Leon at LCA2006

19 January 2006

First Penguin: Oamaru

Oamaru is a lovely little town. I bombed in at about noon, and wandered about the place gawking for about three hours before running out of zoom and sitting down to housekeep (e.g. type this up).

Their allegiance to the most holy penguin is so deep that they even have a penguin statue in the main street. Many businesses use a penguin logo, including one which depicts an adult penguin sheltering two younglings. I suspect that this is caused by the spiritual influence of having a penguin breeding site right in the heart of town.

penguin idol

The place is built mostly on the flat, but is also draped across the many little hills behind that. It’s very green, and (in most places) very pretty, or at least “picturesque”. The industrial and residential sectors are not yet as well separated out as they are in modern towns, as this photo of a lavender-toned residence downhill from a factory complex demonstrates. The freight railway runs right through the middle of town (the main drag is also the through highway, so truckloads of steel and such do too — er... don’t get too close to the stock trucks), and they have an historic track as well, running ancient carriages behind a merely old “yard” (shunting) diesel.

The main drag reminds me of Albany for its road furniture, statues and roundabouts, as does the mix of old and new buildings.

They have zillions of little brown wren-looking birds bobbing about (the male seems to have darker plumage than the female), and most of the seagulls are about half as big again as Western Australia’s, with black wings and back – kind of like a scaled-down Pacific Gull. Here’s one alongside a cormorant.

beach buddies

They also have the most excellent cherries. Nearly the size of a plum and very tasty. A lass who appeared to be the farmer’s daughter was selling paper bags full of them from a table in a doorway on the main street.

Lagonda Tearooms AKA the Coach Travel Centre were kind enough to babysit my suitcase while the abovementioned peregrinations took place, and made no move to kick me out even an hour after they officially closed. Their chips and bakery goods are pretty good, too. One of the staff, it turns out, has a brother living in Wanneroo. Small world.

The shoreline from near the penguins on northwards has been filled, mostly with volcanic rock. It was interesting to see the lava eroding in “stripes”, which implies that even a monolithic block of lava solidifies with some degree of internal stratification.

rock on

The second-hand bookshop in the old section of town is most excellent. Creaky ancient floorboards, solid limestone construction, top-shelf craft hung on the walls, and many, many seriously old books. The Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks look almost new alongside most of the stock.

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