New Zealand Road Trip 1

17 March 13

Posted at 8:08

On December 28th 2012 we set off on a swift three week road trip around New Zealand. In hindsight three weeks is not enough time at all but we will return. I last went to New Zealand about 15 years ago visiting the usual tourist venues, Rotarura, Auckland and Queenstown spending the majority of time in Queenstown. This time I wanted to see more of the country at a slower pace so decided to rent a camper van. I hoped to capture  some good landscape images on my travels.

First things first. This was to be home for the next three weeks.

The Van 

Fiat Ducato

Well it's a Fiat Ducato but had a strong resemblence to a Ford Transit. This was to be home for three weeks and I have to say it was remarkably comfortable. Once we got used to battening down the hatches before setting off it was great. Well the was a minor mishap but I'll save that for a future blog. We flew intop Auckland at some unearthly hour, hung around for six hours and caught a flight down to Christchurch, on the South Island where we took possession of the camper van. Without any delay we set off for our first destination, Oamaru.

Oamaru is famous for three things, Limestone, Penguins and Steampunk.When deciding to visit Oamaru I was only aware of one of these, penguins. I though it would be great to photograph the worlds biggest colony of Blue Penguins as they made their nightly return from the ocean to their nest sites in Oamaru. But first of all - limestone...

The Woolstore Oamaru

Omaru The Woolstore

Oamaru is built of limestone. It is quaried at Weston, near Oamaru, and is used in buildings throughout the South Island and further afield.

Oamaru is also famed for Steampunk

Steampunk HQ

This is the Steampunk HQ. An exhibition of some fantastic creations. Each year there is a Steampunk festival, creations, music, fashion and partying. See this video on the   Steampunk festival.

Oamaru has given itself over to Steampunk in a big way.


But as I said earlier I came to see the penguins. Shock, horror, when I arrived at the nest site two things struck me. First of all it is highly commercialised. The nest site has been developed and protected. From a conservation point of view the nest site is protected and the colony has survived and grown as a result. But as the blue penguins instinctively return at nightfall to their nest site they are more or less entering an 'open zoo'. The second thing was that photography is BANNED! Hang on a minute, I came here to photograph the blue penguins. I was advised over and over that photography 'harms the penguins'. Excuse me Oamaru - it doesn't!. Flash may well harm the penguins and would certainly startle them and deter them from returning to their nest sites but that's flash and not photography. Yes I understand that some tourists probably can't even control the flash on their camera and some will still ignore the warnings about not using flash. The authorities in Oamara prefer to police the use of cameras with an attitude similar to the Gestapo than to seek ways to prevent the use of flash. I wanted to see the penguins what ever so I refrained from my usual rebel approach and fell in line. As dusk closed in I did manage a few shots before the penguins approached.

Omaru Breakwater

This is the breakwater pre dusk with a colony of Cormorants sunning themselves at the end. they stay there until just before dark when they leave and the penguins arrive.

Omaru Dusk

A later shot from the penguin viewing point. The last I could take before being 'arrested' for using a camera!

Omaru Gull

Photography did this gull no damage a little earlier in the evening.

Omaru Bay

and here is a shot again from earlier taken from the highest point in Oamaru overlooking the bay with the penguin nest sites hidden behind those trees on the right.


My penultimate shot of Oamaru is a local reciting songs and poetry of the region on a Sunday morning in Old Oamaru. It's a really pleasent place to visit and to stay for a couple of days. I'd love to be there at the Steampunk Festival. Unfortunately the over commercialisation of the penguin colony and their nonsense attitude to photography left a hint of a bad taste. Having said that I'd visit there again if for nothing else than breakfast at The Roost Cafe  divine food, coffee to die for and excellent service..

The Roost Cafe

Coming up in road trip 2 - Lake Wanaka, diesel in the water system and some interesting images, look out for it soon.