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Previous day: Day 13 – Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook and back

Day 14 – Lake Tekapo to Oamaru

We took the long route to Oamaru via Twizel and Kurow. Most of the first part of the journey had similar scenery to Lake Tekapo – i.e. typical ‘Mackenzie Country’. Twizel is a bit of a ‘service area’ town but not much more – stop for petrol and a pie, then get going. At Otemata turn off right for the Bennmore Power Station. Not because the power station is that interesting, but because it’s the start of a tarmacked road that goes around Lake Aviemore.

Aviemore Power Station

One peculiar thing we noticed here – even though it’s still February (the equivalent of August) the trees are turning Autumnal. They are a golden yellow, and the leaves are blowing off. It’s a pretty drive.

Waikati River

The eight power staions along the Waikati river can generate 1710 MW

Just past here you get to Kurow. From this point the scenery changes, and becomes much greener. There is a stop at some ‘Maori Rock Art’ – stop if you want a break anyway, but they’re not worth a special trip. At Dunitroon turn left towards Danseys Pass. But a bit further on bear right towards Island Cliff. The geology on this stretch of the road is very different – layered limestone cliffs, and there is obviously some coal, as at one place some of the hill had been quarried away and there was a thick black seam.

From Island Cliff, turn left towards Oamaru and follow your nose.

The Criterion Hotel in Oamaru

Now, a ‘Hotel’ in New Zealand is the equivalent of a pub, but many have basic accommodation. We were recommended this place by a local who we met in Methven, as the Blue Penguins come ashore just to the back of the hotel.

The Criterion Hotel

But what a surprise! This place is anything but basic - it's a piece of class. The Criterion is a Victorian building in the historic part of Oamaru. The bar is very traditional, and is full of local characters, all of whom are very friendly. It’s worth popping in for a drink – the downstairs ‘public’ areas are worth looking round, as Peter the owner has recently renovated it and kept the whole place decorated in Victorian style. Apart from the traditional bar there is a ‘snug’ for the ‘ladies, and a lounge and dining room.

But it is also worth staying here for a night. Go upstairs and you are transported back a century in time. There are twins, doubles and en-suite rooms, ranging from $100 to $160 for 2 people (including breakfast). The beds are comfortable, there is a lounge, kitchen, and two bathrooms with good strong and hot showers.

Recommended - See www.criterion.net.nz

Oamaru Walking Tour

This tour started from the information centre at 7:00 pm, and cost us a princely $25 each. And what value! We were superbly entertained for an hour by three actors, who introduced us to the buildings (inside and out) of Historic Oamaru by enacting various local characters. If you’re here for an evening, give this a go! It was great fun, and very educational.

Recommended - See www.livinghistrorynz.com

The Penguin Entertainers Club

We had a busy evening! Staying in the room next to us was a ‘folk’ singer called Danny Spooner. He was singing that evening at the local ‘Penguin Club’. This is a local institution, run by volunteers, and is used by many artists a trying ground for new acts. We decided to give it a go.

Danny’s wasn’t a new act, but he’s led an extremely interesting life, which he tells through his songs. He started life in the London Docklands and spent his childhood there during the Blitz of WWII. With an Irish grandmother on one side, and a Romany one on the other, he was brought up with songs. At 13 he lied about his age and started working on the barges. Then after an apprenticeship, he worked on tug boats around the world, with songs along the way. Eventually he jumped ship in Australia, and settled down there. Late in life he became an academic studying history and literature. And now he’s retired he travels Oz, America and the UK touring the folk clubs.

See www.thepenguinclub.co.nz

Next day: Day 15 – Oamaru

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