Monday, January 23, 2012

Oamaru Victorian Heritage, Blue Penguins & Duntroon Limestone

I drove south to Oamaru. Leah & I left quake ravaged Canterbury for the first time in 16 months, post 4 Sept 2010 quake & subsequent quakes.

For 2 weekends during 2010-2012 quakes, we'd escaped to Oxford, half an hour's drive from Christchurch, but had felt too close to quake traumatised Christchurch.

Oamaru friends helped us get away from it all, briefly. They'd emigrated from SA years before us & had lived & worked in Dunedin before settling in Oamaru. They'd given us good emigration advice before we'd left SA.

21.01.12. Oamaru: We were soldiers once & young. Dec 1975 NCOs course veterans, Danie Theron Combat School, SADF, Kimberley.

Only after living in Christchurch for several years did I discover, on looking at old photographs, that our Oamaru host & I'd both attended the same 1975 NCO's course at Danie Theron Combat School, Kimberly. We were SADF, conscript commandos & young then. So our Oamaru visit was an old soldiers' reunion, of sorts.

21.01.12. Waitaki Boys High, Oamaru. School hall left

21.01.12. Waitaki Boys High hall door, Oamaru

21.01.12. King George signed pic, Waitaki Boys High hall, Oamaru

21.01.12. Waitaki Boys High hall, Oamaru

We looked at Waitaki High Boys School, magnificent creamy limestone bldgs, quake reinforced too. After the school hall, red door was unlocked, with a large iron key, we smelt the odour of generations of school boys in the empty hall. We climbed the spiral, stone stairs to the gallery & looked at staff chairs on the stage & the organ below stained glass windows.

21.01.12. Old SA flag, middle, donated by Jan Smuts, Waitaki Boys High hall, Oamaru

21.01.12. Gallipoli pennant & memorial brass, Waitaki Boys High hall, Oamaru

21.01.12. Scott Antarctic expedition, sledge flag & memorial brass, Waitaki Boys High hall, Oamaru

Memorial flags festooned hall walls. I snapped memorial brasses to fallen heroes on hall walls. One brass was donated by Jan Smuts with a SA flag. At the back of the hall hung a signed photo of King George. A Queen Elizabeth 11 photo hung on a side wall. A Scott Antarctic expedition, sledge flag hung on the same wall. I thought Waitaki Boys High School bldgs & hall were far better than Selborne College's, where I'd taught in SA

22.01.12. Farmers Market, nr Harbour St, Oamaru

We visited Oamaru's Harbour St & its Victorian warehouses, all built of Oamaru creamy limestone. Bronze plaques on walls stated the history of bldgs. Locals wandered around in Victorian costumes, touting wares. We heard Harbour St would be used as a set for a forthcoming Great Expectations movie.

22.01.12. Victorian bldgs right, Harbour St, Oamaru

22.01.12. Cobb & Co's Royal Mail Coaches, Livery Stable & Forge, Harbour St, Oamaru

22.01.12. Victorian warehouse, Harbour St, Oamaru

22.01.12. Victorian warehouses, Harbour St, Oamaru

22.01.12. Stationary Penny Farthing rider, Harbour St, Oamaru

22.01.12. Criterion Hotel, cnr Harbour St & Tyne St, Oamaru

Leah liked arts & crafts shops in the limestone warehouses & nearby Farmers Market. I liked Criterion Hotel pub & Victoria & Albert rooms in Criterion Hotel. Outside, a blonde in hot pants pedalled on a stationary Penny Farthing. I thought Oamaru arts precinct knocked spots off serial quake trashed Arts Centre in Christchurch.

22.01.12. Tyne St view of St Lukes Anglican Church, Oamaru

22.01.12. Bookbinder window, Victorian bldg, Tyne St, Oamaru

22.01.12. Victorian bldgs, Tyne St, Oamaru

I liked the pre & post boom Oamaru post offices, WW Cenotaph & Boer War memorial with lion fountain. While admiring St Lukes Anglican Church, Oamaru, with it's impressive, creamy, limestone steeple, I thought of serial quake trashed & demolished St Lukes Anglican Church, Manchester St, Christchurch.

Late afternoon, we visited the lookout above Bushy Beach & through binoculars watched a yellow eyed penguin waddle up the beach, amidst fur seals, lolling on the shore.

In the evening, we returned to Harbour St. By the harbour pier, we watched squads of blue penguins returning from the sea, to roosting sites in seaside vegetation, below a quarry & nesting sites amongst coastal rocks & a penguin viewing site for tourists. Blue penguins would've nested there eons before Maori, Victorians or any other settlers arrived in Oamaru.

In the night, we saw many blue penguins waddling by. We heard hidden penguins chattering in their nesting sites.

Despite orange, Hi Vis vested, volunteer wardens & NO PHOTOGRAPHY signs, some tourists persisted in close up, flash pics of blue penguins in the night, which destroyed penguins' eyesight. May those tourists rot in hell, with blue penguins pecking their flesh eternally.

One day, our hosts drove us along the south bank of the Waitaki River, through rich farmland to Duntroon. We stopped at Vanished World, tourist kiosk, touting expensive, natural heritage books, $50 rip off walking sticks & limestone fossils in the area. On the info board was a pic of a shark-toothed, dolphin fossil, which we'd also seen at Oamaru harbour, blue penguin, tourist site.

22.01.12. Vanished World, tourist info board, Duntroon

22.01.12. Shark toothed dolphin fossil, tourist info board, Vanished World, Duntroon

Returning to Oamaru, along rolling green hills, we followed the Heritage Trails road to Elephant Rocks & stopped for pics. Elephant Rocks were weathered, grey limestone formations, like a giant herd of elephants. Elephant Rocks looked like a smaller version of Castle Rock, limestone formations by the Arthurs Pass state highway.

22.01.12. Elephant Rocks, Heritage Trails, nr Duntroon

Further on the Heritage Trails, we stopped at the limestone, whale fossil site, below a weathered limestone arch. Beyond the whale fossil, with bits of creamy, compressed mandible, neck vertebra, shoulder blade & ribs, we wandered the creamy path to a small valley, where fallen, grey-weathered, limestone rocks were a battle setting for a Narnia movie.

22.01.12. Whale fossil site, Heritage Trails, nr Duntroon

22.01.12. Narnia movie, battle setting in small valley, Heritage Trails, whale fossil site, nr Duntroon

Back on the coast at a windy beach, near Moeraki Boulders, we drove northwards, back to Oamaru, past windblown beaches, paddocks & rough sea.

On our drive back to Christchurch we lingered in Geraldine. Leah explored tourist shops, then we wandered Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve, where I liked mature kahikatea, matai & totara trees. As few trees had fallen in Christchurch quakes, I thought Christchurch natural heritage had survived 16 months of quakes far better than its bldg heritage.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Victorian Oamaru.

See Blue Penguin Colony Oamaru.

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