I was sorry to leave Larnach Castle and Dunedin; there was so much more we could have seen and done. Visiting New Zealand was beginning to feel like a European tour; the fjords of Scandinavia, the snowy peaks of Switzerland, Scottish moors, English farmlands, with the extra excitement of its unique wildlife. Our next stop was going to be another highpoint of the trip: Steampunk Headquarters in Oamaru. The drive was as scenic as anything we’d experienced previously, with rocky tors looming along the ridgelines.
I was still burdened with my cold, but the excitement of seeing Steampunk Headquarters burnt a lot of my discomfort away. Adrenaline is great stuff! When I caught sight of iconic train outside the Headquarters, I squealed with delight. My husband rolled his eyes, he isn’t a Steampunk Enthusiast. This outing was for my benefit only.
When I walked into the entry, I immediately started blabbing about being Steampunk Sunday, Queensland, Australia on Facebook. The lass had heard of me! She was going to wave the entry fee for both me and my hubby, but my hubby insisted on paying. Then it was a walk into Steampunk heaven.
I could easily share the dozens of photos I took, but my drooling over everything would get boring. Then again, this IS originally a Steampunk blog. We also spent some time in the gift shop.
We spent a couple of hours in the Headquarters, then we headed off to Christchurch, our last stop in New Zealand.
From Lumdsen, Dunedin was a pleasant three hour drive. The scenery – like all of New Zealand – was dramatically pretty. I was beginning to feel weary as we finally reached the outskirts of Dunedin, but it turned out that Larnach Castle was another half hour drive from the city centre. It was worth the extra drive: dry stone walls, witchy marcrocarpa trees, glorious views of the Otago Harbour, and Pukehiki itself was quite lovely. And then – THE CASTLE! Oh, it was lovely, just like a Scottish Manor mixed in with a Queenslander’s verandas. We were staying in the Lodge, as the castle is basically a museum.
That night, we attended a banquet in the Music Room of the castle. It was an imposing room, and the food was perfection. As it was decorated in the style of the Victorian era, it felt quite Steampunk to me.
After the banquet, I had another rough night, coughing frequently. I felt sorry for my husband, because I thought I was keeping him awake after he spent the day driving. But he was so tired, he was able to ignore most of my coughing. I managed to get enough sleep to make up excited for our plans for the day – The Royal Albatross Centre in the morning, and afternoon tea at the castle in the afternoon. Stay tuned for that update, where I get to meet a stampede of Ferraris.
When I was in my early twenties, my great grandmother and my great aunt went on a bus tour of New Zealand. When they came back, great grandma said she regretted that they never stopped in the town of Lumsden, the tour bus just drove through it. The bus driver did announce that Mrs Lumsden (great grandma) was in Lumsden. For some reason, this story always made me want very much to visit Lumsden.
I still wasn’t well, but the day of rest in Te Anu had knocked the worst of the cold on the head. Part of my improved outlook was knowing I was finally going to see Lumsden. I was prepared to be disappointed, but at the same time I was rather hopeful that Lumsden was something special. Whenever we mentioned the town, people had heard of it, and the café in particular. It was famous for its cheese rolls.
Lumsden embraced its name. There were Lumsden-named parks and buildings. It felt surreal, seeing my maiden name sprinkled everywhere, with such exuberance. There was no problem in finding Café Route 6 – it was across the road from the public toilets. even the toilets proudly proclaimed they were ‘Lumsden Toilets’ from a sign shaped like the front of a steam train (Steampunk!).
In the café was a whole red Chevy. This turned out to be the post office! We sent a parcel home from there. By now, I seriously was in love with the town. It was so much more magical than I could ever have hoped. There were Lumsden souvenirs on sale, and I bought my father a coffee mug and bought a t-shirt for myself.
We had lunch at the café, but we didn’t have one of the famous cheese rolls. I was feeling better, but the thought of a cheese roll made me squeamish. My husband went with sweet rolls and coffee for both of us. They were delicious.
We wanted to get on Dunedin before sunset, so we couldn’t spend more than a couple of hours in Lumsden. But I’d love to go back, and maybe spend days there.
This was the day of our 27th wedding anniversary – and my husband’s birthday. So, we did out favourite thing and visited the museum across the road from where were staying: The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. We ended up spending six hours there, including meal breaks. We didn’t take many photos; most exhibits requested no photography.
The museum is also an art gallery. We started in the portrait gallery, which has a computer set up to explain who the people were in all the portraits. It also gave random facts about the restoration of the paintings, some of the meanings and symbology within the paintings, and historical context. Brilliant stuff. There was also a gallery showing by Robyn White.
The more traditional exhibits were about indigenous animals, the Maori way of life, the tectonics of New Zealand, and a tribute to the ANZACs with large human sculptures done by Weta Workshop.
