Our tenth day in Australia began with an analysis of the local weather forecast, prompted by dire news headlines predicting the imminent arrival of Cyclone Marcia. It was quite clear that we could expect rain to start in the early part of the afternoon and that it wouldn't stop until after our onward flight to New Zealand. We seriously considered going directly to Aussie World in the hope of getting Megan on at least one of the two wooden mice in Australia, but it was two hours from our hotel and we couldn't be sure of getting there ahead of the storm. As such, we decided that we might as well stick with the original plan.
As expected we arrived at Sea World to find Jet Rescue closed for several weeks of planned maintenance. Though annoying, our disappointment was tempered somewhat by seeing work actively underway; there were at least three staff members using tools in the ride area, and an active cement mixer right next to the launch track.
The closure left us with a single credit in the guise of Storm Coaster (#2107), the first installation of a Mack Water Coaster in the southern hemisphere. The ride has been themed like a coastal port after a tropical cyclone has hit, and it certainly looks the part, with several capsized boats, broken palm trees, and a wide assortment of shipping crates. The splashdown area is fully enclosed and could almost be described as dark ride, the boats floating slowly past a variety of machinery lit by ghostly flickering lights.
Though the theming is very good indeed, the ride sadly isn't. While the layout is the same as Skatteøen the on board experience suffers significantly from the installation of shoulder belts in addition to standard lap bars. These restrict upper body movement, eliminate any airtime, reek of chlorine, and turn what was never going to be a terribly exciting coaster into one that was both uncomfortable and boring. The only slightly unexpected element of the ride came right before the station when a deluge system soaked the right hand side of the boat, but we'd been warned to expect that during our Traditional Australian Dinner yesterday evening.
The park retired both the Bermuda Triangle dark ride and the Sea Viper coaster in recent years, leaving just one other major ride today; Viking's Revenge, a log flume rerouted a few years ago to allow for the installation of Storm Coaster. Unfortunately it seems that the budget did not extend to new theming, and as a result the entire lower section of the ride now feels like something one might find at a travelling fair rather than a major theme park. Worse yet, the water level was well below where it should have been, meaning that our boat spent much of the journey scraping the bottom of the trough. The only half decent bit of the ride was the splashdown at the end, manned by a dour ride operator who looked almost as bored as we were.
We joined the queue for the Skyride just as operator informed everyone that it had closed temporarily due to high winds and that we should come back later. We ended up instead at the Monorail, which we'd hoped might give us some good photo angles for the coaster. However, it wasn't to be; the main windows were covered in advertising, blocking most of the view. I managed a few shots by poking my camera through a small window at the top of the car, and it was from one of these that I noticed the Battle Boats Splash Battle and Sky Fortress ropes course. We might have tried one or both of these to kill some time, but concluded incorrectly that they were part of the up-charge water park.
With nothing else on our radar we decided to wander into the Penguin Encounter, an elaborate exhibit featuring hundreds of Chinese tourists with mobile phones pressed up against the glass of enclosures. It was occasionally possible to see a penguin or two on the far side of said glass, but only when one looked very carefully. Nobody seemed to be interested in reading the many elaborate display boards within the exhibit. It's all about the Pen-gu-ins baby, uhh, uh-huh, yeah.
After a quick food break we noticed that the Skyride had reopened. We decided to head there right away, and found ourselves sharing a car with a friendly couple from Chengdu who spoke fairly good English; they were spending a few days on the Gold Coast and a few days in Melbourne. They were genuinely surprised when we told them that we'd been to Chengdu ourselves, both for the famous Panda Breeding Center and the many different amusement parks. It turned out that our timing was close to perfect; the ride went down again due to high winds just as we disembarked, and remained closed for the remainder of our visit.
We'd arrived back at the entrance of the park just in time to see Jet Stunt Extreme, an impressive array of water-borne acrobatics demonstrated by four performers. Two of them were apparently former world champions, and the presenter set these up in competition with the audience judging who was better by the volume of their cheers. Both groups apparently sounded exactly the same, which never happens, and despite our obvious indecisiveness we were apparently the best audience in a while (since yesterday, presumably). Cynicism aside, however, it was hard not to be impressed at seeing five consecutive backflips on a jet ski.
The show came to an end just before SpongeBob 3D was due to begin, and in the spirit of we're here anyway I decided that an eight minute movie in an air conditioned theatre seemed like a good idea. This was a miscalculation that quickly became obvious, both from the primary school style plastic chairs as well as the 4D title on the movie, left there despite the conspicuous absence of an extra dimension. I tuned out after the first ninety seconds, and would recommend that readers to do likewise unless they are particularly interested in a "hilarious" singing tour of Bikini Bottom.
We were somewhat more taken with Fish Detectives, an entertaining show about a crime-fighting seal that is probably best described as the local version of Clyde & Seamore, albeit with somewhat different staging. The performance contained all the expected things; a waddling sea lion, a waving sea lion, a sea lion nudging an audience member, and a truly embarrassing number of dreadful puns.
About half way through I noticed that I was getting soaked despite having chosen seats under a canvas roof. It turned out that the heavens had opened in spectacular fashion, and strong winds were blowing the rain in sideways. We moved position in order to watch the rest without developing hypothermia, but it was obvious that our day had come to an end; the promise of a warm and dry hotel room won out over two more park hours in pouring rain.