22. Oamaru – Steampunk Central and Janet Frame’s Birthplace

Our first city experience for a whole month since leaving Christchurch!! It was cold, wet and windy in Oamaru – out came our warm jackets, socks and shoes. What a contrast to the hot temperatures we’ve been enduring (that’s me talking) or enjoying (that’s Kevin emphatically talking).
Just about our first stop was the Steampunk Museum which I’ve wanted to visit for many years. Oamaru is known as NZ’s center of steampunk, and credit is given to artist Chris Meder for being the inspiration.
It’s a place that looks dark and gloomy – I was surprised to find it quite different to my image of it, but it quickly grew on me with the amazing stuff you get to see both inside and outside.
An angler fish created by Chris Meder.
Kevin and I in the portal – this was utterly cool.
There was a lot to see in the yard such as this steampunk train.
Back out on the streets, lots of buildings in Oamaru are built of limestone. This one was the city’s first pub; and like all pubs that came with the early European settlers it was very well patronised!
There is still a whiskey shop here!!
The whole street behind the first pub was built of limestone. It’s got shops in every one, and a lot of people were looking. There were bakery shops and curio shops and this is where the whiskey shop was too.
I went for a tour through Janet Frame’s childhood home. It’s been left largely as it was when she was growing up, so I found I could get a sense of how she described it in her writing. There was an old floor-standing radio in one of the rooms; I switched it on at the wall and it played a reading by Janet Frame herself, from one of her books.
Behind the house I was surprised and pleased to find another Vanished World site with different rock types – limestone mixed into volcanic material. This was right behind Janet Frame’s house so must be the hill she wrote about – her childhood playground. I wonder if she played around this very outcrop of rock?
We headed for the harbour. A flippy floppy seal lay taking whatever heat it could from the rocks. Totally chill and relaxed.
Shags lined a disused wharf.
Penguins generally go out to sea early in the morning and come back in at dusk – and wherever there are penguins, people are encouraged to leave them alone to do their thing.
Old lamp posts juxtaposed with modern power lines
We looked out over Oamaru and the harbour from a local hill that has a lot of walks and mountain bike trails.
I walked alone across the peninsula and down the cliff to the beach. Looking for another Vanished World site showing pillow lava, I tried to go one way along to find three seals blocking my path. When I tried to go past, the first one hissed. I backed off, partly scared and partly not wanting to upset the seals, this being their home when they are not out at sea.
So I went the other way…
…and found it! The pillow lava was fantastic!! …except the sea was on high tide and lapping right at it so I couldn’t get down to see it as well as I would have liked. Jingers!!
A single seal lying there quickly dived into the sea as soon as it saw me.

I took advantage of that by continuing onto the thin section of beach beyond the high tide mark, and walked along as far as possible, looking at and picking up pebbles and shells.
There were lots of shags on the rocks just off the beach.
When I returned the seal was back. Yikes! The rocks behind the seal were too steep to negotiate so I couldn’t go behind it even though that’s what you’re supposed to do – ‘never get between a seal and the sea’. It was just a young one who was more scared of me than I was of it, so I snuck along to where the sea hit the wall of pillow lava, waited for a moment when the waves retreated and quickly climbed up and onto the track beyond.
Safe – both of us! The seal remained watchful, but not upset. We observed one another for a while. It looked healthy and I thought its parents might both be out at sea finding food to bring back.
During breeding season and early feeding season, people probably shouldn’t even try to be on the beaches where there are seals (or sea lions or penguins). But as we both have a hankering for the same environment there has to be room for negotiation the rest of the year!

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