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Previous day: Day 14 – Lake Tekapo to Oamaru

Day 15 – Oamaru

I’m really running behind with the diary this time – usually I try and write it up every evening – but this is 2 days afterwards! So let’s see what we can remember….

We started the day with a full cooked breakfast from our host Peter at the Criterion Hotel. Now just a warning – it’s a great breakfast, but this ain’t fast food! So if you have a deadline, get to the dining room a good half-hour before you want to leave!

Victorian Oamaru

The Criterion Hotel is in the ‘Historic’ Victorian part of town, down by the old harbour. The street that runs directly behind is well worth a visit – it is a peculiar mixture of craft shops, museums, antiques, and working factories, all housed in old Victorian grain stores, and all in the local honey-coloured limestone. One man. E.M. Forrester, was the architect of many of them, with his son the architect of others. There is a fantastic tile-maker here, an even more fantastic limestone carver (I was more than tempted by a couple of the larger pieces – just as well we couldn’t fit them into the sports car, really!!!). The area around the Criterion was used for filming part of the AMI insurance ad (the one where she leaves the handbag on the roof, for those of you in NZ).

Other buildings along the main street are also by the same architect and in the same stone, including the Opera House, and a few banks. The old Australia Mutual Providence (AMP) building is here too, although it’s looking a bit tatty and is currently up for lease.

Public Gardens

The town also has a rather splendid public gardens,which we took a stroll through (arts kind of walking!) There are flowerbeds, fountains,and at the far end cages with birds of various descriptions. There’s also a Croquet Club, but no-one there today.


In the evening we tried to do what we thought was going to be our main reason for visiting Oamaru – we went penguin hunting. There are 2 types of penguin on this coast – blue and yellow-eyed. Yellow-eyed penguins come into shore to nest earlier than blue penguins, starting at about 7:30 this time of year. We arrived at the cliff-top to find a crowd of people already there. And not a penguin in sight. At last, a seal swam noncholantly towards the shore, elegantly twisting and playing, until he loped very inelegantly onto the beach. Then the cry went up – ‘There’s a penguin further up the beach’. Well – this must have been the biggest celebrity penguin anywhere – this tiny dot a couple of hundred meters away was watched by hundreds. We waited a bit longer, but to no avail, then decided that a pint in the Criterion Bar was much more appealing.

Blue penguins come ashore as it is getting dark. And one of the reasons we were staying at the Criterion was that the local that recommended the place said that the Blue Penguins came across the railway lines from the harbour, right to the back of the old grain stores. In fact, one of them was nesting in an airbrick just opposite the pub, and a number more were (aptly) under the Penguin Club entrance steps. We had our drink, then went for a walk down the alleyway to the railway tracks. After a while, we saw movement. In the distance we saw a solitary silhouette walking towards us. It stopped about 10 meters in front of us – but we couldn’t see much! Eventually one more shadow approached – but that was it.

Reasons not to hang about down dark alleys

‘Seen any penguins Bro’ said a shadow beside us – and out stepped the biggest guy I have ever seen! Art recognised him immediately – it was the man from the Mitre 10 Mega ads! This is a huge Maori guy called Levi Vaoga, who has held the the New Zealands Strongest Man title for the last 12 years. He’s a gentle giant, and was there to open the next days A&P Show (Agriculture & Produce – the equivalent of the County show). I’d like to say I wouldn’t like to meet him down a dark alley – but we did!

Next day: Day 16 – Oamaru to Dunedin

See Also: Oamaru (Otago South island)

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terris_travelogue/south_island/day_15.txt · Last modified: 2010/11/10 13:10 by art
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