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Date: 21 Apr 2016 12:12:48
Title: Oamaru and Banks Peninsula 43:80° S: 172:96° E

Dear Family and Friends,
16-17th April 2016
Much of the journey from Dunedin to Oamaru on the eastern coast of South island was flatish farmland. After the spectacular scenery of the SW and west coast, this is the gentle pastoral face of the island. So it was with no expectations at all that we rolled into Oamaru, a pit stop on our journey north.
Oamaru once an important port and trading post in the goldrush days had ideas of becoming a truly noble regional capital and still boast some fine state like buildings for the town hall, churches, banks and gallery. These would grace any capital city, indeed it would have been good to see them in Christchurch, (earthquakes not withstanding), and Wellington. Still it is as if the world moved on and forgot Oamaru, now restored there is an elegance to the especially main street. And just around the corner is home to the eclectic Victorian precinct of craft, collectables and the downright weird. Of particular note is the world HQ of Steam Punk, the photos may explain this better although I had at least heard of steam punk thanks to Josh.
Having missed out on our penguin experience, blue or yellow crested, we opted for the evening experience here in Oamaru. Evening because they fed at sea during the day and come back to the burrows at night. So with low lighting we were able to see them come ashore and make their way to the protected nesting sites which reminded me of a miniature Hobbiton! The experience was marred by several coach loads of tourists, (sorry to say Chinese), who seemed incapable of staying in their seats, banned from taking photos and requested to be quiet, they talked and strode about to the despair of the guides and generally spoilt the experience for others. Never mind moan over, we were able to see the penguins call to each other and perform strange dances before their holes before going to sleep. Another wild life experience!
Still at a loose end, what else do you do on a wet Sunday afternoon? We chose to go to the cheeseshop, some 10 minutes walk from the main areas, down a sleepy side turning. Who would have thought it would be heaving, clearly we had all had the same idea! Whitestone cheese factory make a number of excellent cheeses, so what else but a cheese tasting platter with a glass of vino to wash it down. Thoroughly enjoyed their award winning cheeses, the sheep and goats hard cheeses my favourites, the award winning blue scrumptious.
18-19th April 2016
Onwards north to be close to Christchurch for Josh’s flight on 20th April. Back home, how quickly that month has gone!  If the plains to the east of the Southern Alps were almost monotonous, the Banks peninsula to the east of Christchurch is the antidote, volcanic remains of caldera’s form a series of steep ridges and deep bays, jutting out some 60km or so. We drove around lakes, over sun bleached brown grass mountains and descended into the relative greenness of Akaroa bay. We stopped at the delightful Half Moon Cottage in Barry’s Bay, an older house with verandas overlooking the bay and surrounding hills, a charming garden, full of late summer flowers, and old world character rooms. A trip to Akaroa, around the far side of the bay was almost the end of the road and bay. It is the main town retaining many older buildings and of course a tourist industry. Not all the effects of the Christchurch earthquake have been bad, Akaroa now receives 70 or so cruise boats a year because they can no longer go to Diamond bay around the other side of the peninsula, due to earthquake damage.
20th April 2016
And now we have said goodbye to Josh for the time being. We have done some brilliant things together and it has been a pleasure to spend time with him.
All our best,
Lynne and Alan

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