Towards the end of last year I came across an article in the Daily Mail that talked about the world's longest roller coaster zip line, Xtreme, which had opened a few days before in Australia. I'd thought myself pretty well informed on thrill rides of all descriptions, but had somehow never heard about a zip line coaster; I simply had to find out more. Later that evening I did a bit of research online and found several other examples in Mexico, the Philippines, and even the United States. Thevariousdifferentvideos showed a ride experience that looked very much like a CariproBatflyer, albeit without the coaster car, and I decided on the spot that I wanted to try one.
Unfortunately, when the time came to push the go button on our trip down under it became apparent that there were no available booking slots for the TreeTop Crazy Riders on the day we'd be in the area. I wrote to the park to ask why, and learned that they were only planning to operate on weekends during the local school term. Other sets of opening hours made it impractical to rearrange our schedule, so I reluctantly decided to allocate the morning to some general tourism in the Sydney area.
About ten days before travel I randomly decided to have another look at the online booking system, and to my delight, discovered that the hours had been extended. I had a quick if somewhat evasive chat with the War Office ("I've found something much better to do in Sydney. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is, but are you happy to trust my judgment?") and, having obtained approval, made a booking.
We left our hotel very early to allow for rush hour traffic, but as it turned out we need not have bothered; it soon became evident that we were on course to arrive thirty minutes before our booked time. Rather than do that I set the cruise control to a lower speed and listened as the Australian GPS voice repeatedly told us to continue along the Pacific "Mwy". This mispronunciation ceased to be funny after the fifth time, and even Megan began to curse at it after a while.
There was only one other car in the parking area when we arrived on site, but it turned out to be the two friendly staff members who would be running the zip lines for us. I felt a little bit guilty about making an early morning booking and asked if they'd had to come in specially for us, but they said that there was a school group due in later on so it wasn't a big deal. After sorting out waivers we were able to get into our harnesses, a simple set of straps with two carabiners. These were attached to either side of a triangular metal bar linked to a hinged wheel mechanism.
We began our day with the shorter of the two lines, named Pioneer. The walk to the start point was very short and required little by way of effort. We decided that Megan should ride first, so the operator double checked her restraint and made a quick radio call before sending her on her way. I watched her swing out to the side as she rounded a corner and disappeared out of sight.
In due course it was my turn. My first impression of the experience was that it felt just like a coaster, albeit one with soft restraints and track that flexed visibly as I passed across it. I calculated the average speed of both lines as a little under twenty kilometers per hour, but the close proximity to trees made it feel much quicker, and the presence of drops meant that there were faster sections too. Swinging from side to side in a zip line harness felt wonderfully liberating, and reminded me very much of the late (and greatly lamented) Eagle Fortress.
There was a reasonably energetic five minute climb up to the start of the Xtreme line. The operator walking with us bounded up the hill as if it wasn't there, with the nonchalance only possible when one is both very fit and accustomed to climbing many times each day. For this one I got to go first, leaving me with little time to catch my breath before the three minute and thirty second descent. The ride itself seemed to go on forever, with some wonderfully intense turns. Those who'd like to see for themselves can watch an excellent POV on YouTube.
As we disengaged our harnesses the operators told us that their company had had a lot of interest from around the world and that we should expect more lines to pop up in due course. I've got to say that I'm not at all surprised; the TreeTop Crazy Riders are great fun, and my only complaint about them is that they're not a little closer to my home.
13th February 2015
My first visit to Scenic World took place during my first trip to Australia way back in 2008. While I never wrote up a trip report, I do have some photographs in my archives that shed some clues on my day, including that the weather was overcast and that the roller coaster was not open. Seven years later the weather was still overcast and the coaster was still not open, though that fact didn't come as much of a surprise.
It is hard to describe Orphan Rocker as anything other than the most famous failed coaster project of all time. It was built during the 1980s by an Australian engineering company, but problems were encountered during testing that prevented it from being opened to the public. Today the ride lies rusting and idle, with pieces of track missing and other portions damaged by the ravages of time. Megan asked a member of staff about it and was told that a rebuild is still in the long term plans, but the level of upkeep visible today suggested rather strongly otherwise.
While there may never be a functional coaster at Scenic World the place still much to offer. We began our visit with the Scenic Railway, proudly advertised as the steepest passenger railway in the world. On my first visit this attraction operated with a rather suspect looking wooden train with a net draped over it to keep arms inside the clearance envelope, but this was replaced in 2013 with a Swiss-built train that makes the sixty second journey down the 52° incline in complete comfort. Riders now have a choice of three seating positions; which the park describes as laid back, original, and cliffhanger.
