There’s a fine line

between being a famous architect and being an eccentric crank. But apparently Friedensreich Hundertwasser stayed on the right side. His gift to Kawakawa, where he spent a lot of his adult life, was this fancy public restroom.

If a bunch of other architects looked at the plans before it was built, would that be a pee review?

I’m relieved to have this moving attraction wiped off my bucket list. The tiles sometimes reminded me of a fast-flowing stream. Some people might poo-poo the significance of this installation, but i wash my hands of such critics. If you plumb its full depth you’ll find Hundertwasser to be #1 or #2 in his field.

Hmmm, I suppose that last might be a little close to the line that separates respectful tourism from snark. You be the judge…

To crew or to cruise

Two ways to spend a day on the Bay of Islands… we chose the one with air conditioning and a nice snack bar.

It was a lot of fun… a little history, a lot of views, an obliging pod of dolphins, a fun adventure being dragged through the water on a boom net…

It’s a lot harder than it looks to get one of those cutesy shots… especially when the shutterbug you’ve recruited doesn’t quite get the concept. So just imagine this next one from a slightly different angle…

All in all a great day!


Waiheke Island sits just a few miles off the coast, but for complicated microclimate and zoning reasons has turned into a significant wine production and tourism destination. You take a 40-minute ferry ride, then bike or bus or scooter around from beach to winery to shoppe all day and come back in the evening. Or, you rent a house and do the same thing for longer.

I can see the appeal… it’s beautiful. But we went on New Year’s Weekend, one of the absolute busiest days of the year. It was hot, and crowded, and it turns out wineries and shoppes on Waiheke (none of which are more than 20 or 30 years old) look an awful lot like their counterparts in other places.

Next time we go, it will be for the company we are in, or for a longer stay at a non-peak time.

Interislander to Picton

“Placid coastline from a boat” (or “boats bobbing in still harbor”) must be the title of most of the world’s least interesting photos. But in this case, the picture doesn’t replace the 1,000 words. The last time I took this trip, just over a year ago, I was jetlagged. The seas were rough beneath the wind and rain. There was a tight timetable. Exciting day, but sort of weird and disconnected.

So this time, the very placidness was a delicious change. The water was all shades of blue and green, the clouds obligingly fluffy. The boat, a different one than last year, was unexpectedly nice.

We planned to spend about six hours in Picton, and honestly knew that might be too much, but the ferry schedule offered too little or too much, so there you are.

First stop, the Edwin Fox museum. Despite the overlong video about the ship’s history and associated preservation (not restoration!) efforts, that was a 45-minute visit. Interesting and all, but hard to get truly immersed without the company of an expert boatbuilder. Or maybe a group of school kids.

Then across the lovely foreshore park into town for lunch.

Then shopping up and down both blocks of Picton’s CBD. I did get a paperback John Carter of Mars, notable in that the British cover art actually shows the Princess’s lovely breasts, whereas the US editions from that time period always cover her up with ornate bikinis. The other most interesting thing about the shopping district was the community noticeboard outside the grocery store. I’ve never seen so many clubs advertised in one place: bridge, cribbage, lawn bowling, watercolor, poetry, book and cinema lovers, and even a community accordion ensemble. It’s as if every retiree must start a hobby club as a condition of residence.

We had a beer to recover from all the excitement and planned our next move. The aquarium, obviously.

We’ve been to some world class aquatic exhibits… Chicago, Monaco, Monterey… If I were on the Picton Chamber of Commerce I would be excitedly pitching the extraordinary amount of as-yet-unrealized aquarium-attraction opportunity in front of this plucky seaside community… there’s literally nowhere to go but up! Nowhere.

Next we wandered over to the pleasure port and had the same conversation we always have in that situation.

A) look at all the yachts for sale. Some of them we could even afford if we really wanted to.

B) but what a lot of work and expense even after you pay for it. Let’s rent or charter one sometime instead.

C) agreed. But if we did buy one, which ones do we like? That one, that one, not that one, ooh, look!

D) who owns all these boats anyway? It’s such a shame they all just seem to sit here, seldom if ever used.

Then it was back to the foreshore for some rock-skipping and birdwatching, and back on the boat. We booked into the Premium Lounge on the way back, so dinner and an open bar, well worth it. We got into a brief discussion with some drunken fellow passengers, including a couple Kiwis who were loudly defending their opinion that Canadians are way better than Americans. Not really an argument we want to have, but we did end up agreeing that Vermont is basically Canada, so it’s all good.

Farewell, Picton, until we meet again. You seem like a great jumping off point for South Island adventures, probably a nice place to retire or live in the marina on a boat with a scruffy little dog and a bottle of Jim Beam. We wish you a nice quiet summer, but we hope all the tourists visit your attractions.