Mountains covered in snow in all directions and a beautiful blue sky with the sun shining down from it. After two days without showering, I thought it best to venture out and make use of the facilites now we had them.
I walked past one group of lads and nodded “hello” on my way, and Lou said that a girl walking past me stopped and gawked as I made my way to the shower block. Now, I don’t think I’m that much to write home about, but Lou rckons it’s because it was around -5 degrees outside and I was walking around topless. Well, the sun was warm and there was no breeze. Bloody soft southerners. And there’s not much more “south” you can get than this place.
Today’s little visit was to Puzzling World, a delightul little attraction just outside Wanaka. It has two parts – a large outdoor maze and some exhibits indoors which are well worth seeing. There’s a huge collection of very good holograms in one room, some large scale optical illusions, and a collection of rooms set at a tilt which really mess with your head. The canteedn area is scattered with puzzles and games to be played with while you grab a snack, and the maze is a fun way to while away an hour or more. Even the toilets are well-presented! The exhibits and maze are $7 each or $10 for both (adults). Come on, three quid for a few hours’ entertainment in an pretty unique venue. Top notch.
After my stomach stopped reeling from the sloping rooms, we drove back to the park and had dinner. Spag bol which Lou had pressed into me is not as good as she usually makes due to lack of proper ingredients. And facilities. And weather. We watched the news on TV while we ate and marvelled at how we seemed to be about the only people in New Zealand not to have been buried in snow so far this week.
Rushing to clear up, we walked back into town to the “nuovo cinema paradiso”. This purpose-built one-man cinematic enterprise just has to be visited if you’re in Wanaka. They don’t show current films, usually at least a few weeks out of date (sometimes even months) and there are only 2-3 showings a day. However, in a given week you can catch up to 8 films as they have a variety “in stock” at a time. The building is right on the outskirts of the town next to a motel and currently has a large “Kong” bursting from the roof with what’s left of Fay Wray hanging from his outstretched left hand.
The interior is equally as eccentric, and lovingly crafted by someone who’s obviously nuts about films. The toilet walls are papered in nothing but film posters and the café menu includes “trailers” and “main features”. The auditorium itself is a marvel with all the seating made up of umpteen scraggy yet comfy old sofas and armchairs arranged in the familiar stepped arrangement of cinemas worldwide – with a handful of exceptions. Four seats are inside an old yellow car, perched to the left of the screen. Madness. Utterly wonderful madness.
All the adverts before the film are made by the cinema for local businesses and the interspersed shadow puppets got quite a few giggles from the audience.
The film we watched was Keeping Mum which I think’s been out for about 6 months now. If you’ve not seen it – catch it. Maggie Smith makes one of the best comedy turns I’ve witnessed in an age, totally deadpanning through some of the most utterly ridiculous situations.
Halfway through, the film stopped. This is normal. Anyone with a functioning pair of nostrils could not have helped catching a whiff of mouthwataring baking in the lead-up to this interval. The reason soon became clear as we made our way into the cafe and were confronted with huge, soft-baked cookies. The evil people running the cinema were charging less than $3 for one of these artery-hardening delicacies. So I bought two. And regretted it by the end of the film as I barely finished them. Crisp outsides, doughy insides like chocolatey lava and enough calories to put an elephant into shock. Oh, and the beer they serve is made in a local microbrewery and is simply superb. I only had two bottles (one ale and one lager – they also do a pilsner) but it was delicious.
The film concluded and it was thoroughly enjoyable despite the scary woman behind us constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the plot with cries of “It’s the housekeeper” and “She’s did!” (dead – Kiwi’s have a weird accent) while laughing inanely at parts which weren’t actually funny. Strange woman.
After eating what felt like the entire European Butter Mountain wrapped in cookie goodness, it was all I could do to stagger back to the van park and collapse in bed. I swear the suspension creaked more in protest than it normally does.