Maybe I’m being unfair. We were in Feilding just after New Year and it seemed most of Feilding had left town. Or maybe it is always like that.
When we were looking to break the journey north from Wellington to Gisborne, I wanted to stop somewhere I'd never been before, Ideally somewhere on the coast. I found Herbertville on the map, and wondered why I had never heard of it.
Now I know.
It is old New Zealand there, which is great when you are talking with people at the pub, but not so great when you look around. The Tararua countryside was in stark contrast to Marlborough Sounds where we had stayed before. It is scarred by intensive forestry with conifers and bare, eroded hillsides. The valleys are dotted with cattle standing about and shitting in the lifeless rivers. On the road from Dannevirke to Herbertville, we saw few native trees and fewer native birds.
Herbertville is boatie heaven as the locals complain of being able to catch nothing but blue cod (something fishermen would love to be able to do near where we live). The campground is well equipped, but battles the prevailing wind. Our tent was buffeted despite having hedge windbreaks on three sides. And the sea looked too vicious to do more than dip your toes in.
Please leave a comment if you have had a better experience of being in Herbertville!
Bluebridge are a lovely company, but we bought the cheapest tickets way in advance to travel at Christmas. So when their ferry broke down and we had to get home, it cost way more to come back on the Interislander. Bluebridge refunded what we had paid, but not the extra $200 it cost to buy last minute tickets on the other ferry from Wellington to Picton. At least it was the only bad thing that happened on our Christmas holiday (let’s not mention when the boyf power-washed the Land Rover and shorted the electrics).
Summer starts today, 1st December, in New Zealand. We are hoping to do a lot of camping this summer (last summer I got away twice, for 2 nights in total, as there was so much to do with the house and garden).
I love camping in New Zealand, though the weather can never be relied on (see my post on Things That Will Kill You in New Zealand). At least usually there aren’t too many people, unless it is the first two weeks after Christmas Day, when campgrounds go a little nuts.
When we were in Oamaru recently, I noticed some nice old buildings near Friendly Bay that were mainly made from corrugated iron.
Corrugated “iron” (usually steel) is used a lot more in New Zealand than in England. In England you tend to see it used for agricultural buildings, but here the use extends way beyond that. Our house has a roof made of it and so do many houses, even newbuilds. In fact you often see corrugated metal being used for cladding on building walls. Sometimes it is even used just to make things like the sheep and sheepdog in Tirau, New Zealand’s corrugated capital.
Te Ara states:
Corrugated iron has been one of the characteristic building materials in New Zealand for over 150 years. It is technically light steel sheet that has been galvanised (treated with a coating of zinc on both sides) to prevent rusting, then rolled into corrugations at either 3 or 5 inches (76 or 127 millimetres). First produced in English steel mills in the 1830s, it was regarded as suitable only for temporary buildings.
But it is still all over the shop, probably because construction is very expensive in NZ and Kiwis are used to building things with it.
We arrived in Oamaru on a Wednesday evening and it was pretty quiet, with few locals in the street. They were outnumbered by a coachload of Asian tourists who were drifting around. The most obvious attraction in Oamaru is the little blue penguin colony at the end of Friendly Bay (see my earlier post).
Here are some of the other things to do in Oamaru:
1. Spot trains.
2. Walk around the independent shops in the Victorian precinct. There was a building boom between 1875 and 1883 when Oamaru was a busy port, making a lot of money from wool & grain exports and using the local limestone to put up some pretty impressive buildings.
3. Dress up like a Victorian (there was a festival the weekend after we were there in November).
4. Get into the steampunk
5. Drink beer. You can go to the oldest pub in town, The Criterion, which has Emerson beers on tap. Or you can go to Fat Sally’s, which seems to be a Speights Alehouse in disguise, but had cheap beer and a quiz on a Wednesday. Or you can go to our favourite, which was the Scotts Brewery. This was in an old railway shed. The owners had wanted to put the brewery in one of the old Victorian buildings, but they couldn't get insurance for an old stone building.
6. Drink some whiskey. There is an award-winning whiskey company in the old town.
7. Walk along the esplanade and see lots of shags (cormorants) and seals.
8. Walk near the beaches at night and see penguins or you can go and see them at the covered area. They have given the penguins nesting boxes here and they even have their own gardener.
9. Go secondhand shopping, although the op shops are so much more expensive than in Christchurch. There is, however, a really good secondhand store that has well-organised old tools and bric-a-brac, etc, with very fair prices (unlike the very expensive but beautifully organised Hampden store just down the road from Oamaru).
10. Check out the small, but lovely Forrester Gallery, which has some Colin Wheeler paintings as well as other artwork from Oamaru and around.
The biggest tourist attraction in Oamaru is the little blue penguin colony at the end of Friendly Bay, but you find little penguins all around New Zealand. NZ has three types of penguin. The yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho (endangered, with numbers crashing, possibly due to fishing activities), the Fiordland crested penguin/tawaki and this little penguin/kororā.
I used to volunteer as a penguin guide at the breakwater in St Kilda when I lived in Melbourne, so I saw plenty of little penguins there too. I still have a scar on my lip as a souvenir of an up close and personal encounter (when I was holding a penguin for the penguin researchers to measure). So I wasn't prepared to pay to go and see the penguins in Oamaru, but since I knew the type of place penguins like to nest, I walked to the beach in the evening and found plenty wandering around.