Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Oamaru - penguins, cheese and steampunk

Goodbye Kaikoura! We are off to Wanaka for the final stage of our adventure, but on the way will stop in Oamaru and Dunedin to see penguins! (And other things).

So once more we packed up our van and set off south. First stop was the recycling/garbage/donation centre, so the first couples minutes of the drive were pretty squishy. 

Dexter and I don't have much room :(
Can we get rid of this extra stuff please?
So concerning that this sign is needed.
The highway tunnels are a tight fit for big trucks, and also have very "rustic" interiors. 

We spent 2 nights in Oamaru and were pleasantly surprised with how many neat things there were there! Our main purpose was to watch the Little Blue Penguins come ashore at night, which was really cool :) The penguins live in a protected location, but in the day they swim out to the ocean to fish (and sometimes stay out for days). At sunset the tiny penguins swim to shore in groups called rafts. They shyly linger in the rocks before making a brave sprint up the beach into their homes. It was really cute to watch, but unfortunately we could not take pictures (surely thanks to the idiots out there that can't understand "no flash"). It was my first time seeing "wild" penguins, so very exciting!

The other highlight of Oamaru for me was the Whitestone Cheese Factory. I sampled lots of delicious cheese, including their famous Windsor Blue which is a wonderful mild and creamy blue cheese. I wish my mom was there to try it too! Apparently this cheese is also loved by the cast and crew of Scrubs, which was just an added bonus as I am a huge fan of that show :)

Our first dinner in Oamaru was pretty memorable, because we found a restaurant and went in to find 2 huge tables of people that were obviously all there for a big event. But the hostess assured us that they were still open for dinner, so we ate too (the only diners not part of the big group). Everyone was kind of dressed up, and the kids were all playing together on one side of the restaurant. Thankfully nobody made speeches or anything, haha. Well we were glad we stayed because the food was super delicious. Also the restaurant has a cool story: it is located in one of the original Oamaru hotels, though now only the restaurant remains. On one wall they had photos of the many couples that have been married there (over 100 years of weddings), and there sure are a lot!

We were surprised to discover that Oamaru's other claim to fame is apparently steampunk. Alas we couldn't visit the Steampunk HQ, but there were lots of hits of steampunky things around the town. There were also many strange galleries with bizarre art...this coupled with the fact that there weren't many people out gave the town a kind of abandoned spooky feeling. Probably helped that the town underwent a huge population boom followed by the economy droping, resulting in lots of abandoned buildings. Anyways, neat town and very glad we visited!

A delicious dinner!
Inside: check out all the wedding pics in the background! These were mostly weddings from the 40-50s and then newspaper clippings of the same couples celebrating 60+ years.
The opera house has pretty rainbow lighting that is constantly changing. 

Speaking of rainbow...we passed this place and knew we had to stop!
Unfortunately the outside was much more exciting than the inside, which was a small barren candy shop, lol 
Scrubs cast loves it too! Haha, so random.
Mmmmm leftovers for later!
Pretty train picture
Another train picture....but this one shot fire! Too bad we couldn't go in to see other weird  fake inventions
Lots of buildings made out of this Oamaru limestone
Oamaru historic district.
We were not really qualified to appreciate the whisky here, but it's a petty cool story!
Scott tries an old penny farthing bike (luckily he doesn't  have to balance)
This one is easier to ride!
The historic bank is still a functioning bank!
We tried to see yellow-eyed penguins at this beach, but alas there were none to be seen
On our way to see the Little Blue Penguins!
Here's a pic from the internet of what the penguins looked like coming in from the water.  Cute!

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