t really appealed as a place to stay for the w/e.

Inside the Steampunk HQ, Oamaru
The journey to Oamaru takes about 3.5 hours including stops so we arrive before lunch and do a quick trip to the Tourist Info and visit the Victorian Gothic Steampunk HQ which is quite fun. Afterwards we plan to visit the amazing local limestone areas which have been used for various film sets.

Derelict film set for Kingdom Come set into the hillside behind Elephant Rocks
The first is a rather lovely valley setting used in the Narnia films, which is also a whale bone fossil site. Whale bones clearly on view but it’s very slippery underfoot and a young bull hiding in the corner of the field speeds our departure. A little bit further on we find the well-fenced off film set for the abandoned Kingdom Come movie, and in another 100m the amazing Elephant Rocks.

This is the place I really want to see after finding images on the net but seeing it for real was something else. It’s impressive, in the same way that Stonehenge is, but of course these stones are natural not man-made and cover a much larger area. They are huge chunks of Otekaike limestone that have been wind and water eroded over millions of years to produce weird and wonderful shapes. Some are a little elephant-like, maybe because of the grey colour on the exposed rock but we also spot a tortoise, a duck, a frog, and a dinosaur or two.

Initially we’re here on our own and wander around for ages till others join us. Imagine having Stonehenge all to yourself on a beautiful sunny late afternoon. Just amazing!

Eventually we tear ourselves away, drive back to Oamaru, and check into our b&b, Oamaru Creek,  a lovely old wooden 2-story building, furnished and decorated to match. We get a cheery welcome from the owners who recommend we try and catch the endangered yellow eyed penguin colony just around the headland from the harbour, so we rush off just as the sun’s setting.

The colony is small and there are a few people gathered up high on the cliff penguin spotting and sure enough we see 4 or 5 of this quite rare species jumping out of the sea and drying themselves off before settling down for the night at the back of the beach. Just as well we have binoculars though, the beach is a long way down.

We end up going out to eat fairly late and walk through town from the b&b following a footpath around the harbour. Almost there and we spot 3 little blue penguins waddling across the path. After dinner on our return we pass the same spot and hear loud snoring coming from underneath an old wooden shed beside the track. We can see where the penguins have hollowed beneath the shed to make a snug burrow. Didn’t know penguins snore and it sounds quite human.

Sunrise over the Pacific

Next morning I wake up early hoping to catch my first Pacific sunrise. It had been quite chilly going out at night but this morning the wind has changed direction and there’s a warm breeze from the north. We walk back to the harbour and right to the end of the long pier where there are a couple of fishermen and some photographers hoping to catch the sunrise. Back for a hearty breakfast then we wander back to the old stone warehouse street for the Farmer’s Market.
Walking back down the pier after the sun has risen with Oamaru harbour on the right

Street of old warehouses where the Farmer's Market is set up

After packing up the car we head for the Moeraki boulders, another of the famous landmarks of the area. They’re a short drive south, scattered in groups or individually on the beach. They are spherical in shape measuring 1-2 m in diameter. Some are still in the process of breaking out from the mudstone cliffs at the back of the beach. Very strange indeed. After a long walk along the beach we set off back to Christchurch.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Sue & Mike

    Loving the updates and photos. Looks so different there to Auckland and can see a lot of the damage that been left by the quakes. Almost a world apart from where you were in Auckland! The scenic shots are also so very different to northern side and expect it is also cooler there being that bit closer to the Antarctic! Loved the reading and seeing the photos as always. Dave & Gang xxx