Sunday, 17 October 2010

Mountains and Puzzles

Monday 18th October 2010

MP3 track of the day: Flight to the Ford - Lord of the Rings

Weather: Mostly sunny and very breezy; one big hail storm but that's been about it.

There is only one problem with my dorm. As we have a en-suite bathroom it only means that one person can use it at anyone time. It seemed that everyone in my six bed dorm got up around 9am; there were three Irish travelers and, as they were off today, I let them use the bathroom first. I didn't waste my time though, I got dressed and went to reception to inquire if there was any other way to Te Anau (near Milford Sound) without spending the night in Queenstown. The up shot was that there is, but it's a lot more expensive than doing the intercity bus. I checked the weather report for Milford Sound and again Thursday seemed to be the best day to be there. I therefore had no choice, I canceled a night at Wanaka and decided to leave tomorrow (Tuesday) to then stay in Queenstown one night before traveling onto Te Anau the following day.

I went back to my dorm to make the necessary arrangements before saying goodbye to my Irish room mates and then, finally, being able to use the bathroom.

It was midday before I eventually left the hostel and, armed with my tri-pod and camera, I walked the mile and a half to Mount Iron. Before arriving in Wanaka I had decided that this would be a rest stop, however it's so beautiful here that I've been told you get superb views of the town and surrounding scenery from up Mount Iron, plus it was only forty-five minutes to the summit.

Once up the mount the views were superb and it was lovely just to sit, looking down onto the valley below which held Wanaka. Moving my head up I could then see the lake followed by the mountains in the background; Wanaka is so pretty it reminds me of Taupo, just a little nicer.

After this I headed down the mountain and I ended up opposite 'Puzzling World'. My guidebook states that “… Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World, almost 2km away on SH84. The star attraction is 'The Great Maze', a complex wooden structure comprising 1500m of dead-end passageways packed into a dense labyrinth, with overhead bridges linking the two halves. Your mission is to reach all four corner towers, either in any order or in a specific sequence, then find your way out again; if it all goes horribly wrong, you can cheat by using the escape doors. The 'Illusion Rooms' include: a dated room of holograms; the 'tilted house', which revels in tricks of perspective produced by the floor being fifteen degrees of the horizontal; and the 'Hall of Following Faces', a large octagonal room with seven of the sides made up by arrays of moulded images of famous people – Churchill, Einstein, Van Gogh, Lincoln, etc. As you walk around the faces appear to turn towards you, aided by the lack of ears, which apparently hinder the illusion. Yet more fun can be had, and some of Peter Jackson's hobbit-realizing tricks understood, in the Arnes Forced Perspective Room, which has been carefully manipulated to make you appear either ent – or hobbit sized. Leave plenty of time to play with the frustrating puzzles in the cafe...” and the above is pretty true.

As the main building closed before the outside maze did I went into the 'Illusion Rooms' first, but not until I had eaten lunch in the cafe
(and played with some of the puzzles in there) which wasn't too expensive. First of all were the holograms which I thought were pretty good; my favorite was a clown which, when you looked at it from four or five different angles, his expression changed. Once through there I went into the 'Hall of Following Faces'; this was an octagonal room with famous faces on each of the walls, as high as the ceiling. It was pretty amazing as these faces really did follow you around the room. After that I headed into a small exhibition on how Peter Jackson might have made the hobbits look tiny compared to say, Gandalf. It was a room that, when you looked at it seemed normal, however the floor was angled and the roof sloped towards the floor making one end of the room tiny and the other huge … very clever indeed. Finally in this part of the park there was a house thing where the floor was sloped 15 degrees; this made it very hard to walk and you ended up leaning back quite far to retain your balance … and this is how the illusions work. Because you are leaning back, with the floor sloped you are looking at all the illusions from a fake perspective. There was a snooker table that looked as if the ball you placed at the bottom of the table was rolling up the snooker table, so the illusion you saw was a snooker ball defying gravity and rolling up hill on a snooker table. There were other bits and bobs within this part of the park but all with the same theme.

I left this area after about an hour and head into the maze. There were two different tasks. The first was the easiest and that was to get to each of the corner towers in any order and then find your way out. The second was to get to the corner towers in a certain order (Yellow, green. Blue and then red) before finding your way out. Having loads of time I opted for the hard version and off I went. After twenty minutes I wish I had gone for the easier option as I had already found the paths to the green and blue towers, but not the yellow … however I stuck to it and eventually I made it to the yellow tower. I loved walking around this maze, for me the best bit was bumping into the same people over and and over again and having a laugh (but know one gave away any directions as there were signs telling you not to), everyone was smiling. After and hour I had completed the quest and sat down for a well earned drink. Other people, that I had bumped into within the maze quite a few times, finished roughly the same time as me so we had a chat and a laugh about it all.

Finally I bought some optical illusion postcards (four postcards; each with a very clever drawing on, which I will frame together when I get home) which was slightly annoying as only earlier today I had posted home a souvenir, and if I had known these postcards could have gone in the same envelope … never mind.

I made my way back to the hostel. Today has been pretty expensive; $23 accommodation, $14 posting a souvenir home, $12.50 lunch at Puzzling World, $12.50 entry to Puzzling World, $5 internet costs and $7.50 souvenir from Puzzling World. I've almost spent my days budget without purchasing tea … still never mind. My biggest expense was Puzzling World at $32.50, and even though you could call it an 'expensive tourist trap' I loved it … it was just so different to what I have been doing and so much fun.

Tonight I need to get some thing to eat, pack for tomorrow (though my bus doesn't leave until 2:35pm) and hopefully catch tonight's film. I'm sad to say goodbye to Wanaka; it's a lovely place to visit and I bet live (I even had a look at house prices here in an estate agents window); thanks Sarah for recommending it. Oh and it seems like my dorm has had a 'Taiwan Invasion' with four Taiwanese people staying tonight ... well at least they aren't Chinese or American.

Toodle Pip!

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