Merimbula's Magic Mountain

14th February 2015

In my time as a coaster enthusiast I've travelled to quite a few small parks in remote areas for an obscure credit, promising myself that I'd return only with the addition of a new B&M (or something equally improbable). This cunning plan worked fine for over a decade, but fell apart in recent years after I began a relationship with a woman who was just as vociferous about her credits as me. I've been reliably informed that there are few things more romantic than spending ten hours in a car on Valentine's Day for a credit you don't even need!

We'd originally intended to leave our hotel in Sydney at 8:00am, which would have put us at the park by early afternoon. However, the predicted weather forecast for the Merimbula area quoted a one hundred percent chance of rain in the later part of the day, so we decided on an earlier start in the hope of getting there first. The drive itself was painless but long, coming in at just under six hours with a five minute stop enroute to refuel.

We were pulling into the parking area when I heard a heartfelt oh no from the seat next to me. Megan had spotted two people with tools on the lift hill of the coaster, suggesting rather strongly that the ride was in an advanced state of non-functionality. This was quickly confirmed when we watched one of them take a number of close-up photographs of a sensor. Worse yet, the Toboggan Run (formerly the Mountain Slide) was closed due to earlier rain leaving moisture on the track. We'd inadvertently found ourselves in the middle of a coaster enthusiast nightmare, having driven hours for two rides which were out of action.

Megan parked herself in a chair while I went off to explore, reasoning that I might as well spend some time seeing what had changed from my previous visit. The most obvious addition was the Tree Climb Challenge, an aerial assault course with zip lines stretched across almost the entire park. This seemed to be doing excellent business today, with someone flying overhead every few minutes. There was also a new Triassic Park area, a small garden consolidating the various static dinosaur models that used to be scattered around the park.

Drying the Slide

As I walked I noticed some activity on the Toboggan Run, and wandered over to take a look. Three people were climbing on to sleds with broom handles and towels, and there was an obvious family resemblance between them, suggesting an operator and his two children. A quick enquiry revealed that they were drying the track and hoped to open soon provided that the rain didn't start again. Twenty interminable minutes later an announcement went over the park's PA system indicating that they had been successful.

There was more good news to come. I asked the cashier about the coaster while buying tickets, and she told me that she'd just had a phone call indicating that the minor electrical issue that had shut it down earlier in the day had been fixed, and that it would open shortly. I asked whether it would operate in the rain and was told that it generally would, but that the Toboggan Run wouldn't so we should get on that right away. There was no need to tell us twice; I took charge of our communal box of french fries while Megan had her ride, then we swapped places for my turn. The descent was mostly as I remembered it, the only obvious change being the addition of a shark head and small tunnel at the start. I came very close to an inadvertent wipeout on one of the sharper turns; this is a ride where you definitely do need to brake.

By the time we'd disembarked the two engineers had disappeared from the coaster, replaced by a different individual who promptly buried himself in paperwork next to the ride console. It felt like hours later when we saw him climb off the station to pull on the starter rope for an engine. Our feeling of excitement quickly vanished at the sound, which was far too wasp-like for a lift hill motor, proving instead to be a leaf blower. It quickly became obvious that clearing the ride area was not going to be a quick task, and we were resigned to a further long wait when an operator turned up without warning and signalled that we could board.

The friendly operator thanked us for waiting so patiently as we climbed the ramp up to Diamond Python, and smiled slightly at my observation that there hadn't been a huge amount of patience involved. He delivered a short safety briefing, consisting of a warning about abrupt brakes at the end of the course and a suggestion that we should hold onto the grab bar at all times, then hit the dispatch button even as the leaf blowing continued.

There is an old story about good things coming to those who wait, and so it was here; far from being the dull Pinfari of my last visit, today the ride was delivering a magnificent pop of airtime on the climb out after the second drop. We confirmed that this wasn't a fluke by riding a second time, and honestly we could have ridden all afternoon were it not for the lengthy drive ahead.

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Merimbula's Magic Mountain

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