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Published: December 15th 2013
Tuesday 10th December, 2013. Dunedin to Oamaru
We woke up quite late - exhausted after yesterday's marathon adventures. We were in no rush to leave Dunedin as we had a tour of Speights Brewery booked for 12.30 pm. We decided to pass the first couple of hours visiting the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. The entry was free. The first room contained loads of 'artworks' by some geezer who liked to play around with fluorescent tubes (M wasn't impressed). There was a small room exhibiting some more traditional paintings by Frances Hodgkins. She had travelled widely and used the medium of watercolour very skillfully. Next was a room full of photographs by Gregory Crewdson. These were all scenes from the USA. They were very moody pieces and certainly made you feel that you wouldn't want to live in the US if it was the last place on earth! No photography was allowed in these galleries. The last room contained the works of Seung Yul Oh - a Korean Artist. This was the only exhibit where photography was allowed. There were pieces made out of rice bowls and trays, several pieces made out of giant chopsticks with bowls of food, an enormous
bean-bag which you could jump around on (as long as you took your shoes off) - we gave this a miss and various inflatables of different shapes and sizes. The last room was full of giant eggs modelled to look like chickens. The theme was which came first the chicken or the egg. These eggs had round bases so they would wobble but not fall over. You were only allowed to wobble them (gently) if you wore a pair of white cotton gloves which were provided for the purpose. M had a go under the watchful eye of the museum guide.
We left the gallery and walked around the corner to Ratray Street which is the site of the Speights Brewery. Since 1876 the brewery has been producing Speight’s legendary ales and continues to produce kegs of the good stuff to this day. It is in the process of being earthquake-proofed as the Christchurch Brewery was badly damaged in the last 'quake and all brewing is being moved to this site. The earthquake proofing and shockcreting are necessary for insurance purposes.
We were told about the antiquity of beer in Babylonian times, through to the introduction of beer
in New Zealand and then the history of Speight’s Brewery. Then we went into the brewery itself to learn about the brewing process and how Speight’s became a legend in the South Island. Many of the original rooms are being restored to their original state as part of the refurbishments. We finished with a tasting of different beers and one cider in the tasting room (the best bit of the tour!).
We left Dunedin behind and headed for our next stop which was Oamaru. On the way we stopped to see the Moeraki Boulders which were another item on M's bucket list. The Moeraki Boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the Otago coast. They occur scattered either as isolated or clusters of boulders on a protected beach in a scientific reserve. There are over 50 boulders on the beach. The biggest weigh 7 tons and are 2-3 metres wide. It took about 4 million years for the Moeraki Boulders to form their current size. They were once embedded in the mudstone cliffs at the back of the beach and years of cliff erosion has exposed the resistant boulders and left
them scattered on the beach. There are countless more embedded in the mudstone cliffs waiting to be uncovered. Maori call them “eel pots”. Some locals call them “hooligans gallstones”. Other names that have been bestowed upon the boulders include “giant gobstoppers”, “alien’s brains”, “the bowling balls of giants” and the “Stonehenge of New Zealand”! There were many more boulders on the beach back in the 19th century, based on old photos. People took the smaller boulders to use as garden ornaments, or simply as souveniors. The Moeraki Boulders have legal protection and it is prohibited to damage, graffiti or remove them. Apparently they look their best at sunrise and sunset. We made do with mid-afternoon. They were pretty impressive nevertheless.
We continued on to Oamaru which we had selected as a stop-over purely on the basis of its location (after the boulders and a reasonable driving distance from Mt Cook which was our next destination). Oamaru is a gorgeous harbour town centrally located on the South Island’s east coast 3 hours south of Christchurch and 90 minutes north of Dunedin. What a find this was. It was an amazing place. Anyone who is planning a trip to NZ should
put this place on their list! It has some of the most intact and numerous examples of Victorian architecture that we have seen outside of London, England. With the development of pastoralism and the associated frozen-meat industry having its historical origins in New Zealand just south of the town at Totara, Oamaru flourished from 1850. It became a leading centre for export of grain as well as meat. Many of the buildings were constructed from Oamaru Limestone which was plentiful and easy to work. Even the grain stores were very grand. By the 1880's Oamaru had become the "best built and most mortgaged town in Australasia". During the 1880's the depression hit, the harbour was no longer large or deep enough to take the larger vessels so they went elsewhere. As a result the town was left to decay. No investment or repairs were made for years. This is a huge RESULT!! As no investment was made nothing was repaired or, more importantly, replaced with buildings of a more modern style. Now all the fantastic facades are listed and protected. Many of them have already been restored, others are work in prgress. Due to the historic nature of its streets,
Oamaru has been used for many period TV shows and movies. We wandered around the streets reading all the plaques explaining what the various buildings had been used for in the past. They were too numerous to write about individually in this blog so please see the photos. We called in to the Heritage Radio Station which was in the middle of a live broadcast (playing Granddad by Clive Dunn!). This was an interesting place with plenty of radio memorabillia to take a sniff at.
The YH was comfortable with free internet and comfortable TV room. A surprisingly good day.
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