As time goes on it gets harder and harder to be enthusiastic about any trip which involves flights at stupid hours in the morning. While fatigue is the major issue, the discomfort is exacerbated by our national airlines, who collectively seem determined to try and sell their passengers cosmetics and fragrances even when it is clear that the majority are just trying to sleep. Fortunately there is a simple solution to the problem, which I'd like to nominate as the best invention of the last hundred years; noise cancelling headphones.
25th October 2008
We arrived at the Phantasialand hotel shortly before lunch time. Despite there being no queue at all it still managed to take fifteen minutes to sort out three rooms, all the more impressive given that two were not ready yet. The one that was quickly became a communal luggage storage area, clearing our way to head in to the park shortly before lunch time. It should be noted that inefficient check-in was a problem at this hotel on my last visit, albeit the only epic fail of what is otherwise a top class resort.
I'd somehow managed to forget completely about the tacky and utterly tedious pre-show on the Feng Ju Palace haunted swing, which can best be described as a projected version of a few levels of Yie Ar Kung Fu. There is no doubt that Chinese martial arts can be exciting to watch, but not when they're being shown on a slightly out of focus projector, and certainly not when they continue for several minutes in that form. The ride room itself is fairly decent, especially since the park has fixed the rather strange ending, but it doesn't quite stack up tothecompetition.
It was my relentless instance that led us to the River Quest ride, a dangerous gamble at the best of times but all the more so in late October. It was quite a surprise to see that ponchos were not on sale in the queue, an obvious source of revenue especially at this time of year. My reasoning was the obvious one; this attraction has to be the most interesting river rapids ride in the entire world, albeit one designed by a team clearly under the influence of something! We managed for the most part to escape without getting completely drenched, though some of us did better than others!
One of my favourite attractions at the park remains the Mystery Castle. I'd made a point of accidentally forgetting to mention that this seats on this ride are launched upwards as well as downwards, and it was possibly for this reason that at least one of our number considered the whole ride a near death experience. Part of me was sympathetic, having been there, but it was difficult not to laugh at the same time, not least due to the immediate dive for some tobacco!
It never occurred to us to use the hotel VIP pass to jump the line on Winja's Force, and thus we had the better part of an hours downtime to discuss life, the world, and the universe. The conversation was for the most part banal, but it was interesting to learn that two of my friends are heading for Australia in the not too distant future, one on a year out, the other on a permanent basis. I can scarcely imagine what it must be like to pick up your life and relocate it to another country, yet I've got the height of respect for those prepared to take that leap. The coaster remains a great ride, though I'm less enthusiastic now about the strange gimmicks (falling track, etc) than I once was.
The ride now known as Temple of the Night Hawk is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, albeit under its second identity; the original Space Center theming apparently failed to stand the test of time. The queue line has a rather odd two level section that apparently was once a pre-show; now it has just been blacked (or rather greened) out so that errant astronauts don't spoil what is now faux jungle theming. The coaster itself is a superb ride taken in almost complete blackness, with barely a jolt to interrupt the rush of air in your face.
Most of our group elected to return to the hotel at this point for a few hours of rest, but there was no way I'd let the day pass without at least one ride on Black Mamba. On my last visit to the park I wrote that the brand new coaster, though good, was not up to the standard of what was then the leading inverted coaster. It is amazing what a difference two years can make; the ride today was running much faster, providing an amazingly intense experience. It is no exaggeration to describe it as one of the top coasters in Europe now; Nemesis has some serious competition.