April 4, 2010- BGEE

April 4, 2010- BGEE
Best Greek Easter Ever

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Moeraki Boulders, Yellow-eyed Penquins, Fleur's Place, and Steampunk in Oamaru

The forecast the weekend of June 12 & 13 called for rain and sleet. Despite this, we decided to venture 90 minutes south here on the weekend, knowing if it got bad, we would skedaddle back to Timaru. Our good tourist fortune would hold, however, and it turned out to be a bright, crisp, beautiful weekend. First stop, the boulders on Moeraki beach.

http://www.newzealandnz.co.nz/destinations/moeraki.html  There is some geological explanation for these spherical concretions, but the Maori considered them eel pots discarded by the gods. I prefer to think of them as Zeus' marbles. We were there at high tide, but they were still magical. We had to dodge the waves and try to stay out of the sticky clay soil, but it was worth it.
In the afternoon we went to the tiny village of Moeraki, which reminds me of Westport. The main attraction there is Fleur's Place (http://www.fleursplace.com/), a pier-side restaurant with fish as fresh as possible and a fine reputation ("World famous in New Zealand", as they say.)
It did not disappoint. As we entered, the staff (hosted by Fleur herself) was finishing up their lunch buffet, a table piled with roast meat, fish, and veggies. My photo was a bit after the fact, but it was like a scene out of one of those foreign films about a lavish feast.
I had the sole with rarebit sauce (a cheddar cheese-based concoction on toast for those non-epicures like me) with smoked eel and bacon (they have the best bacon here) over a green salad; Fayne had the blue cod special with the sweet chile sauce and chips. "Nummy", as Linnea says. Did I mention the sticky date pudding with toffee sauce for dessert? Delightful.
After taking our time it was time to drive to the lighthouse and head down the hill for the Yellow Penguin reserve.(http://www.penguin.net.nz/species/yep/index.html)  These birds are the most endangered species of penguin. There is a wooden structure, or "hide", from which you can observe them near dusk emerge from the sea after a hard day of feeding to get upright, waddle up the hill, and hopefully find their partners. We were able to get quite close, as you can see. 
They are quite beautiful, with a yellow "headband" and golden eyes. We must have spied 15 or 20.

We decided to spend the night in Oamaru, a uniquely preserved stately Victorian era town of 12,000 residents.(http://www.historicoamaru.co.nz/) It turned out there were some ancillary benefits to this decision: a large new jacuzzi tub for Fayne; and, Satellite TV for me. I was able to watch the NZ All Blacks vs. Ireland in rugby in the PM and US vs England in World Cup soccer early in the AM. (I am a dedicated sports fan, even among those sports I know little about. I feel it is my XY duty.)
We then got to explore the town. The predicted rain and sleet never arrived. Oamaru was a very wealthy town for a brief period of time, about 1860-1880. They built magnificent neo-classical Victorian town along a very broad Thames St. using locally quarried sandstone. This stone is beautiful and easy to work with producing quite august buildings.
But then the gold rush ended, grain prices plummeted, and the shipping moved to deeper harbors. As a result the town stagnated and was preserved by the lack of "progress" and modernization, until it could be resurrected 20-30 years ago by preservationists.
Oamaru is also ground zero for the Steampunk movement in New Zealand.
You must be thinking "How is it that John is so knowledgeable about obscure things?" Like many things I am passing on, I too was completely in the dark until 24 hours ago. "Steampunk" began with science fiction/fantasy writers and fans in England in the 1970's and '80's. The central conceit is to combine a future where steam is the major source of power and Victorian-inspired fashions prevail, but throw in some ray-guns.[If you know of the "graphic novel" (ie:comic book) or film "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", that's the concept.]
Oamaru, with its well-preserved center, is the ideal breeding ground for this, and a number of creative artists and designers are producing fantastic vehicles
and fashions. (Haley Smash-Berries wet dream, I would imagine. In fact, she probably already has moved beyond it.) Check out this YouTube post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAQLNTt9lnU&feature=related
The Oamaru horse races and steeplechase was canceled due to a slide over the track, so back to Timaru in time for a brief visit to the local art museum, and then to slave over my blog.
It is a lot of fun to do. Hope you are enjoying it. You should come to New Zealand if you can. It is great.


  1. Kia ora to you too. Skyped with Billie again today... SHE called us. Congrats!

  2. Good deal, glad to hear that. No surprise here she got the hang of it.

    Heather inquired about Skype yesterday. Gave her the info and said if need be she could take me to a play/musical too.

  3. btw, is there a way you can set up your blog so that it'll show what comments have been posted and where? I know other ones do. The way it is now, you have to go to each post and check for new comments.


  4. I'll try to figure that out.

  5. At first I thought the "balls" would be like those at bowling ball beach, but these are certainly bigger than bowling balls!! Penguins are VERY cute! How cold has it been? Will the weather get more "wintery" or is this as cold as it will get?

  6. I LOVE the penguins! Frosty in the am's but nothing to really complain about. There are ski areas within a 1 hour drive. I don't think it will get colder.

  7. I am so impressed that you know about steampunk. I myself just learned of it (though part of me feels as though I've always known). BTW, nobody in my household knows whether the period goes inside the parenthesis or outside. I decided to go with what I thought looked the prettiest and let everyone else freak out about the correctness.

    I am really enjoying reading your blog and following your adventures. You have a nice way of putting the history into a Reader's Digest format. Better yet, a National Enquirer format. I wanna know.

    I also didn't realize that the gearshift would be on the left hand side. Duh. It makes sense, but talk about retraining the brain!