Thursday, 22 September 2011

Oamaru and the Moeraki Boulders

Last weekend we accompanied Tim and Judith Bell and their band (2 sons, son's girlfriend, and a family friend) to Oamaru, 4 hours south of Christchurch, for the grand opening of Annie's Victorian Tea Rooms, and an evening dance.  We all rented Victorian costumes, supplied by a huge wardrobe facility in the old Victorian precinct in Oamaru.

Oamaru is quite an interesting city.  With only about 12,000 people, it's got a number of interesting features - the old Victorian precinct with white stone buildings from the late 1800s, two types of penguins (little blue and yellow-eyed), a Steampunk Museum and sculptures on the main boulevard, and nice hills surrounding the downtown area.

Steampunk is a movement that combines science fiction and steam technology from the Victorian era.  Inspired by the early science fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and feeling that society somehow got off track after this era, it has evolved into a sub-culture inspired by 19th-century visions of the future.  Steampunk has been described as "tomorrow as it used to be", and there are now steampunk books, clothing, art and design, and other cultural influences from these ideas.

We woke up Saturday at 4:30 a.m. to the sounds of little blue penguins in the car park below our lodging, but we never got to see any of them (they go out to sea early in the morning, and come up on shore again just after dark.)  They look for secure places and warmth, so occasionally end up under cars and in garages.

On Saturday morning we drove 35 minutes south of Oamaru to see the Moeraki Boulders which are spherical boulders, generally 4-6 feet across, sitting on the edge of the beach.  The boulders were created by a combination of mud, silt, clay and calcite that somehow grew outward instead of just clumping together.  They were then covered by other sediment, which preserved them.  The rocks got large cracks called septaria, and the cracks were then filled with other minerals such as quartz, calcite and dolomite limestone.  They're really quite amazing and fun to see.

Back in Oamaru, we were fitted for our costumes, and then attended the grand opening of the tea rooms, attended by about 200 people.  We heard a number of speeches from local government council officials and friends of Annie Baxter, the proprietor - she's been involved in community projects for many years, and has built up a large core of friends and supporters.  There was a Maori welcome, a ribbon cutting, and of course tea and sweets.  We then had a few hours off before going to the local Scottish hall for the evening dance.  Tim and Judith's band  (Barock) was superb, and we walked back to the hotel just after midnight.

On the way back to Christchurch we detoured inland and stopped to see some Maori rock drawings but were blocked by a small landslide.  We also stopped to see a hydro-electric power plant on the Waitaki River (New Zealand gets about 11% of its energy from hydro power), and also stopped to see the historic Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo.

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