Time travel in Oamaru

Oamaru is a small coastal city on the South Island. It’s also the place where you can have a glimpse of the future. Well… the future as they saw it in the past that is. Oamaru is well-known in the steampunk world. Steampunk is a sort of futuristic science fiction that is also associated with steam power and the Victorian era. It’s a form of art that can come in the form of inventions, stories or clothing. It mixes the future with the past and results in wonderful creations that can be seen in places like Steampunk HQ.

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Steampunk HQ is located in the Victorian precinct of Oamaru. And so I jumped from the present into the past in the Victorian precinct, and from the past into the futuristic past in the headquarters. Even from the outside the headquarters are quirky. There is a huge train that starts huffing and puffing when you put a two dollar coin in it and on the walls are insect sculptures.

Inside I am greeted by a very friendly man who just makes my day. The talk about what I’ll see inside is very rehearsed, but the friendliness and interest is genuine. The old building is full of strange creations. There are mythical figures and a clock that counts down until the end of the world, like the Mayas predicted it. It’s very interactive and there are things you can touch, make things move or climb in or on stuff, like the old train you can explore inside and out.

The atmosphere is slightly creepy, like in a haunted house. That’s what it feels like when I walk around the dark rooms that are lit dimly with colored lights. Everywhere around me I hear sound effects and spooky music. In the basement it’s ridiculously dark and as I am making out a steam bar at the end of the room, a projected video starts with a bang. There is also a maze, but it’s more like a prison. Hesitantly I enter. It’s literally just a little cubicle. But that’s just the thing, you don’t know what to expect at Steampunk HQ.

The newest addition to the gallery is the infinity room. The door closes behind me and I have to wait a few seconds. I see myself in a few mirrors. Then the lights start. They’re dancing around me in all colors of the rainbow. Because of the mirrors it seems like the room is never-ending. Unlike all the metal objects that look like things from hell on motorbikes, this is colorful and pretty. In a way it doesn’t fit, but on the other hand it’s like your transported to a different world. And this is the thing about steampunk, it transports you to a different place. It’s a cool place. I like it!

Steampunk comes back throughout the Victorian precinct. The buildings are as they used to be, but are now used mainly for artists. There are galleries and cool little shops with all kinds of curiosities. Unfortunately the one I am most interested in, the steampunk jewelry shop, is closed on this Sunday. I wish I was rich. This is one place where I can spend a lot of money.

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