Sunday, November 14, 2010

Riddle Me This! Puzzle Me That!

Well, Karaoke was fun, even if I do take it far too seriously from a singing point of view (I did wow the bar with my rendition of "I'm a Believer", if I do say so myself), but the point of Karaoke is to ham it up and have fun, like Sarah and Vic, whose dancing and Scottish accents made any song hilarious. I laughed so hard I cried at their rendition of a romantic love ballad.

We left Makarora at 9am, leaving behind the rain and wind that had gathered overnight, and headed for the bright blue sky to the south. We stopped for two photo stops; the first overlooking Lake Wanaka, and the second over Lake Hawea. The part of the highway the passes over the narrow strip of land connecting the two is called "The Neck". Lake Hawea is one of the deepest lakes in New Zealand at 392m, and in fact had its water levels raised by 20m in 1958 for hydroelectric purposes. Once again I was reminded eerily of BC, with its beautiful Willaston Lake (and W. A. C. Bennett Dam) and mountain scenery.

Lake Wanaka

Lake Hawea

Since I decided to hop off the Stray Bus for a few days, Natalie was nice enough to drive myself and three others (Amandine, Angela, and Freddy) to Wanaka Bakpaka, where the three of them are staying for two nights, and I am staying for four. After we dropped off our things, we hopped back on the Stray Bus, which conveniently gave us a ride out to Puzzling World while they continued on to Queenstown.

Puzzling World is a delightfully eccentric attraction full of (as the name suggests) puzzles and optical illusions. There is a hologram gallery, and a "Hall of Following Faces", where concave renditions of famous faces (Beethoven, Einstein, Mother Theresa, Lincoln) appear convex when viewed from a few metres away, and the entire face appears to follow you when you move left or right! It's surreal and decidedly creepy. (Yes, Ingrid, you could go into this room and have Einstein follow your every move!)

The most bizarre illusion room, however, was the Tilted House, where everything is tilted at an angle of 15º, but the way the displays inside are designed your brain cannot accept that the room is sloping, and instead insists everything is level, resulting in some crazy illusions where pool balls appear to roll up a slanted pool table, and water flows uphill. There's even a step I stood on and had someone take a picture, where it looks like I am slanted at an angle but in actuality am standing up straight. The room really does a number on your head, however; I left it feeling nauseated and had to go sit down in the courtyard outside for twenty minutes or so before the dizziness and nausea subsided.

Outside Puzzling World is the Maze, a delightfully frustrating labyrinth of wooden passages (and stairs and raised walkways!) where the object is to reach all four corners (each marked by a differently coloured tower) and then find one's way out again (harder than it sounds). Most people take about an hour in the maze, and walk about 3 km (the maze itself has 1.5km of passages): I am sure I was in there for a good forty-five minutes, at least.

Once out of the sweltering sun of the maze and safely indoors in the foyer/gift shop, I tried my hand at the Puzzle Café, where various wooden and metal puzzles are set out on various tables. I actually solved one of those wooden block cube puzzles, twice! I was quite proud of myself. I was shown up, however, by three boys from my dorm room here at Wanka Bakpaka, whom I met in the Puzzle Café by strange coincidence, and then proceeded to complete several other types of puzzles much more quickly than I did.

I solved my cube!

This is how Dave told me to pose. Hmm....

The four of us decided to spend the rest of the afternoon hiking up Mt. Iron, directly opposite Puzzling World, which - after a gruelling 45 minutes of straight up on a dusty tack with no trees to provide relieving shade - rewarded us with spectacular views of Wanaka and the surrounding mountains and valleys. (I wore my hat and sunglasses and slathered on the sunscreen.) We then trekked our way back down the mountain and walked the 2km back into Wanaka, where we stopped at the New World grocery store and stocked up on supplies to make dinner. Then it was back to Wanaka Bakpaka, where they made steak with gravy, roast potatoes and leek, and I made stir-fry with tomato, onion, zucchini, yellow pepper, and splurged on some chicken breast to fry up and add to the mix.

That's right, Rhys, that's where we're going.

Puzzling World, as seen from Mt. Iron

The township of Wanaka from Mt. Iron

Whew! Made it!

Now it is 9:30pm, and the last of the sun has just set over the mountains, and I am sitting here, very tired, and very full from my delicious dinner, and thinking it would be a good idea to head off to bed before I fall asleep here at the table in the lounge. Goodnight!


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