Kawakawa’s refurbished steam train takes you on a slow journey through a little bit of town and a lot of fields. We found that coal smoke is not a happy smell, although the fifty minutes of rolling, rocking, bumping and thumping are pretty fun. We imagined what travelers of a hundred years ago must have experienced.

At the terminal station, we disembarked and walked along the tracks while the engine was switching rails to take us back. It’s hooked up backwards on the return trip to Kawakawa.

This small town in the Bay of Islands was the chosen home of Austrian artist and architect Frederick Hundertwasser, and twelve years after his death, the gems he left still sparkle with his colorful vision.

The public toilets he designed for Kawakawa, built in 1999.

Sweet little Mädchen tiles.

A sense of awe upon entering a bathroom. Amazing.

The more I read about Hundertwasser, the more I like him. Fascinated by spirals. Writer of manifestos on environmentalism and human rights. Keen sense of humor, Buddhist sense of life.

This mural depicts the style and environmental philosophies of Hundertwasser. Across the street from the toilets, it was created last year by schoolchildren and the artist Simone Anderson.

Along with a renewed sense of magic and beauty, I brought home a koru flag, designed by Hundertwasser as an alternate flag for New Zealand in 1983.

Hundertwasser’s koru flag.


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