MONDAY, 14th November

Guess which bus driver took me to Oamaru? Graham! But it wasn’t that time yet when we became friends. More to come.

I arrived quite early in Oamaru, at about 10 am, and checked in at the Empire Hotel backpackers in the town centre; a little bit of a walk from the bus stop, though.

I had a coffee and went along the street to the iSite to check out what were my options for going to Moeraki.

I could go by a shuttle, but it would cost me $70, unless I’d find one more person to share the cost with or I could rent a car for half a day, which was 4 hours for $25 and go by myself. I thought it was a better option and went to the rental to ask about the conditions. The rental was across the street behind the building with a clock, which is Waitaki District Council building.

It was called Smash Palace and it was also a garage. A guy at the rental suggested renting a car for 24 hours for $45 and I’d have it long enough to see more than just the boulders. There were Elephant Rocks at the Waitaki Valley and other beautiful views along the river. It was tempting, but I hadn’t explored Oamaru yet to decide that I needed the car for that long.

Oamaru is famous for its whitestone and the buildings you see in the photos are made of it and look very monumental and intimidating. It’s not a typical New Zealand town sight. In a park near Aquatic Centre, there were workshops. Different artists were carving modern and more traditional sculptures. Whitestone is very soft and easy to work in.

Walking along the streets and passing by second hand shops and cafes, I was getting this feeling that time slowed down in Oamaru if not stopped at the end of the 19th century.

At one of the cafes the waiters wear clothes from the Victorian era. There is also a photo studio where you can dress up in the period clothes and be photographed ($30 per photo).

The buildings between Tyne and Harbour Streets are art galleries and workshops of local artists and you can go and admire their works, which are very interesting. I couldn’t take any pictures of the art work, but I could take a photo of the view outside the windows.

Friendly Bay

By 3 pm I saw everything what I wanted in town. I had read in my guidebook that Elephant Rocks was the place where Aslan’s Camp was filmed for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so it was the reason good enough to go and see them. I rented the car, automatic Nissan Bluebird, and off I went again on the road. It was great to sit behind the wheel once more!

Going out of town I tried to find Janet Frame’s home on Eden St where she spent her childhood. Janet Frame was an Oamaru born novelist. I had seen Jane Campion’s (yep, the one’s who directed The Piano later on) film version of Frame’s autobiographical An Angel At My Table and got a bit excited that I was in the writer’s hometown. I wasn’t successful in my searching. I probably passed the house driving my car up the street and it was getting late. I had read the house was open till 4 pm, so I gave up and went to Whitestone cheese factory, tasted some delicious cheese in a shop by the factory, bought some brie and finally left the town.

Those cows were very friendly and came up to me to say hello.

I thought that these were Elephant Rocks, but I was wrong, when I saw more on the next day.

The Waitaki Valley

I wanted to see Maori rock paintings, but…

It was very disappointing.

I had been driving for quite a while, so I crossed the river in Kurow and went back to Oamaru. It was about 8 pm when I was back in town and went to the Blue Penguin Colony. I thought it would be for free, but the ticket was $25 ($20 for YHA/BBH etc. members). I’m not that big penguin fan, I had already spent some money for the yellow-eyed penguin, so I passed on that and went to the look out. So easy with a car!

And back to the hostel, which was almost empty. I guessed everyone went to see the penguins. Later in the evening when some people came back, they said that they had waited on the car park and saw some blue penguins walking between the cars. So if you’re going to Oamaru and don’t want to spend money, wait on the car park in the evening.

I had another unexpected meeting at the hostel. One Austrian girl I had met in Dunedin came to Oamaru on the next bus after mine. I asked her if she wanted to go with me to Moeraki the next day and she said yes. There was also a couple from Malaysia and they were interested in going with us, so I was glad I would have the company and someone I could share the cost with!