It’s not often that you walk into a public toilet and think “Mmm, this smells like home”
But, that’s exactly the thought that popped into my head when I entered the public toilets off the carpark at Muriwai Heads. Mmmm linseed.
Now, I love the west coast of Tamaki Makaurau. I love the dark green of the Waitakere Ranges, the peace of the deep bush, and the scalding volcanic sands of the beaches that run from the Kaipara Harbour down to the Manukau.
But in spite of that love, and even though I have lived in Auckland for what feels like a 17th Century syphilitic paupers lifetime, you will be shocked to learn that until this visit, I had never been to Muriwai. I know right. Yes, you should be aghast. Dr. Josie, please don’t hate me. I love birds, really I do.
Muriwai is known for it’s surf beaches, for that one time a guy got killed by a Great White shark out there, and for it’s Australasian Gannet colony.
It’s a very squawky spot. When you walk towards to lookout, you get a wiff of bird shit mixed with salty sea air and the swelling sound of thousands of gannets happily ganneting.
I like the birds, the birds are nice and their migratory routes are very interesting and cool but this isn’t a bird blog. I’d be terrible at bird blogging so I will stick to what I know, and that is toilets.
This is another classic West coast beach loo. Like Piha and Bethell’s, it has been architecturally designed to be sustainable (or seem that way. I haven’t looked deeply into the council data on the subject) and eco-friendly.
The bathroom units are made of wood and have passive airflow to allow for less smells. The roofs have plants or mosses growing on them which [hopefully] helps them filter rain water for the flushers or maybe it’s just to look pretty, because I’m a cynical old bitch.
The bathrooms are hard up against a rock face, which is lovely. You get to watch the little streams of water cascade down the cliff in happy-looking rivulets. As you walk the gang-plank between the male and female units, the overall smell that hits you is linseed oil on wood. This is one of my top 5 favuorite smells in the entire wide, big-ass world.
My family moved to a large wooden house on the hill in Whakatane when I was 15 or 16. We moved from a pretty nondescript breeze block house to this magical eco dream house because my Dad visited it and fell in love. He was a little impetuous like that. Our gorgeous house on the hill is one of my best memories of my teen years which were plagued by undiagnosed anxiety disorders, self doubt and some mild bullying by morons. I could go on and on about the house that I loved, but to paraphrase; it was a macrocarpa multi-leveled house with huge bright windows, and due to the natural wooden floors being sealed in linseed oil, always smelled like a brand new wood work project. That is the smell I encountered walking into the Muriwai Heads public toilets. That is the smell of happiness and safety.
The bathrooms themselves are nice. They are big enough to feel private, the open slots along the tops and bottom of the walls stop it smelling bad in here and the fixtures and fittings have a classic kiwi industrial charm. Like a Doc hut you’d be so happy to finally arrive at after a long days tramping.
I’m not super jazzed by the gendered units but I guess the council can only move so fast and getting to all unisex bathrooms is a slow process.
Cleanliness : 8/10 It was very clean when we visited. It isn’t brand new or flashy in anyway but the loos had been well maintained and the clever design meant that they would last longer and seem tidier even once they get a little worn.
Interior : 8/10 It’s all quite basic in here; no soap, no hand driers. I don’t even know if these bathrooms have electricity, but still the interior space is nice and comforting. The smell of the wood, the idea that this place goes so well with it’s surroundings and the comfort in that fact that you’re not ruining the planet a million % just by needing a shit. It has all the basics but the only bells and whistles you’re going to get will be the associative memories you bring with you.
Exterior : 8/10 If you are visiting the gannet colony, this bathroom is the most useful thing in the world. It’s not adjacent to anything else though. There are no shops or houses or information centers or anything else up on the hill there. So if all you want it to wander the cliffs and look at the birds, then take a wee before you get back on your tour bus or back into your 1996 Toyota Starlet, then this is the place for you.
Safety : 6/10 There is a high possibility of getting shit on from above and if you have Hitchcock-esk bird phobias then don’t even think of visiting. Stabbing wise, I’m pretty sure you’ll be sweet most of the time. I get the feeling that not many robbers would take the time to drive all the way up there just to try and gut stab you, but then again, they may have already been there, smoking meth in their car. So I guess leaving your house is always a gamble…..
Snugglitude : 50/10 I can’t give this a real mark because the smell and memories that it brought back to me, made me too happy to explain. It’s like your Mum’s perfume or the smell of your babies head, it was an emotional experience, standing there sniffing the public toilet until my husband said “Lucy, ffs hurry up”.
Total : 90/50 (fuck you maths)