Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wandering around Wanaka: NZ Day 11

We awoke late to a warm and sunny day, in stark contrast to the cold and dark start of the day before.  Over the past week, our mornings had been a flurry of activity as we hurriedly prepared to get on the road as early as we could - now it was good to have nothing to do for a whole day, particularly in a beautiful location like Wanaka.  Being lords of leisure, we hadn't made any real plans, other than to stroll along the lakeside into town and have a morning coffee.

Banana: the breakfast of champions

There slides a happy man, on his way into Wanaka

Working by the rule that the cafe with the most locals must have the best coffee, we ended up at a place called Ritual Espresso.  It was a great little space, and served up easily the best coffee we had in New Zealand - so good in fact that Jer had two of them, and I got a reprieve from his usual coffee related whining for a little while.  We walked aimlessly around town for a while before heading back to the hostel, where I did some laundry and looked at tourist brochures while I waited for my wash to finish.

 Attack of the puzzler
In the lounge I found a brochure for a place called Puzzling World.  We'd seen it on our way into town the day before, and it looked quite puzzling to say the least.  We knew it was most likely going to be a fairly tacky tourist trap, but for whatever reason we were totally in the right head space for it, and were like a pair of excited schoolboys as we walked up the hill towards the front gates.  We arrived, paid our $15 and we were in - ready to rise to the occasion and conquer all puzzling challenges.

A hop and a skip as we neared Puzzling World.  Exciting times

Jer on the cusp of extreme puzzlement as he enters the 1.5km maze.  We were totally sure that we'd solve it in about five minutes flat

There's the look of a man who is comprehensively puzzled. The maze was a lot harder than we'd bargained for, and our strategy of blindly running around like idiots didn't really seem to help much

I had no idea where we were supposed to be going, and was working up quite the puzzler's sweat in the blazing sun

After about twenty minutes of running around the maze, getting progressively more frustrated, we were reluctantly forced to do the unthinkable - exit through one of the panic doors.  Fortunately there was nobody around to see our shameful puzzling forfeit.  The next activity on the menu was the "Illusion Hall", prior to that we headed to the bathrooms.  The lady at the front counter had told us the bathrooms were "unusual" and we should "take a camera in there".  This in itself was a fairly puzzling statement, as I was under the impressions that whipping out cameras in public toilets was generally frowned upon in polite society.  Turns out the unusual toileting feature was a diorama of a Roman latrine type thing, and so the obligatory schoolboy humour photo poses were assumed.

After bulk novelty toilet-related mirth, we headed to the "Illusion Hall".  This contained the usual kind of stuff, like rooms at odd angles, optical illusions, things like that.  It was nothing I hadn't seen before, but neither of us had been to anything like this for at least twenty years, and we were having a fabulous time.  It seemed we were the only ones laughing and smiling and goofing off, everyone else there was silent and deeply serious, even the kids - you might even say they were puzzled.  The illusions at Puzzling World did have one unexpected side effect - by the time we left I felt like I was well and truly drunk out of my skull, and was proper nauseous.  We had a lot of fun at Puzzling World, reliving our childhoods and mucking around, but it was a massive relief to actually get out of there and back to the relative normality of Wanaka.

The 1987 version of me thought electricity ball things were cool and fresh.  The 2011 version of me wasn't so impressed

Back to the business of doing nothing
With Puzzling World behind us, we walked back down to the waterfront.  We had no plans for the remainder of the day and were keen to keep it that way.  After chilling out at the hostel for a while, I decided to finally get my bent front spoke seen to at the local bike shop.  I dropped my bike off at the shop, grabbed some afternoon tea, and retired to the edge of the lake to write some postcards.

Not a bad location to consume possibly the heartiest cream bun I have ever eaten

These UFO clouds mean something is going to happen with the weather, but once again I couldn't remember what it was.  One thing was for sure, it was either going to stay the same or possibly do something different

I met up with Jer, and we headed to the supermarket to stock up on road food for the next few days.  I collected my bike from the shop, and was delighted to find they only charged me NZ$22 to repair my wheel, which was running straight as a die again - my full recommendation goes to Racer's Edge cycles, should you ever find yourself in Wanaka with a busted bicycleFrom there it was back to hostel for a courtyard dinner of salad rolls, while Jer did a little maintenance on his bike, and I offered inaccurate and contrary advice to add to his mechanical frustrations.

Jer is the undisputed master of the salad roll dinner.  It's light, healthy, cheap and above all requires minimal cleaning up

Jer had reported a grinding in his drive train since we were at Rakaia Gorge.  He managed to get it all cleaned up and running well...

...until he actually rode it, and it was still grinding.  Closer inspection revealed a worn cassette not fitting well with the recently replaced chain

That night we packed all our stuff and prepared for another day on the road.  I had a great day in Wanaka just kicking around doing nothing, and I was certainly physically relaxed and recovered.  Mentally, however, I felt a bit strange, like I had wasted a day that I could have spent on the bike.  When I was planning this tour I thought I'd have to stop a lot, so I allowed for a lot of resting - now in reality I was breezing through all the riding pretty easily.  I resolved to myself to have less rest days on future tours, and to make sure I enjoyed my rest days for the remainder of this tour for what they were - days where I was truly free to do nothing at all.  Tomorrow we were heading to the town of Clyde, at the start of the Otago Central Rail Trail.  I had spent the past year researching the rail trail, looking at pictures of the landscapes, reading about the history, watching documentaries - all of my goals and dreams for the past twelve months were all about riding that trail.  And now finally here I was, only one sleep away from my dreams coming true...

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