Ian and Manda's Round-the-World Trip Diary

A Mind-boggling Time in Wanaka

26th April, Wanaka, New Zealand

Manda writes:

As we approached Wanaka, the first thing we noticed (don't think anyone could fail to notice really!) was Puzzling World. With a leaning clock tower and its huge sign, made up of four tilted houses, this landmark stands out prominently even from a distance. Not just a playground for children, it promises to keep adults entertained too.

Ian fleeing from the falling tower.
Ian fleeing from the falling tower.

As soon as we walked through to the indoor reception, our attention was drawn straight to the tables by the café area. In front of every seat is a puzzle of some kind e.g. fitting irregular shapes into a square, separating two metal sculptures from each other etc. We played with a few of these before taking on the challenge of a 3-D maze.


Which way now?

The giant 3-D maze can take between thirty minutes to two and a half hours to complete. The aim is to visit each of the four coloured corner towers and then make it to the exit. It's not all on one level either - the bridges and walkways conceal parts of the wooden-framed maze beneath you, making it even more difficult to work out whether you are on the right path. After ten minutes of haphazard attempts, we put our heads together and came up with a strategy. It paid off and we were out of there in 27 minutes! Not bad, even equalling the cleaner's usual time around the maze, we were later told!

The toilets at Puzzling World are interesting too. Behind a partition wall, with signage indicating gents to the left and ladies to the right, both paths eventually lead to a communal area. There is a mural in front, showing Romans using these Roman style toilets. Either side of the wall are display toilets and due to perpective and expectation, you initially think that this is a communal toilet when you first walk in. But then, you spot the two doorways where the real toilet facilities are. It was fun watching peoples' shocked expressions as they walked through, and then seeing their expressions of realisation afterwards. We had a lot of fun posing for jokey photos here.


"Hey mate, d'ya wanna borrow some toilet paper?"

Back in the warmth of the café, we had a go with more puzzles on the table tops. The room was almost full but it was very quiet as cafés go. People were deeply engrossed in their current brain-teaser. Every now and then, we'd hear a cheer or a despondent sigh of frustration. It was interesting watching adults snatch puzzles from their friends/partners' hands, having given up on their own one. It was like being back at school! This was further reinforced when I spotted Ian asking one of the café staff for clues about a particular puzzle. She gave him some advice and said she'd be back to check on progress! Once he'd worked it out, she praised him - what happened to the gold star sticker though?!

We went into a puzzling centre which showcased a number of holograms, trick-of-perspective sets and a roomful of portraits that appeared to follow you around the room. Very spooky to see a wall full of Albert Einsteins watching your every move!

Manda in a forced-perspective room. No camer or Photoshop trickery was involved here. Nor were any animals harmed.
Manda in a forced-perspective room. No camer or Photoshop trickery was involved here. Nor were any animals harmed.

We left with a couple of puzzles, including a Rubix cube, from the souvenir shop. It makes me feel old when I hear kids say they don't know what a Rubix cube is or that they've never heard of ET! I say re-instate the cube and the big-eyed alien!

A quick trip around Lake Wanaka before heading to Queenstown. Apparently, Wanaka is a good spot to view the autumn colours but we'd missed it (the autumn colour, not the lake!). Trees had shed the majority of their leaves and even though we could still see some colour, I'm sure it would have looked even prettier a few weeks ago. Oh well, we'll have to save this for another trip back to New Zealand!