Published: August 4th 2009July 7th 2009
From Fox Glacier we headed to Wanaka and Queenstown and a week of no cleaning, no beds, only fun. Getting to Wanaka, on my bus at least, involved many unnecessary stops. Out of several, only one actually allowed us to see something worthwhile; a waterfall that was actually pretty cool. Arriving in Wanaka I struggled to the hostel with all my stuff to meet Heleana. There were lots of people in Wanaka, especially Brits, to ski or snowboard. As we can do neither and don't have enough money, our main activity was Puzzling World. It conveniently started snowing just as we left, which was pretty but made the walk pretty cold.
Puzzling World consists of a maze and illusion rooms. It also has a 'leaning tower of Wanaka' with backwards clock and after taking the compulsory pictures we headed inside. We decided to go into the puzzling rooms first to warm up a bit. The first room is the 3D hologram room which includes holograms that change depending on the angle you view them. I turned around at one point to see a gun pointing straight out at me. Then there was the hall of following faces. The walls are
covered in faces and when you close one eye and walk around they seem to follow you. Each wall has a different famous face - Mandela, Einstein, Mother Theresa etc. The looked like they came out of the wall when actually they went into it. Then we went to the Ames perspective room. It's a technique they used in Lord of the Rings for the hobbits. From the outside it looks like a normal room yet it you stand in one corner you look smaller or normal sized and then in the other you look like a giant. It's really clever. After that it was the tilted rooms. The room is on a slope, which made me feel slightly nauseous, and they make it look like balls are rolling down and water running uphill.
The maze in Puzzling World was the world's first 'modern' maze, meaning made of wooden fences rather then hedges. It has been updated since and now has stairs and walkways on a second level as part of the maze. The challenge is to get to the four towers in the corners and then find your way out. We split up to try and race only
after finding all four towers we ended up meeting up before either of us could find the way out, which took us ages. We then went to the toilets which have roman style toilets in the area between the modern actual toilets. The mural on the wall behind is painted to make it look like an extension of the room complete with people using the toilets. We then spent ages in the 'puzzling centre', the lobby area with loads of puzzles in to do. Walking back to the hostel we had to detour onto the grass to stop ourselves sliding down the hill.
That night we headed to the cinema. Cinema Paradiso had been recommended to us by so many people we've met around New Zealand we had to go there. We thought we'd have no problem getting tickets but turned up about half an hour early. It was packed and we were twentieth on the waiting list! There are only 80 seats in the cinema. We were really lucky and patience paid off - I think we got the last two seats. The seats are all different, couches mainly but there was a car as well. I was
in the back row which was just normal cinema seats. I think Heleana was on a coach seat. A guy came out and introduced the movie which was really funny and there was an intermission, which allowed us to get an equally famous and very good cookie. We saw Transformers 2 which wasn't as bad as all the reviews had made out.
Due to the weather my bus to Queenstown was canceled. I wasn't best pleased as Intercity made no attempt to contact me and I had to buy another ticket meaning I didn't get to Queenstown until 9ish. The next day we went into the town centre and booked a Milford Sound cruise for the following day and then our bungy/jet combo. After which we started to get nervous. First up was the Shotover Jet, which is pretty famous in NZ. The jet boat is an NZ invention allowing travel on shallow water and 360degree spins. Unfortunately we were at the front which meant we didn't feel the swings so much but it was still great and the boat would get really close to the rocks.
By the time it came to check in for the bungy
jump I was so nervous. We checked in at the site, got weighed and signed our certificates/declarations. We watched a couple of people jump before joining the queue. We were at the Kawarua bridge jump. the world's first commercial bungy site. Heleana went before me and by the time it got to me I was nervous to say the least. Not helped by the surprising number of people who didn't jump. Your ankles are wrapped in towels and then the straps which the cords are attached to. You also have a waist harness but you don't use that. Then you shuffle out to the edge (not easy) and have a couple of photos taken. (I held onto the handle, although Heleana was braver and didn't. And then I jumped. Or rather toppled off. It wasn't very graceful. It was seriously scary. There is no feeling of support whatsoever. Just falling through the air with the ground rushing up. Then the cord pulls you back up and then you're going down again. It's all so quick and I'll admit I screamed for most of it. After a bit you just hang there. It feels like the strappings are slipping down your
ankles. Then you have to grab onto a pole which is being held to you by a guy in the boat below. I was pulled in and fell, again somewhat ungracefully. My legs were so shaky as I stood up to get the harness off and to get out of the boat. Met Heleana and we were both buzzing and gabbling and 'oh my god'ing. Ever so slightly hysterical. Then we looked at our photos and videos which are just brilliant. We were on such a high after. That night we went out and drunk cocktails that were served in teapots!
We were picked up at 6.30 the next morning for our Milford Sound cruise. A huge area of south west New Zealand is a national heritage area including Fiordland where Milford Sound is. (It technically being a fiord not a sound - made by a glacier not river.) The scenery in the park, on the drive in was spectacular. We drove along a valley, stopping to look at the 'Mirror Lakes' which are so called because they reflect the mountains behind them - well normally when they aren't disturbed by ducks. We stopped at various more places; a
waterfall, a creek surrounded by snow covered mountains and just before Homer tunnel. Homer tunnel goes through the mountain and is very narrow and rough. There was a Kea, a south island parrot, on a parked car. Everyone was gathered around it trying to get photos. Then the couple in the car wanted to go and had to shoo the parrot off the roof.
The boat terminal was surprisingly modern. We went straight through and onto the boat for our cruise. It wasn't very busy so we had plenty of room to move about. Mitre Peak, the famous mountain in all the pictures was straight ahead. It was cloudy and overcast so the water was a really dark colour. We sat out on the front of the boat, wrapped up as much as we could. There was a textbook hanging valley on one side, a smaller valley on the side of the main one, with a waterfall in the centre. There was a few other waterfalls although because it hadn't rained much recently they weren't very big. Which was unlucky as Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in NZ. Once we had got out of the sound
and into the Tasman sea there was a noticeable increase in the waves. Then we were lucky as we saw a pod of dolphins. They swum around the boat and at one point there was loads. From the sea you couldn't see the entrance to the sound which meant it was undiscovered by the Europeans for ages. Back in the sound we saw sea lions on the rocks. The boat managed to get right up close to where they were sleeping. We also got really close to a waterfall so we could feel the spray as it feel down the cliff. Milford Sound is a pretty spectacular area.
Our last day in Queenstown was a bit more relaxed but we did go up the gondola to get great views. The gondola cuts up through the trees. As it rises you realise just how huge the lake is, much bigger then you realise from the town. And it's surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It's just an amazing location. We watched a couple of paragliders and took photos before heading for the luge. We got our helmets and headed further up in the chairlift. The luge is basically a plastic tray on
wheels with two different tracks, scenic and advanced. We did both although I'll admit I'm a chicken when I'm in charge and did use the brakes quite a bit. After the second time we were both happy to go in and warm up.
That evening we went to the legendary fergburger restaurant. The place was packed, it was crazy. There was loads of workers constantly on the move, it was quite impressive to watch. Despite being number 69 and the teens being served it only took them about 20minutes to get to us. And they were so huge and so good. We had difficulty eating them and our shared fries.
There are more photos below