Wanaka, New Zealand October 29-31, 2007
Passing bright blue lakes, rich green hillsides and skies that are an impossible neon blue, we feel as though George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have computer enhanced the landscape for our driving pleasure.
The scenery changes about every 60 seconds; rocky hills, snow capped mountains, white sandy beaches lining totally clear aqua lakes, green rolling hills, dense jungle forests and infinite combinations of the lot. We pull over lakeside for an impromptu photo session and Heather is ready to strut her stuff.
Checking in to the Wanaka Backpackers we have scored again, thanks to Heather’s non-stop research in travel books. It’s the only double with a view of the lake, an ensuite bathroom (more and more a luxury each day) and a covered deck with sun chairs. During our stay we meet Boris (Bob) from southern France and Sophie from Switzerland, a fun couple who have recently fallen into travels together.
As our conversation unfolds we sense these will be fun people to spend time with and the conversation turns to food. Turns out Sophie’s grandfather is a gourmet chef and she loves to cook. Bob is French so there is no need to elaborate on his skills as cooking is in his DNA. We make plans to cook a gourmet dinner together before leaving.
Next day we hit Puzzle World, which boasts a two-story labyrinth that takes about 90 minutes to solve,
and rooms full of displays, puzzles and optical illusions. Heather turned out to be the labyrinth-master but it was the optical illusion rooms that I enjoyed most especially the anti-gravity room and shrinking rooms shown here:
I thought this was funny too. Here’s me….well I guess you can figure out what the illusion is on this one.
We also visited the Paradiso Cinema to catch a local New Zealand film that turned out to be a fair film but the theater experience was the real draw. This is a low budget theater with tiered seating assembled from old lounge chairs, sofas and love seats. There is even a VW bug inside the theater for those who want the “drive-in” feeling with climate control. Someone in the theater emailed us this picture of us cuddling on one of the ragged couches with cocktails…makes me thankful we bring my camera most of the time!
Mid-film they stop the movie for an intermission to serve dinner in a small dining room (which you order upon arrival) then resume the film when everyone is finished eating. No urgent schedule, just a relaxed venue like watching a DVD at a friend’s badly furnished apartment. The movie we chose was fair and the food sucks but the experience is almost worth the price.
The final night we’re all in the kitchen telling stories about our afternoon activities and preparing food with Sophie and Bob. The rest of the hostel is already curious about what we’re doing since we have taken control of half the kitchen. Sophie announces she’s starting us with Bruchetta and pulls out fresh ingredients including a basil plant. Mandatory wine and cheese placed in the center of action, we begin. In classic French style, Boris is sipping wine with us and whipping up a chocolate mousse from scratch while we’re preparing the salads and lamb as mains. Now we’ve got everyone’s attention while other guests are preparing instant noodle dinners and trying to stay out of our way. Although eating it was wonderful, I think the best part was the four hours we spent cooking and sharing the meal together with conversation about life, travel, goals and desires.
Too bad Bob and Sophie are leaving New Zealand but I know we are going to see them again, even if we have to wait a year to get closer to their countries. Something tells me it will be sooner.