Day 5: Wanaka: Mountains and Puzzles

by Mary Beth

We started the next morning with a brisk hike up Mount Iron. It was brisk because it was chilly, not because we moved particularly quickly. Cora moved quickly, whenever she was put down, but in the wrong direction. Unfortunately there was a deep, muddy, half-frozen puddle towards the beginning of the trail, and Cora felt she was not allowed to spend enough time splashing in it (there are not enough minutes in a day to satisfy Cora’s urge to splash in puddles, and this was an especially deep and dirty one). She spent the entire hike trying to return to that puddle.

Annie was also not particularly interested in the hike, but when we agreed to play some more Twenty Questions, she perked up. We walked up the mountain, guessing non-Disney movie characters, animals, food, and (when we got more desperate), colors, and letters of the alphabet. Cora wailed and thrashed in her father’s arms while we were talking, and tried to hurl herself over the edge of the mountain. The views were breathtaking, but the children had seen enough mountains over the past year to last a lifetime, and were not interested in these ones.

In the afternoon, Peter got to choose the destination, and we went to Puzzling World, a place of mind-bending illusions. There was a room with a slanted floor, where things seemed to run uphill. There were rooms where we seemed to grow and shrink, and a telephone booth where you could look down into infinity.

Looks like real food… until you get up close
Adult-sized Annie… a terrifying prospect…

And there were staircases. Not very many, and most of them only had four or five shallow steps in them, but Cora had a knack for finding them. She loved staircases. She raced past the holograms, and the people who seemed to be staring at you no matter where you were in the room, and the pictures of skulls that were actually pictures of beautiful ladies. The stairs were the main attraction.

“Cora! Come back! You already fell down that staircase once!” I found myself saying at one point. And then I thought, What kind of person says ‘you already fell down that staircase once’ to their small child? This is not something that a responsible mother would ever find herself saying. Not that Cora listened – she was too busy falling down the staircase again to pay any attention to me. In my defense, she has gotten very, very fast. In the time it takes to read the first half of a sentence on an informational plaque, she can get out of the room, down the hall, and topple down a staircase. And even if you sprint after her, after reading the first half of a sentence, you will only catch her halfway down the stairs. And no, falling down various staircases did not diminish her enthusiasm for further staircases.

She didn’t fall down this one. Although she tried to.
Not totally sure what this is, but as it completely absorbed Cora’s attention as it spun, causing her to be still for more than 30 seconds, we loved it.

When we played Twenty Questions that night, Cora insisted on taking a turn. When I asked “Whose turn is it?” she cried, “Coco! Coco! Coco tuhn! Coco tuhn!”

“Ok, you’ve got something in your head?” I asked. Coco refused to answer the question so we all took this as a “yes”.

“Is it a princess?” I asked.

“Man,” said Coco.

“It’s a man!” we cried, and Annie burst out laughing.

“Is it Uncle Rob?” asked Peter.

Cora looked impassive and didn’t answer.

“Is it Baba John? Or Grandpa Roy?” we asked.

Cora continued to look impassive. She wanted to make this a challenge for everyone – it would be too easy if she gave a straightforward “No” or “Yes” to the questions.

“Is it Daddy?” I asked.

“No,” said Cora.

“Is it a grown-up?” I asked.

“Nope,” said Cora.

We named some of the boys at her school. She said “No,” to each one, or stared into space. We asked about Uncle Rob again but she again refused to confirm or deny whether he was the chosen person. We all became silent, thinking.

“Coco!” said Cora suddenly.

“It was Coco? You were thinking of Coco?” I asked. Annie burst out laughing again.

“Coco!” said Cora happily. “Happy buhday, happy buhday!”

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