It was at the start of October, a few short days after returning what was at that stage the last trip of the year that an e-mail arrived from George suggesting a day trip to visit West Midland Safari Park. It did not seem like an expensive day out, thanks to a number of very cheap flight options (albeit at antisocial times), and the park web site quoted opening hours stretching from morning through to evening. It was with this in mind that I booked myself on to the mid afternoon return flight, even though it was somewhat more expensive than the late one. Then, the night before the trip, it became apparent that the park hours had been altered, meaning that my sensible return flight would now leave me a grand total of an hour on site as well as a significant possibility of a missed flight. The only way to recover was to switch to a seat on the later plane, despite the fact that it was now quite a lot more expensive than it had been when I'd turned it down. The change meant that there was time for a pleasant evening meal in Birmingham, but it also meant that the day was no longer cheap.
Our first port of call on arrival at the park was the roller coasters. All three are standard models found in other parks around the world, but in this case that isn't a criticism; they fit their location well even if they could do with fresh paint. The smallest of the three is African Big Apple (#1089), which is fitted with the smaller style of train that I'm only just able to get into with crossed legs. The largest is Rhino Coaster (#1090), the only large model roller skater in the United Kingdom and a surprisingly good ride, marred only slightly by a rather ominous mechanical clanking noise that didn't exactly inspire confidence. In the middle sits the standard spinning coaster seen everywhere; Twister Coaster (#1091) spun at an insane rate, resulting in impressive disorientation almost on a par with that experienced two years ago at Brighton.
We also tried a rather mediocre dark ride by the name of Dr Umboto's Catacombs and a rather stunning drop tower called Venom. The latter was a Fabbri affair that looked like someone had taken a standard tower and cut it down the middle. The expected ring of seats went half way round the tower only, with a chain operating as the lift mechanism. In common with all Fabbri drops the actual freefall took my breath away, and I'd been ready for it. Poor George didn't take me seriously when I warned him that it would be vicious, and the resulting invective was as heartfelt as anything I've ever heard on a thrill ride.