8th May 2013 17:06
Wanaka is a glorious little town situated (surprisingly) next to Lake Wanaka, in the Otago region on the southern island. Despite arriving on the coach on a cloudy, slightly drizzly day, the appeal of the place is all too apparent. From the lakeside you are treated to spectacular views across the water to the base of mountains as far as the eye can see (certainly not something New Zealand is short of!).
My initial upbeat mood was somewhat dampened when I arrived at my hostel though - I checked into my room no problem, set my bag down to open it as I'd done countless times before, when suddenly one of the straps holding the lid on the bag snapped off! I guess that's what comes of accumulating too much extra stuff along the way! I tied a knot in it, and it lasted me as a makeshift repair until I got home. As part of their "ALL MIGHTY" warranty, Osprey - the manufacturer of the bag - have let me know where to send it for repair or replacement. This lasts for the lifetime of the pack, and is great peace of mind and great customer service. So despite evidence to the contrary, the bag has been fantastic. If you're looking for a new rucksack for any reason I can definitely recommend the Osprey brand. Trust me, it's taken a lot of beating on the trip.
Wanaka is not the biggest of places, but that's really its appeal. It's a good place to go to enjoy astounding scenery, in a pleasant, quiet town environment.
A short walk out of town lies Puzzling World, a place dedicated to illusions and puzzles. There are lots of fascinating exhibits here, including a hall of faces, which when you cover one eye and move around the room actually appear to turn their heads to follow you - creepy stuff!
You walk slightly uphill to enter another room (very difficult to walk in!) which has a few interesting things to try that work based on your sense of 'level' being skewed. You can put a ball on part of an upwards slanted pool table, which will then magically roll uphill and into the pocket! The table is actually one or two degrees sloped downhill, but your mind tells you it is sloped upwards due to the angle of the room itself.
In the same room there is also a series of streams of water running into each other, which appear to be impossibly flowing uphill!
The Ames room somehow makes you appear tiny in one corner, and huge in the other. I have absolutely no idea how it works, but it's really clever nonetheless! This technique was apparently used in The Lord of The Rings films, in order to make the actors playing the hobbits appear smaller than they actually are.
You can hire a large boat to take you out on the lake somewhere. I'm not sure of the details exactly, but the reason I mention it is I was sitting by the lake one evening as it was returning and heard drunken shouts of "Three! Two! One! Wheeeeyy!" as a guy was chucked into the water by his mates. The funniest part (now looking back - not so much at the time) was observing this guy trying to swim to the shore - clearly struggling - before the captain of the boat deemed the situation serious enough to turn the boat around AND launch the fast dinghy off the back to go and pick him up. Let that be a lesson to you folks... go swimming when you're drunk. It's hilarious entertainment for the whole family!
That evening I was treated to an amazing sunset, and more beautiful colours in the sky soon after, as it grew darker. Sunset, in my opinion beats sunrise any day of the week. But it could well be because I actually have to set my alarm to catch sunset...
The following morning things were ever so slightly rushed. I somehow managed to turn the alarm off on my phone and go back to sleep. When I eventually woke up, and looked at the time it was five minutes after when the coach was meant to be arriving to go to my next destination. This wouldn't have been quite so bad had it actually stopped at the hostel – but as Wanaka is so small, they just stop at the visitor's centre by the lakefront, five minutes' walk away. I quickly jumped out of bed, chucked all my stuff in my backpack and raced out the door, praying I hadn't missed it.
It didn't look good. I arrived in the car park and it was empty. No coaches. I got my phone out and called Intercity, the coach company. "Was the coach from Wanaka to Fox Glacier running late at all?". "According to our information the coach was running on schedule Sir". Shit. Missed it. I was just contemplating stealing a car to race after it and intercept it further along the road, when I swung around and saw it turn the corner into the car park! Hoorah! I celebrated wildly by skipping around the car park gaily and throwing fresh flowers into the air, delighted that I had made it. Birds sang, tiny woodland animals clapped their paws in joy.
I boarded the bus, and contentedly settled down into my seat for the journey. A couple of hours in, approaching a rest stop, I had literally just thought to myself "wow, how lucky was that?!", when I remembered I'd left my camera in the locker at the hostel. Bollocks.