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Monday, December 27, 2004

New Zealand - Day 7

Sunday, Dec. 26 – Queenstown to Fox Glacier

We drove almost 350 kilometres today, from Queenstown to Fox Glacier. We left Queenstown around 9:30am and headed north, through the Crawne Range mountains to Wanaka, a small and peaceful town (population 3,500). Come to think of it, I don’t think there are “non-peaceful” places in New Zealand. Perhaps downtown Auckland at midnight on New Year’s Eve might be one such place.

At Wanaka, we stopped at a place called Puzzling World. It is a museum-like attraction for all the family, featuring eccentric architecture, puzzling holograms, illusion rooms and a big maze. The whole place is intended to confuse the eye and create havoc with the senses. One room is tilted so that everything seems to work backwards: balls roll up a slope, water moves up the pipe and people stand at an awkward angle to the floor. Another room is built so that from outside looking in it appears perfectly normal, yet when you walk in you realize that it is tilted: on one side you stand normally and on the other your head bangs onto the ceiling. Even the toilets are designed in a way that they look like ancient roman toilets, with other (fake) people sitting there beside you. Needless to say, the kids liked it although most of the tricks were designed for adults to understand.

The coffee shop at the exit of Puzzling World is also unique. Its ceiling is built like a giant kaleidoscope that mirrors everyone in the room several times over. On every table there is an array of puzzles and games that visitors can play with while having their drinks (or even without ordering anything). A man called Stuart Landsborough, who is evidently a puzzle freak, thought up the place. Ten years ago he planted a note in the vicinity of the museum, promising NZ$50,000 (about US$35,000) to anyone who thinks they can find it using psychic capabilities. The only trick is that you need to pay Mr. Landsborough NZ$1,000 for every guess you have on the location of the note… Clever fellow.

After recovering from the tilting rooms of Puzzling World, we continued our drive westwards towards the sea. The road goes by Lake Hawea and ends up at Haast on the seacoast, where we stopped for refuelling and some snacks. From there it was another 120 kilometres or so until we finally reached Fox Glacier, around 3:30pm. Throughout the entire journey, if I still need to emphasise this, the main colours you see are green (the pastures and the mountains) and blue (the lakes and the sky). The weather turned bad again in the afternoon and it rained most of the way, but the scenery was still magnificent.

After we checked it into our motel (The Lake Matheson Motel), we went to check out the “town centre”. Well, we found out it consists of one petrol station, three or four restaurants and coffee shops and a grocery store. Funnily enough, we run into a crowd of Israelis, a group of what looked like pensioners on an organized tour. It wasn’t very hard to spot them; their voices carried over the entire town, discussing prices and generally complaining about this and that…

Disappointed with the attractions downtown Fox Glacier had to offer, we drove another 20 kilometres up north to Franz Joseph Glacier, a slightly larger town. We had dinner there, checked our email in an Internet shop, and then headed back to our motel. We were pretty tired by this time so we just turned in relatively early.

PS – A. wanted to add some comments to this post:

In the puzzling area, there was a place full of pictures of old people, and they tell you to close one eye and go two meters back. After you do that, you have to walk all over the room, and see the faces follow you (believe it or not, IT’S TRUE! AMAZING!). At the beginning, we also saw a hologram with a picture of a woman frowning. At the top of the hologram, it says: “This is Kelly, can you make her smile?” To make Kelly smile, you need to move all over the room. Outside the weird toilets, there were picnic tables, each table had a puzzle with three or four 3D irregular polygons, on one them it says to create three or four auto-shapes (harder then you think). At the center of the picnic area, there was a tree with a puzzle. There was a sign on the tree that said: “How can a monkey climb a tree that has spiky leafs?” Well, I found the answer. Thanks to the sculpture near the tree of three monkeys one on top o the other. Answer: Get the monkeys to make a ladder!

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