Oamaru Recap

I’ve returned a wee bit early from Oamaru. Frankly, it reminded me of the Distillery District more than Black Creek – lots of galleries in a small, twisty section of town. Not quite what I expected, but very nice nonetheless. My early return doesn’t mean I wasn’t having a good time. It just means that I misjudged how long it would take me to do everything.

Yesterday, I had a very long, but very, very good day.

It started with what I intend to make a routine while travelling: a trip to the café for my daily caffeine fix and word count. The owner brought my Long Black just as my netbook flared to life.

“Doing a bit of catch-up, are we?” he asked, nodding at the screen.

“Um, no, actually. I’m writing.”


“I’m a writer.”

“A writer!” He beamed. “We had a writer used to come round. Turned out three books sitting here.” He broke off suddenly, and gave me a stern look. “Well,” he said. “Get at it!”

So I did.

My next stop was the Steampunk HQ, located in a former grain storage building on the edge of the Victorian Precinct. Like most of Oamaru, it was smaller than I expected, and the steampunk a shade darker than I’m used to, but certainly worth the look.  Even better, I made friends with the curator, who told me that if I came to the North Otago Museum after lunch, she’d unearth some photos of nineteenth-century Oamaru, along with some more recent photos of its past steampunk exhibits.

I hit the public gardens next, but a sudden downpour hit me, so it was a rather bedraggled Canadian that darkened the doorstep of Annie’s Victorian Tearoom. A woman in period maid’s costume met me with a smile, and an eye on my soaked hair and jacket. “Would you be wanting a hot drink then, dear?”

“Yes, please.”

“Go on and sit anywhere you like…” She paused, and looked me over again. “But may I suggest by the fire?”

Yes, they had a real, wood fire. In a real fireplace. A Victorian tea set and gas-lamp graced the shelf behind my head, and a little old man played piano in the corner. My server had muttonchops. I sighed. I was home.

Now, I eat very quickly. It’s embarrassing, but I can’t help it. Turns out that fancy china is an excellent cure. And believe me, the food was delicious: flaky scones with dollops of cream perfect for cooling the mouth after a sip of hot coffee. As I paid, the server asked, “Was everything to your liking?”

“Oh, yes, you have no idea how much I needed this.”

He nodded. “You looked a bit rain-soaked, I’m glad you were able to warm up.”

“It’s not just that…”

We then got into a conversation about history and historical sites – apparently, he worked at a heritage site in Christchurch until the earthquake, and then moved down here to keep some of his period lifestyle. “I’m kind of a history geek,” he confided. (Males – there is no faster way to make me fall in love a little bit.)

Later, I went to the museum, where the steampunk curator works afternoons. As promised, she had a collection of photos to show me, and we talked for a while about Oamaru’s history, steampunk, and speculative fiction in general. The longer I stay here, the more I realize how rich New Zealand’s tradition of spec-fic is – and it’s not just Lord of the Rings. There’s something about the people, and the country, that works very well with this kind of literature.

And to finish the day, I went for a wander in the reserve just outside of town. Lots of huge, creaking trees, a few sheep, and a seacoast trail with breathtaking, ruggedly beautiful cliffs.

All in all, a thoroughly excellent experience… though I’m quite content to have left it at just the one day.

Posted on April 11, 2012, in Travel, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Victorian tearoom sounds amazing – jealous!

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