Stepping Back In Time
If I had read in a guidebook that there was a Victorian Festival along my travel route in New Zealand, I would have skimmed past the entry quickly, looking for something less hokey, more representative of the country, and more “real” in some way. What luck, then, that I read nothing in advance about the Oamaru Victorian Festival. That it was only suggested I show up in this town, on this date, by a friend I met hiking weeks earlier.
I must say this weekend’s activities are perfectly representative of some of the history of New Zealand, especially of the town of Oamaru, but more importantly they have been, bar none, the most charming experiences of my life. The old part of town is nearly entirely unchanged since over 100 years ago.
People come in full period costume from all over the country, one even all the way from Texas. There is a parade, penny-farthing bicycle races, markets, coal-powered cars, and all about as authentic as you could possibly imagine. It’s a day of historical make-believe, everyone is in on it, and everyone is so exceptionally friendly it’s hard not to wish life here was like this year-round.
To the sound of Scotsmen’s bagpipes (The Scottish played a major role in New Zealand’s relatively young history), a procession marches down the main road: fake-sick children in wheelchairs with their nurses, suffragettes shouting for the right to vote, posh couples in in a steam-powered car, workers operating an original period steamroller, and of course a large contingent of steampunks, dedicated to remembering the future of yesteryear. However, no event could be more exciting than the slow bicycle race, where men on giant pennny-farthings must move as slow as possible, without stopping or backpedaling, towards the finish line. Last man to arrive wins.
In the end it was clear everybody was there just to play and have a good time, all more than willing to pose for portraits or stop for a pleasant conversation, though there is always that strange moment when afterwards, they lift their bonnet, pull a smartphone from their wool, hand-woven blouse pocket, and type down their email address so I can share the photographs with them later. What an unexpectedly magical day in New Zealand!
Also, I’ve taken this rare opportunity to have some fun with filters. In this case I used the Analog Efex 2 plugin from the Nik plugin collection.
Now for 4 hours of sleep, fingers crossed for a mostly clear sunrise at the Moeraki boulders.