We also visited the Wellington Museum, about four blocks away on the same street. It is a much smaller museum, set into an old wool storehouse. My favourite piece there was the memento mori wreath made from the hair of scores of people – very Victorian era; my Steampunk persona was fascinated by its complexity. Most hair used in this manner was preserved in lockets, brooches, and rings. There was a clever use of the hair colours to pick out the details in the wreath.
There was an exhibit about the wreck of the ferry, Wahini, which made me cry due to so many little bodies lined up on the beach afterwards. Later on, I remembered we were taking a ferry to Picton and had anxiety over that. I kept checking the weather apps on my phone.
They also had an exhibit about the UFO panic of the late 1950s. Wellington has been paranormal for decades, it appears.
After being on our feet for hours and hours, we headed back to the hotel for a nap. There was sparkling white wine on ice and little cakes waiting for us … the staff knew it was our anniversary. That night, we had a romantic dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. I love my husband more every day, and was pleased he had a fun day for his birthday.
The Weta Unleashed tour is in the building across the road from the Sky Tower. This was convenient, as we went straight from the Sky Tower to our tour, across a sky bridge. We looked around the shopping cave first, and took photos of the statues of trolls and orcs lurking in the corridor outside.
Once inside the touring area, our first stop was a ‘reception’ area with animatronic Kevin, an orc. Kevin was the result of Disney wanting a fortune – AND YEARS – to create this sort of robot. Weta decided to do it themselves. And they managed to be quicker and cheaper. I prophesise that Disney will be trying to buy Weta in the near future. My favourite room was the Pinnie Gigs room, where Guinea Pigs were the overarching theme. They were part of the stained class, and there was a board that had sketches of LOTR characters as guinea pigs. My next favourite room was the miniatures room. The details were amazing. If I could work for Weta, this would be my jam.
Of course, I got to play with a sword and helmet and a throne.
If you get a chance to go to Auckland, don’t pass up the opportunity to see the Weta Workshop. It is inspiring for writers and Steampunk enthusiasts.
So much has happened since I last updated this blog. My husband and I went to New Zealand for a holiday, where we tried to fit in a month’s worth of adventure into two weeks. Over the next few weeks, I will do a proper breakdown of the trip. I have so much to share. However, I was sick with a heavy cold when we got back, and it’s taken me a while to recover.
In other news, I’ve discovered I have a congenital heart deformity. I was sent for a stress test by my GP, just before the trip. They didn’t like my results and sent me to a heart specialist. They did a CAT scan, and it turns out I have a weird, twisty heart. So the heart specialist sent me to a Congenital Heart Specialist, who has informed me I have two holes in my heart and an extra blood vessel. What this boils down to is that my heart doesn’t pump properly oxygenated blood but a mixture of deoxygenated blood with oxygenated blood; the harder I exercise, the less oxygen in my blood. Why this wasn’t picked up sooner is due to my adaptation to the issue, as I feel no pain and have been fairly fit. As my GHS said, if another person was gifted with my heart for a day, they would be unable to function. Now that I am aging, this needs to be addressed, so I am grateful to my GP for starting the process of discovery.
It’s a nuisance, as I now have lots more tests to undergo and most likely will have to have an operation to correct the deformities. It sounds all so dramatic, but it isn’t. I feel no different to normal.
Steampunk is no longer a mainstream genre not like ten years ago. It isn’t referenced in mainstream shows like NCIS or Castle (and NCIS is still going!), nor are there the flood of Steampunk genre books that we all enjoyed when it was at the height of its popularity. There are still outposts of enthusiasts, but even some of the long-term fans have fallen to the wayside.
How do I know Steampunk has lost some steam? On Facebook, many of the Steampunk sites I followed have ceased posting – many haven’t posted anything for years. It’s harder to source Steampunk genre movies and literature. Strangely, this trend hasn’t effected Steampunk cosplay and it is still as popular as ever. Well, you can’t argue that the Steampunk Aesthetic isn’t a great looks for everyone.
So, where does this leave the Steampunk Enthusiast in 2022?
Steampunk isn’t dead. It will never be completely forgotten, just because the subculture is no longer top of the pop culture. You just have to dig harder to find it. You can still find books and anthologies in the genre, and the recent animated series, Arcane, was certainly leaning hard into the Steampunk Aesthetic. Arcane has a second season coming post-2022. Professor Elemental is still singing and writing. The Girl Genius Comic still updates three times a week. I’m still getting Steampunk stories accepted.
The fires may have subsided, but the coals are still red hot.
I found out where the word ‘shoddy’ come from. Shoddy used to be an industrial term used in the fabric industry. Shoddy cloth was made from recycled materials, where the fibres were shorter than normal, making the material less durable.
I am now going to use this as a pejorative in any of my Steampunk stories.
The history behind words fascinates me. I’m always on the look out for new words, and for a new twist on old words. Sometimes, the ‘new’ twist is using the word with its original meaning.