Moeraki Boulders and Elephant Rocks

TUESDAY, 15th November

Breakfast. Check-out. Bag in the boot. People in the car (Eeeck! I was responsible for three more lives!) Half hour later: Moeraki. There was still low tide.

some people tried to steal boulders by swallowing them!

The Boulders Family

My next destination was Christchurch and I had booked my bus at 3 pm. By 12 pm we saw the boulders and had plenty of time and petrol to go somewhere else and there was nothing to go but Elephant Rocks again. The valley looked different than the day before, even though I was driving the same road. It was because the clouds were higher and I could see the higher mountains behind the ones I had seen earlier! Because I turned back and went to Oamaru another road, we came across the proper Elephant Rocks!

There were more beautiful views, but I was worried that I would miss my bus, so I didn’t stop anymore.

2:40 pm, back in Oamaru. The whole trip cost us $14 each! And my friends told me that I drove very well and they were falling asleep on the way back. We didn’t have the radio and no one wanted to sing instead.

2:45 pm, I returned the car and asked the rental guy for the lift to the bus stop, which he gladly did.

2:50 pm, by the bus stop and had the time to go to the toilet and then buy a pie.

Who was my driver? Graham! He remembered my name, waited for me to finish my pie (no hot food or drink on the bus!), then asked me to sit at the front, so we could talk on the way. After 3 pm he started the engine when I swallowed the last hot piece of my pie.

I was a bit worried, because I’d arrive in Christchurch in the evening and I hadn’t had time to book my hostel there and I totally didn’t know the plan of the city, which hostels would be close enough to the centre and where the bus stop was. I told Graham about it and he said, he would show me some hostels. In fact he did more than that. When we got to the city and all the passengers left the bus, he told me to jump in and he dropped me off close to the Kiwi basecamp backpackers. Unfortunately, it was full! I tried to stay calm and went along the avenue. I found out that the bus depot and a lot of backpackers were on Bealey Avenue and a couple numbers down I found Rucksucker Backpacker. They didn’t have any free beds in a dorm room, but there was one in a share room, so I took it. I shared it with a French guy and it cost me just a couple dollars more than for the dorm bed. But it was only for one night and if I got a dorm room bed for the next night, I would have to wait till the next morning. I was fine with that as long as I had a place to sleep for now.


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!


FRIDAY to SUNDAY, 11th – 13th November

After catching some sun on the Peninsula, I had to experience some rain in Dunedin. It wasn’t that nice on FRIDAY and the best way to spend it was to stay inside. But I didn’t stay at the backpackers all day. In the early afternoon, I went to the iSite to book tours to Cadbury Chocolate Factory and Speight’s Brewery. Buying a combo ticket for $39 saved me $3, almost enough for a cup of coffee.

My tour to Cadbury World was at 2 pm, so I took a slow walk from the Visitor Centre on the Octagon to the factory passing First Church on the way.

It started to rain just before our tour and kept pouring for the rest of the day.

Cadbury World

Before we started the tour, we had to put caps on, like this kid was still wearing after the tour was over.

We couldn’t take any pictures inside the factory. We saw Easter eggs being already made. Our guide told us, they had started their production in June or July and they would be making them until January. All the eggs will be eaten by New Zealanders within a week. An average Kiwi eats 10 Easter eggs, so do the maths how many eggs Cadbury have to make.

For some people the tour could be boring, because even though the guide tried to keep us entertained and was coming up with different quiz questions and giving sweet awards, most things we saw were presented on DVD. At the end of the tour we saw a chocolate fall – one tone of liquid chocolate being poured down. It was just a tourist attraction, not something what they do with their chocolate to make it better. Every year they change it giving the old chocolate to pigs and filling up with the new one.

The loot. We got four chocolate bars, tasted some liquid brown elixir (very sweet!) and I bought the rest. The block that looks like a bitten chocolate bar is a fridge magnet and it smells like chocolate. 🙂

In the afternoon, at 6 pm, I took a tour at Speight’s Brewery. Somehow, it was more interesting that Cadbury World and I could take photos. This one was taken the next day, when it was drier. On the left, there was a tap with spring water for free and people were coming all the time with plastic bottles to fill them up.

The line “walk like an Egyptian” gained a new meaning when I saw this board:

Chimney with its top in the shape of a barrel

And at the end of the tour we got about half an hour to try their five kinds of beer and cider, but I had enough after 10 minutes.

On SATURDAY the weather got much better and it was a perfect day to explore the city.

Dunedin, Edinburgh of the South, has a lot of old buildings and was the only city in New Zealand where I sometimes felt that I was back in Britain. I was even expecting to hear the Scottish accent everywhere! The first settlers were Scots who had the plans of Dunedin already on their ship. They didn’t consider the hills in their city plans though, so they had to adjust them to the geography of the region. I think they did pretty well.

I liked walking around Dunedin, because everything was close to each other, apart from Baldwin Street.

Starting from the Octagon, the Occupy movement in front of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Town Hall.

I enjoyed exhibitions at Dunedin Public Art Gallery at the Octagon and then Temple Gallery where used to be a synagogue.

Going up the hill, I passed the Brewery and got to St Joseph’s Cathedral

Otago Boys High School

Knox Church

The Otago Museum was pretty cool and I loved the exhibition about Edmund Hillary and with his personal belongings, like his cup, sunglasses and this camera.

I could learn about him a lot that day. I got a little bit depressed too when I realized he was 33 years old when he conquered the Everest and I was about to finish my 33rd year of life on this earth in a couple days and I was trying to find my achievements… with no success.

Opposite the Otago Museum, there was University of Otago. Clocktower building.

Castle Street, further down there were student houses and they were busy when I was coming back that way. Some had fun throwing shoes on the wires, others were sitting on sofas outside chatting and drinking beer.

But I was on my way to Baldwin Street, so I went through Botanic Gardens

Had a short stop over at New World supermarket to have something to eat, because I needed some energy if I wanted to climb the World’s Steepest Street and even from Botanic Gardens there was still quite a walk to get there.

Finally, Baldwin Street. Check out the Wikipedia link to read “Associated events” about Jaffas race and a stupid way of losing your life in a trash bin.

and from the top

The World’s Steepest Pub 😀

Back in the centre. Railway station

Otago Daily Times

And I deserved a cup of coffee after all those kilometers around the city. When I returned to the hostel, some people were getting ready for Big Day In, a free concert at the Stadium, but I was too tired to go and I couldn’t find any information about who was playing, only local artists.

In the evening I was trying to book InterCity bus tickets to Moeraki to see the boulders, but I had some difficulties. I gave myself one more day in Dunedin to organize the trip, but it didn’t work out, so on SUNDAY I stayed in chilling out and socializing. One of the travelers advised me to go to Oamaru and from there take a tour to Moeraki, because it was closer and cheaper. I had some spare days, so I decided to do that.