New Zealand: 5. New Zealand’s most photographed public toilet, and a homestead stay

The next day was the first of many long days on the road, as we left the Northland heading south into the centre of North Island.

The first stop on the way was at Kawakawa, to cast our eyes on, and even make use of, the most photographed public toilets in New Zealand. You feel a bit awkward walking into a public toilet with your camera – is this perhaps an arrestable offence? or at least, likely to arouse suspicion? So I took the coward’s way out and locked myself in one of the cubicles before bringing my camera out.

These toilets were designed by the Austrian architect Friedenreich Hundertwasser. An eccentric, and probably difficult to live with – at least, the women he married generally divorced him after only a year or two – he moved to New Zealand were he lived the last 25 years of his life as a kind of recluse, in a house without any power or electricity. The local community persuaded him to use his talents to build something for them, and this was the result.

Public toilet attracts attention from tourists

The whole of Kawakawa has an arty kind of feel to it, with numbers of murals, and other buildings that must have been either designed by Hundertwasser himself, or by other people in homage to him.

Our road then took us back through Auckland and on into the Waikato region. At over 400 km, the Waikato (= long water) is the longest river in New Zealand, powering lots of hydroelectric schemes that generate some large proportion of the country’s electricity needs. For sure Denis told us the exact figure, but …

At Cambridge (good name!) we were met by our hosts for the evening’s Homestead Stay. Alison and I, together with fellow-travellers Chris and Judy, were entertained by Ron and Beth Richardson. Ron is a retired police inspector who now farms, owning and raising horses for the popular local sport of harness racing. Beth was in high hopes that their horse would win the trophy at the following Saturday’s race. We never did find out whether they succeeded. A brief tour of the farm, riding on a trailer behind the tractor; then we sat down to some real home cooking: roast lamb with, I think Alison counted 8 or 9 vegetables.

The homestead visit is an increasingly popular part of many tours to this part of the country, enjoyed by both the visitors and the hosts, for whom it must be a source of company and also income.