October 21, 2023 Trains, Toilets, Tasman Sea (Day 24)

We started the day off watching the Rugby World Cup Semifinals, NZ All Blacks vs. Argentina Pumas, at 8am. By 9:30 when we left the house, NZ was at 34 vs. Argentina 6. We found a radio station and listened for the next half hour as we drove to Kawakawa to catch a train. We arrived before the game ended, but heard later that NZ scored another 10 points! The All Blacks head to the finals vs. either England or South Africa! This weekend happens to be NZ’s ‘Labour Weekend’ (we call it Labor Day). Our Labor Day is the symbolic end of summer, their Labour Weekend is their symbolic beginning of summer! As such, lots of activities are happening over the weekend. We opted for the Vintage Railway train ride, with the steam engine pulling the 4 rail cars!

The engine was fired up and ready to go!

We had a great time riding the rails to Taumarere, crossing “over the Long Bridge, the longest curved wooden bridge in the Southern Hemisphere”.

The steam competed with the overcast sky!

We took lots of video and hope to post it soon. When we returned to Kawakawa we learned that it’s not only famous for the Vintage Railway, but also for it’s public toilets, yes toilets! So we had to go see them!

Very eclectic, Gaudi like and whimsical. There is a living roof with grasses and plants growing up top.

Bottle walls brought in colorful light and everything was tiled.

The main street of town had lots of artistic influences, including this mural. Everything had some kind of green swirl, reminiscent of the curled silver fern fronds.

The toilets and mural were designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian born artist and architect who also worked for environmental protection. He made a nearby NZ farm his home for almost 3 decades, from the 1970’s until his death in 2000.

We still had a half day to fill so we continued our travel west towards the coast which we reached in a little over an hour. The weather changed from finally sunny in Kawakawa to misty, very windy and very overcast as we approached Opononi. We continued until the overlook at the South Head of the inlet to Hokianga Harbour. We walked out to the viewpoint, the old station that warned ships of the treacherous shifting sand bars that guard the harbour’s entrance.

The Tasman Sea on the west coast was stormy today!

Across the inlet is North Head, covered with huge sand dunes.

We braved the wind for a few more photos then headed north to Rawene where we caught a car ferry across a narrow section of Hokianga Harbour and drove up to Kohukohu. Once a busy town with timber mills and shipbuilding it is now a quaint town that boasts many turn of the century houses built of local kauri wood (now very scarce and carefully protected).

A house above the park where we had a picnic lunch. Notice the filagree decoration on the porch.

We headed home to complete our circular travel. The sun popped through the clouds to illuminate green hills dotted with cattle and sheep. Very bucolic!

4 Responses to “October 21, 2023 Trains, Toilets, Tasman Sea (Day 24)”

  1. Rod and Linda Charny Says:

    The steam train: now that’s my idea of a great way to travel! We took the Sugar Train on the island of St. Kitts; it was converted from its use in ferrying sugar when that industry declined. And we took the Durango to Silverton steam train in Colorado a couple of times. How long was your train trip? Being a holiday, was it crowded? Had no idea that Hunterwasser lived in New Zealand. We had a friend in San Francisco who collected his paintings!

  2. Sammy Says:

    The weather changes the light so dramatically there. Well, everywhere, but it seems more so there in NZ-A.

  3. rmj Says:

    Yes, the sun is more intense here! Our host advised us to use sunscreen liberally and reapply every 4 hours!

  4. rmj Says:

    The train ride was about 2 hours total, with 2 short stops to get out and walk around a little. It was originally built to haul coal from the coalmines in Kawakawa to the coast at Opua to ship. Our ride was the first of the day at 9am and not even half full. The second ride at noon looked more full (we watched it go through town) but it was pulled by a diesel engine.

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