On our way out of Franz Josef we stopped at Lake Matheson which, on a calm day, reflects a perfect image of nearby Mt. Cook. We took a 2hr walk around the lake and snapped some good pics of the double-ended mountain effect. Later on we arrived at our accommodation in Makarora. It was only a short stopover before we arrived at our next main destination but the accommodation alone is worth a mention. We were in a tepee-esque 10-bed unit with a high, slanted roof. Fortunately it was only us and three of our friends, so we had oodles of space. It was karaoke night in the hostel bar and we couldn't afford enough Dutch Courage to participate, so we resigned ourselves to watching others commit heinous crimes against music. We only lasted about three songs before we called it a night.
The next day we arrived in beautiful Wanaka. Steph and I loved it as soon as we pulled up in the Big Orange Bus. Our hostel looked out over Lake Wanaka and up at the surrounding snow capped mountains. The town was very quirky and the area had even quirkier attractions. We were put into an en suite dorm with a few girls from the UK who we hadn't spoken to before. A couple days after being put in the room together we were all sitting by the panoramic window having our daily dose of pasta when one of the girls, Abi, said: "it looks like Dartmoor around here", to which Steph and I agreed, and then she said: "hang on... where are you guys from?". It turns out she's from Dartmouth, her mum lives in Paignton and she worked in the same Next store as Steph. For some reason we had never discussed home towns before then. This keeps happening to us!
On our first day we visited Puzzling World with Abi and Helen. It is home to the world famous(!) Leaning Tower of Wanaka, and a maze that takes most people (not us) 1hr30mins to complete. The cafe area has dozens of puzzles and befuddling activities to keep you occupied whilst you slurp your skinny latte. We started in the Illusion Rooms where you can step into a hall and the faces of Einstein, Churchill, Mozart, and other historical figures follow you around. That was weird enough, but the next room spaced us out even more. The floor was sloped but the furniture and decorations were how they should be. It meant that a snooker ball rolled uphill etc. Steph only lasted a few minutes before it all got too much and she had to leave. The whole place was disorientating and it took a while to settle back into the real world. The giant maze was too frustrating so I used the emergency exit and waited for the girls in the cafe/playroom.
Now, it's time for BURGER WATCH!...
Wanaka is home to the supposed '2nd Best Burger in NZ' (the top prize goes to the 'Fergburger' in Queenstown, but we'll get to that next week). After trying the awesome Fat Tui in Abel Tasman, we had to compare to see if the accolade was justified. The establishment in question is 'The Red Star' and their unassuming premises do nothing to boast of the pedigree gourmet burgers that they serve up. It was a great burger. But Fat Tui wins with it's originality. Looks like Wanaka's offering is slipping down the very competitive league table (we won't be sampling the entire league table due to monetary and coronary constraints).
On our last night we met up with about ten of our friends from the bus and went to Cinema Paridiso - an unconventional picture house with sofas and antique chairs. It comes highly recommended by all of the guide books. Steph and I managed to jump into the Morris Minor that was parked in the aisle of the screening room. We watched the whole of 'Fighter' (amazing film, by the way) from the front seats of the car and during the intermission we had cookies that came straight from the oven. It was what all cinemas should be like.
The change in temperature was palpable by this point - winter is closing in early in the South Island. We spent our whole time in hoodies and jeans, and at night we actually used duvets. How ghastly!