Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – New Zealand chapter on Dunedin & Otago has to say about Oamaru:
“Nothing moves very fast in Oamaru. Tourists saunter, locals linger and penguins waddle. Even oft-celebrated heritage modes of transport – penny-farthings and steam trains – reflect an unhurried pace. For travellers, the focus is mostly on penguins and the historic district, but eccentric gems such as the South Island’s yummiest cheese factory, cool galleries and a peculiar live-music venue provide other distractions.
Another recent layer to Oamaru’s unique appeal is the quirky Steampunk movement, boldly celebrating the past and the future with an ethos of ‘tomorrow as it used to be’.
In an old limestone quarry near the waterfront, you can see the little tykes from Oamaru’s blue-penguin colony surfing in and wading ashore. The penguins arrive just before dark (around 5.30pm in midwinter and 9.30pm midsummer), and it takes them about an hour to all come ashore. You’ll see the most penguins (up to 150) in November and December. From March to August there may be only 30 to 50 birds.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
I didn’t know the term ‘Steampunk’ when we arrived at the Steampunk HQ Museum in Oamaru, here’s a little of what I found out about it on Wikipedia:
“Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunkgenre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.”
After reading about it, and seeing loads of photos on the web, I realized that I have seen some Steampunk works before during out travels. One think comes to mind immediately, and that was the most unusual carousel I’ve ever come across. It was in Segovia, Spain – underneath the famous multi-story Roman aqueduct. Instead of colourful horses, all the rides were modelled after 19th-century modes of transportation, such as hot air balloons, crazy flying machines, submarines and elaborate locomotives. I’ve never forgotten that carousel, and I have quite a number of photos of it, I was smitten.
For that reason, I got quite a kick out of the children’s playground at Oamaru’s beach. The structures weren’t entirely Steampunk, but there were clear influences. In fact, if you look up Steampunk on Wikipedia you will find a photo of the locomotive in Oamaru, so clearly the aficionados appreciate the efforts the New Zealanders have made to the art.
I would have liked nothing better than to see the blue penguins march up the beach as the sun was setting, but we had arrived at mid-day and we ‘had miles to go before we sleep…’