Today began with a question. What do you do when the attraction you want to see in town doesn't open until 10:00am and the one thirty kilometres down the road to your next destination needs to be seen at 8:00am?
The answer is simple. You get up early you drive half an hour to see the Moeraki Boulders at low tide and have the beach pretty much to yourself then you turn around and go back to Oamaru in time to walk in the door as Steampunk HQ opens. So that's what we did.
For the uninitiated steampunk is a genre of science-fiction based around steam powered machines and is usually set in alternate reality similar to Victorian England. Think anime and Doctor Who. For those of you who still don't get it, don't worry, it's probably one of those things you either get or you don't.
Now, if you're still with me we've just walked into HQ. The building itself is one of the old whitestone's, a disused grain depot. Inside is packed full of wacky works by a sculptor called Chris Meder, whose scrap metal creations include animals, vehicles and the undead.
Also housed in HQ is The Portal, steampunk's version of a time machine which transports you to alien worlds. Of course we tried it out, and yeah it was pretty trippy, but you'll have to try it out for yourself if you wanna know where it goes. Back on Earth we stepped outside to try the interactive sculptures, made from things like old tractors and trains. It was a pretty fun place and we'd definitely recommend you check it out if you ever find yourself in the vicinity.
We hit the road again, covering old ground, and decided to stop off at the boulders again to check them out at high tide. It was cool to see them in a different way but the forty billion tourists swarming over them by this time not so much.
We continued south towards Dunedin, taking the scenic route via Seacliff, and then headed up into the hills to Orokonui Ecosanctuary. It is 307 hectares of coastal Otago forest surrounded by a predator proof fence. It is home to rare birds and reptiles but unlike a zoo, these birds (at least the ones that can fly, sorry Kiwis!) are free to come and go as they please. Therefore they are technically wild which makes them tickable. We visited in the hope of finding a lifer or two.
Within the first few minutes we came across some Redpolls. European introductions but lifers nonetheless and the last species we needed to cross off on the target list top 10.
For the next couple of hours we wandered around the forest paths searching for some of the native residents. Another of my most wanted birds for NZ was Rifleman. They are NZ smallest bird, weighing a minuscule six grams. They are the colour, size and shape (Rifleman has virtually no tail) of a leaf and are known as notorious skulkers. The chances of seeing one sounded pretty slim. On our second lap around the walking track two tiny birds chattering away next to the track caught my attention. We stopped on a little bridge and the two of them went flitting under it and landed right beneath us. The view was quick but there was no doubt we'd found them. They proved impossible to photograph in amongst the ferns in the dappled light but now that I'd heard the call we picked up on more of them easily enough. With patience we could see them but never managed to snap a decent photo. Still, they are one of the cutest birds around and no photo I've seen does them justice.
With two lifers, including an endemic, added to the list we continued south to Dunedin. As we drove into town I spotted an inconspicuous sign marked Baldwin Street. Of course I recognised that name from my first NZ trip back in 2003 so a U-turn it was and then we turned into the world's steepest street. It really is ridiculous, and pretty scary, so we parked the car at the bottom and walked to the top. With that achievement under our belts we continued on into town and booked into our motel which has a driveway to rival Baldwin Street.
After we settled in we went for a walk into the Octagon, which is the centre of town, and then down to the world heritage listed railway station. It's a beautiful building from the early twentieth century built in the Flemish renaissance style from local blue and white stones.
On the walk back we checked out St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, a grand whitestone building from the late nineteenth century.
Off to explore the Otago Peninsula tomorrow.