Monday, 3 April 2017

Shag Point, the bolders and historic Oamaru

ALLIE: DAY 50: Thursday, the 5th of April
Shag Point with neither shag nor penguins, the bolders and historic Oamaru

various types of  Kiwi shags
‘Backpacker’s’ accommodation might be cheap but is not really for us. The loo was miles downstairs and when you wanted a shower, you had to cue with dozens of others. 

At least Phil decided that this was his last stay in one of these places. So we pack up and escape from this nondescript city into the countryside. Highway No 1 takes us long the coast. 

This is the main trans-continental route but it looks like a quite backstreet.

looking out for penguins but only see shags!
Our fist stop is at the promising sounding “Shag Point”. It’s obviously famous for penguins, seals and shags! What sort of shags? 

Well, not the sort you may think of, we are talking ornithological stuff here. There are three different types of shags: the steward island shag, the spotted shag and the sooty shearwater shag.

We also spot some sunbathing seals but no penguins. As we jokingly say, they’re probably down the pub!

The weather is gorgeous and we stop at ‘The Boulders’. These are absolutely round shaped stones being carved that way by the sea some million years ago. We walk along the endless coast line and I am very tempted to try the waters, but it’s VERY cold.
incredibly round shaped bolders

On towards the little town of Oamaru. We have heard nice things about it but when we drive in, we are at first a bit disappointed: the same industrial looking harbour front with lots of derelict buildings. 

But as we come into town, we discover some wonderful neo-classical architecture for the late 19th century. We don’t have a problem to find accommodation here, it all seems empty and we can choose amongst the 8 rooms in the “Criterion Hotel” built in 1887. The rooms look like they were left untouched for 130 years with lots of Victorian interior design and memorabilia.
Entrance to the Kriterion hotel in Oamaru
The old harbour
A stroll through the centre of town reveals that this town has been at one stage even larger then Los Angels being “the best built city in the whole of New Zealand” – at least this was back in 1853! 

But it still retains some wonderful buildings and a lot of charme. The range of interesting looking pubs and restaurants will make it a hard choice for tonight!

fit elderly people!
coast line near Oamaru
The best street we find is Harbour Street. This old lane is packed with traditional English style buildings and a range from a German bakery, to a Whisky distillery to some arti-farti stone crafters and jewellery shops.

The Lonely Planet and the locals in town recommend us to go out to   … beach to look out for the rarest penguins in the world: the Blue Penguins (Eudyptula Minor). We should not go down to the beach but wait for them at the look-out – no photographs please! But the birds have decided that they won’t show up just for some far away travellers.

For dinner we end up at the “Last Post”, the old Post Station. A very lively pub with great food. Then back to our bar at the Criterion Hotel for some computer stuff (editing our millions of pics and fighting with the special computer brains that these things tend to have). 

We see a poster advertising a session of guitar music at the ‘Penguin Club’ down the road and are debating whether we should go. 

That minute three guys walk in and start to tune up their guitars. The music sounds really great, folkie and harmonious. 

We decide to go to the concert thinking those were the performers. Unfortunately it turns out that the guy performing is a different bloke called Paul Urbana Jones and he plays Reggae. We are not quite into that kind of music and after an hour of listening to his music we had enough. But at least we have been to a real live concert of “Kiwi Music” in a quirky place.

PHIL: Day 50/5 April
at the bolders beach
An easier programme today with only Oamaru, 100km up the coast, in our sights. We fail to spot the promised yellow-eyed penguins at Shag Point (though we do see some shags) or the blue penguins at Oamaru, however, unlike almost every NZ town we have visited so far, is a gem of thoughtful restoration and re-use. 

bakery lady
A bakery, whisky store, stonemason’s and a host of interesting enterprises fill two streets of historic port buildings. 

Even the town’s main street retains a kind of Antipodean-Scottish neo-classical style which is reminiscent of Peebles or Stirling. The evening, despite the absence of penguins, looks set to be stimulating.

The Penguin Club has a Maori guitarist performing so we go along only to find that, whilst he is a skilled performer, the ‘roots’ music is not to our taste, but we visit a couple of pubs which make up for it.

The Criterion Hotel where we stay is a beautifully restored Victorian structure and amazingly one of the few CDs lying in the residents’ lounge is a 1995 recording of our favourite 

Bristol-based band ‘Carmina’ with friends Rob and Pippa photographed on the sleeve.

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