puzzling world

Amused, bemused, and confused!

That’s how most people feel after coming across Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World just outside the lakeside township of Wanaka in New Zealand’s South Island.

After all, how could you not be, when the first thing you see on arrival is the ‘Leaning Tower of Wanaka’, a structure that seems to defy gravity and all known laws of physics. It leans out of the ground at an impossible angle of 53 degrees (as compared to that other well known leaning tower in Pisa that leans a measly 6 degrees!)

Close by, four colorfully eccentric tumbling towers compete for attention from snap-happy photographers keen to get pictures of family and friends holding up the towers and stopping them from falling.

And while the weird and wonderful architecture is what first attracts, what’s inside that truly captivates – rooms of illusion that could easily have you questioning your sanity. In the Hall of Following Faces, giant models of famous faces seem to turn and follow you around the room. Escape the faces by entering the Ames Forced Perspective Room and suddenly you’ll find yourself appearing to become taller or shorter. And if that’s not enough to spook you, than take a turn around the Hologram Hall to experience the world of 3D imaging and then hang out in the Sculptillusion Gallery full of living walls, wave ceilings, and stunning larger-than-life-sculptures.

Soon you’ll be questioning what’s real and what’s not. For example, the Tilted House gives the illusion water is flowing upstream and everyone is walking at strange angles. In reality, it’s only happening because the room has been tilted at an angle of fifteen degrees.

But the illusion rooms are only a small piece of the puzzle.

The larger piece is the challenging Great Maze, a huge 3D, 2 storey labyrinth consisting of 1.5 kilometers of wooden passages. Viewed from above, it looks easy to navigate, but the elevated walkways provide a false sense of assurance and most people end up walking between three and five kilometers in their search for a way out. Thankfully, there are also a number of exits around the maze for those who want to escape.

Looking at it now, it’s hard to imagine that it when it was first created back in 1973, it was a single one-kilometer wooden maze. But this Puzzling World has grown in leaps and bounds in the last forty years, becoming one of New Zealand’s favorite and most popular tourist attractions.

(photo @Liz Lewis 2013)

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