25 Days on the Road
We have a very special appointment today – an appointment with none other than the Mayor of Otorohanga, New Zealand’s town for Kiwiana. Mayor Max Baxter will be joined by the Kiwiana Committee, personally showing us their Waikato town. If you travel the North Island, especially on the way to the Waitomo Caves, then you can’t miss the town with two giant kiwi bird sculptures, a painted wall dedicated to Kiwiana, and all the street lamps decorated with a different item from New Zealand.
To give you a quick rundown, Kiwiana is a term for all items significant in the New Zealand culture. It’s a sense of national pride! Things like pavlova, jandals, gumboots, tomato sauce, baked beans, Marmite, pukeko and the kiwi bird. We have a whole list of things in What is Kiwiana?
Greeted by the Kiwiana mayor
We arrive at the Otorohanga District Council building to be greeted by the Mayor, who, we’ll be honest, we have heard of some mayors in New Zealand literally being animals. So in the Kiwiana Capital, the thought had crossed our minds that this would be a sheep dog or a lamb. But, no Mayor Max Baxter is indeed a human being! He walks us into the mayoral chambers, where all the big decisions are made in this district, all under the watchful eye of Queen Elizabeth II (Or her photo, at least).
While talking to the Mayor, we can’t help but notice the hustle and bustle coming from a back room. There’s definitely a giant baked beans can walking around in there…
How committed are these guys to Kiwiana? Well you should see the Mayoral Chains! All the way around the whole neck piece are many pins of Kiwiana items leading to the centre piece of a marble (-looking) kiwi bird. Look, the Mayor even has a tattoo of a kiwi bird wearing gumboots!
Dressed APPROPRIATELY to ADDRESS the Mayor of Kiwiana Town
Kiwiana committee assemble!
The backroom door opens and out comes the Kiwiana committee: a pukeko, a marmite jar, a buzzy bee, some baked beans… But they need someone to dress up as a tomato sauce bottle and someone to be the town mascot, Wiki the kiwi. Oh my God…
This day turns from intriguing to hilarious. We are being helped into our costumes, Laura is the tomato sauce and Robin is Wiki, to parade around Otorohanga visiting the attractions! This is the BEST way to see the Kiwiana town. We can’t stop cracking up!
Party on the Ed Hillary Walkway
First, we head to the Ed Hillary Walkway, an interactive Kiwiana display. This is a good spot to dance with the Kiwiana crew, so we bust some moves. Wiki tries and fails at performing the Haka. All this street dancing attracts a bit of a crowd. Wiki is very popular with the kids!
It’s time to go shopping. We enter a Kiwiana souvenir shop, Wiki tries some All Blacks rugby shirts but can’t find his size. Too bad. He then goes grocery shopping for apples and kiwifruit (New Zealand grown, of course), and parties on the street to the sound of cars honking when they drive past.
The painted Kiwiana wall, the butterfly wall, the wall with the town’s stories, the farm cartoon wall and even the toilets: all have their own way of telling their story of New Zealand. We are having a blast visiting them all through the eyes of a tomato sauce bottle and a giant kiwi bird. That’s what Kiwiana is all about, not taking it too seriously and having fun with it!
At some point this crazy Kiwi parade had to come to an end. Our cheeks ache from laughing… Only in New Zealand!
Seeing a real life kiwi bird
Believe it or not, that is not the end of our Kiwiana day, because now we are heading to the Kiwi House. This is a rare opportunity to see a real kiwi bird (actually four kiwi) that are kept here as base stock. Outsider kiwi are brought here to reproduce with the base stock, then the chicks are later released across New Zealand. This helps the spread of genes and counters the threat of extinction.
As soon as our eyes adjust in the dark room, we see a great spotted kiwi running around, jumping up and across logs. We are surprised by how much muscle these nocturnal flightless birds have! They’re huge! She’s also very territorial, jumping at, Eric, the bird keeper, when he comes to bring some food.
Out in the huge bird aviary, we are given some seeds to attract the parakeet, which are tiny parrot-like birds. They are not shy to jump straight on your hand for a snack. The aviary has many species of ducks, herron, keruru (wood pigeon), tuatara, and countless others. We could be here all day spotting them all. It’s just up to the animals whether they want to show themselves or not.
It’s fair to say we have had the most Kiwi day of our lives. We pretty much feel like citizens now that we have embraced Kiwiana to its very core! You have epic days in New Zealand, when you’re bungy jumping or hiking through awesome scenery, but you also have epic days like this when you’re so welcomed into a passionate town! We will never look at a tomato sauce bottle the same way again…
Kiwiana breakdance crew
Admit it! You do! Check out more about Kiwiana in these articles:
- 16 Products of New Zealand
- 10 Things You Did Not Know About New Zealand
- Talk like a New Zealander / Talk like a Kiwi
Check out our Facebook page for more crazy Kiwiana photos from today, where we also shared Mayor Max Baxter’s photos too! Finally, give HerePin a look for the locations of Otorohanga’s Kiwiana displays.
See you tomorrow, for a night in the Waitomo Caves!