I’ve never been a big fan of puzzles. Crosswords will do just that – make me cross, and a jigsaw puzzle is not my idea of fun, so I wasn’t sure that a visit to Puzzling World in Wanaka would be the ideal way to spend an afternoon. But once I saw the Leaning Tower of Wanaka and the Tumbling Towers at the entrance I knew that it was going to be entertaining, intriguing and a whole lot of fun.
There are seven different rooms and activities in the complex. The entrance takes visitors past the Puzzling Café, where perplexing objects are found on every table, and diners are reflected in the kaleidoscope ceiling.
The holograms on display in the Hologram Hall seem to change depending on the angle from which they are viewed. This collection is one of the largest in the world and the 3D images are astounding.
If you feel like someone’s watching you in the Hall of Following Faces you’re not alone. There are 168 faces on the walls, all of them well-known, and it’s a discomforting feeling as they appear to turn and look at everyone.
When viewed from the outside the Ames Forced Perspective Room looks like a normal room. It’s only when people enter that it becomes apparent that all is not what it seems and what is large in one corner becomes tiny in another. This technique was used in “The Lord of the Rings” to create the illusion of small and large creatures.
I wonder how often the words “How did they do that?” are spoken in the Sculptillusion Gallery. More than 20 works of illusion and deception are exhibited. While many are hands-on their secrets are not easily revealed.
The most fascinating room of all is the Tilted House where, even though we are all certain that we are standing upright, our senses tell us otherwise. Water flows uphill and the balls on the billiard table roll up instead of down. It’s compelling and confusing at the same time, and strangers laugh with and at each other.
Back on level ground, outside the Illusion Rooms, is the Great Maze. It’s a labyrinth, the first of its type in the modern world. There are one and a half kilometres of passages, although once inside most people tend to walk between three and five kilometres before finding their way out again. The elevated walkways give a false sense of assurance. The way through the maze looks easy enough to memorise from above but in the passages below each turn looks the same as the one before. There are several exits for those who tire physically or mentally although giving up is not an option for most.
Please don’t ever give me a book of crosswords or a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle. But a visit to Puzzling World…I could do that again.