At the base lies the Scenic Walkway, an extensive boardwalk with a variety of different routes to explore. Due to time constraints today we took the shortest, a fifteen minute walk past the old Katoomba Coal Mine and associated ventilation furnace. This area was absolutely crawling with Chinese tourists whose general level of volume control was about as good as my ability to read a book while blindfolded, but despite the cacophony it was still possible to appreciate some of the more interesting trees in this area, including one which had been killed by a lightning strike but which remained upright due to it leaning against another nearby.
We took the Scenic Cableway (are you sensing a pattern here?) back to the main entrance of the park, a journey memorable only for giving us the occasional tantalising glance at the Orphan Rocker buried within the trees below us. That left us with the Scenic Skyway, a cable car across the top of the Jamison Valley. The queue for this was much longer than anything else, primarily due to capacity; we had to wait about twenty minutes for our outbound journey, and a similar time for the return. While there was a pleasant enough photograph of Katoomba Falls from on board I felt that the time could have been far better spent in other parts of the facility.
Luna Park Sydney
13th February 2015
Sydney's Luna Park offers a two-for-one deal for wristbands on Friday and Saturday nights to those willing to book online ahead of time. While this seemed like an excellent deal on paper, it proved to be a false economy when we learned on arrival that the Wild Mouse had closed three days earlier for a two month maintenance period. Megan'soh no was rather more polite than the colourful metaphor that ran through my head, but there was nothing to be done but make the most of our evening.
We decided to start our visit with the Ferris Wheel in the hope of getting some overhead photographs before the daylight faded. The high vantage point revealed a park that looked virtually identical to how it did seven years before, the only obvious change being the addition of Hair Raiser, a thirty-seven metre drop tower next to the coaster that the neighbours have been trying to sabotage. As an enthusiast it is hard for me to be completely objective in a dispute of this nature, though it is my duty to point out that the park has operated on its current site since 1935; screams, flashing lights, and "hoony" rides should really be considered part of the landscape at this stage.
We took a few more photos at ground level before heading for the Carousel. I'd been very much looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with the magnificent antique machine present on my last visit, but discovered to my horror that it had been replaced by a modern equivalent in what can only be described as a disgusting act of cultural vandalism. The new machine built by John H. Rundle looks cheap and nasty, its general level of tackiness emphasised by the identical fiberglass horses, the web site address on its center pole, and on-board music piped through a speaker system.
We decided to do our bit for community relations by enjoying Hair Raiser without adding our own sound effects. The friendly operator made a point of telling everyone in the queue that it was not possible to stop her ride once it had left the ground, so everyone boarding should be absolutely sure of what they were doing. She also told me that there was no problem with wearing my glasses with strap, and thus the climb allowed me to observe the complete lack of visible maintenance activity on the Wild Mouse (sigh). The whirring of the lift motor stopped about half a second before the car was released to fall back to earth, its descent delivering exceptional airtime marred only slightly by a hard landing, which, to be fair, is not unusual for this style of ride.
Our wristbands gave us access to Coney Island, a substantial indoor fun house with a good mix of attractions. The entrance route took us past a few moving walkways that were out of order, then continued into a long descending ramp past a variety of images on the walls, ranging from the historical to the scatological. Once at ground level there were several classic attractions to enjoy, including the Turkey Trot, the Joy Wheel, and the Barrels of Fun. We also found an area devoted to mechanical arcade machines in perfect working order with a few pinball machines thrown in for good measure. The highlight proved to be series of slides reaching almost to the ceiling. One set had some airtime hills on the way down, and we rode those together, though I quickly bowed out after it became evident that my posterior lacked sufficient padding to absorb the landings. Megan didn't have any issue, being somewhat lighter than I am, and as such she was happy to repeat the larger set on her own several times.
Luna Park was home to an Arrow Looping Coaster from 1995-2001, and the dramatic entrance for the Big Dipper still stands, complete with stylised paintings of the sections of the old ride. However, today it leads only to a small seating area and the Tumble Bug, a perfectly preserved Huss Troika with a somewhat suspect name. As we rode I decided to start chanting "bug noises" in a low monotone, which Megan promptly seized upon, poking me repeatedly in a not altogether inaccurate simulation of the flies from Uluru. The humour continued right up until I started feeling ill from the ride motion, a sad reminder that my spin ride stamina isn't what it used to be.