After leaving Timaru (the second largest city in Canterbury next to Christchurch) we took our hosts advice and headed to Duntroon to visit the fossil centre where we could have a glimpse into prehistoric New Zealand. Gregory spent almost an hour digging in the soft chunks of limestone (at the fossil centre) for 20 million year old fossils and exploring the museum with displays including the fossilized skeleton of an ancient baleen whale and the fossilized skull of an extinct shark-toothed dolphin that lived about 25 million years ago in the late Oligocene times. This shark-toothed dolphin had a skull about 1m (3.28ft.) long, which would be five to six times that of a modern dolphin. The shark-toothed dolphin was probably 5-6m in length (16.4-19.7ft.)! The docent at the museum was comparing the length to that of Mike’s Dodge Ram pickup truck (a truck in New Zealand would be called a “Ute” or utility vehicle).
After the museum we stopped briefly to view some Maori rock art that was very faint in black and red tones. This is a sacred Maori site and cages protect the rock art yet there are still tourists that abuse this and we heard of some Germans who posted pictures of themselves, behind these protective cages, on facebook. It is so sad. Some of this art has been removed to museum as the weather is gradually wearing it away. I imagine it is difficult to decide whether to remove and preserve these treasures of history or leave the sacred site to remain just that.
“The Earthquakes” was next on the Vanished Fossil Trail. These distinctive yellow-brown limestone cliffs set against a bright blue sky are a sight to behold. They are set on private farmland so Gregory went tramping after a flock of sheep. He didn’t catch them but got plenty of sheep poo on his shoes! We had to keep them in the trunk!
“Elephant Rocks” with its unique and enormous rocks was the setting for Aslan’s camp in The Chronicles of Narnia ~ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. We tried to picture the scenes in the movie as we climbed up on top of these massive boulders and looked out upon the grasslands below. (Later we watched the movie again with renewed interest.)
We had one last stop on the fossil trail at Anatini Farm (private property, Anatini means many caves) to view some fossilized skeletal remains of an ancient baleen whale and then we had to slow down as we came across some cattle in the road before we could head on down to Oamaru before the penguins arrive at dusk!