Saturday 20 February 2016

NZ Roadtrip Wanaka: Shiny, sunny, sparkling and silver

You're spoiled for choice in Wanaka, truly - especially if the weather's good. Which, I'm relieved to report after Milford's thorough dampening of everyone's spirits, it is. So glorious, in fact, that I made an early dash for That Wanaka Tree so beloved of Instagram. Honestly, it's a star, and that literally is its hashtag: #thatwanakatree. Check it out.
Perversely, though, we spent much of today indoors. We began at the Transport and Toy Museum, which is a glorious, deliberate jumble of - surprise! - vehicles and toys, so that there's something for everyone, all the way around. From teaspoons to a tank, by way of an Air NZ plane, a solar-powered racing car, a "Greedy Nigger" (sorry) money box, Meccano "For Boys", scooters, sewing machines and so much else. It's a huge collection, begun 50 years ago, and now that the hangar is full, there are plans to expand into another.
Next came the nearby Warbirds and Wheels Museum, a much more professionally-presented affair, with fewer exhibits but all of them in beautiful condition and well supported with storyboards. The most glamorous was a 1934 Model J Duesenberg that once belonged to Carole Lombard - a symphony in shiny chrome, red paintwork and sparkling whitewall tyres. 
There are planes too, some of which feature in the biennial Warbirds over Wanaka air show which I would love to see one day. It also features an admirably candid biography of local hero Sir Tim Wallis, who pioneered live deer capture from helicopters and was known for his "not always endearing characteristics". Well, actually, who isn't?
Then we got a bit playful and went to Puzzling World, which has been there for ages and just keeps adding stuff. It's famous for its 3D outdoor maze which really can be challenging; and which we skipped on the excuse that it was too hot outside. There was so much else indoors to entertain us: the Tilt Room where a seat slides uphill, you can stand at 45 degrees on a ladder, in another room your kid in the corner looks taller than you. There are optical illusions galore, even in the loo; and puzzles on all the tables in the cafe. Lots of fun. They've had a challenge going since 1994 for any visiting psychic to find a hidden IOU for $50,000 but no-one's succeeded yet. Funny that.
And then we did go outside to enjoy all that spectacular beauty that Wanaka has in spades. The lake was warm enough for people to be swimming, as well as kayaking and SUPing, but we just strolled the pebbly shore and sat and gazed across that clear blue water to the mountains and a glistening glacier. It was gorgeous. How I do love the South Island!
The early evening activity was to go to Ruby's Cinema, on the edge of town with an unexpected climbing wall attached. The cinema itself is intimate, cosy, plush - lots of red and gold, and soft seats, and framed photos of Hollywood stars. There were reclining chairs and sofas to sit on, and we were served drinks and nibbles throughout - very civilised, though I have to say the crisps were a bad idea. I had to suck them till they went soft because they were too noisy to chew otherwise. We saw The Belier Family which was good and very sweet.
We had dessert afterwards back in town at the Lake Bar which I can't recommend for its menu, but the live music was good, and the view over a lake now turning silver, and the peaks purple? Just fabulous.

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