Many of us who travel extensively for theme parks and roller coasters have files full of trip ideas in various stages of development. My own collection comprises around two dozen work in progress itineraries that for whatever reason never made it off the drawing board. One of these was a two week expedition to Turkey that was about twenty percent complete when it got pushed to the back burner in favour of a trip to China planned by the European Coaster Club for September 2017. Though that trip was later cancelled the announcement came too late for me to flesh out the draft and make bookings, and for that reason Megan and I decided to go to Japan instead.
We would likely have pushed the proverbial button on our own route this year had the club not gotten there first, with the humorously-timed announcement of Turkey on Christmas Day. We were among the first to sign up when the formal invite was circulated in February, and thus we joined over fifty like-minded enthusiasts for a week of good weather, friendship, and pathetic kiddie coasters.
Our adventure began with a Friday evening flight to Amsterdam and a night in an airport hotel. This wasn't ideal, but preferable to the only same day connection, which required a stupidly early start and two transfers with just forty minutes to change planes – a recipe for disaster, especially given that the first leg would have been with an airline not known for its punctuality. That same airline delivered us to Amsterdam an hour behind schedule, taking a chunk out of our sleep time and reminding me how one-sided air transport contracts are; why do we as passengers accept that a flight can be almost two hours late with no compensation due, yet a passenger arriving one minute late for their seat loses the entire amount that they paid?
The alarm on Saturday morning woke us with enough time to enjoy a relaxed breakfast before walking across the road to check in. We'd just joined the appropriate queue when a locally-accented voice said "Hello Mr Bannister". It turned out to be Midas, who I'd not seen in over a decade; unbeknownst to each other we'd booked onto the same flight to Antalya. Soon afterwards we'd dropped luggage, cleared security, and settled down airside for a morning coffee. The flight was uneventful, and though baggage reclaim took forever we had plenty of time to burn, having landed two hours and change before the club flight from Istanbul (not Constantinople).
15th September 2018
I'd been of mixed minds about whether to switch into shorts at Antalya Airport, as the ever-entertaining Carrot Weather indicated an evening temperature in the low twenties celsius (provided of course that nobody launched a nuclear strike). I decided that I would, and this was the right call; though it wasn't hot out it was quite humid, and jeans would not have been fun at all.
The group congregated at the entrance to Aktur Park while our intrepid tour leaders began the task of acquiring over fifty reloadable smart cards with sufficient ride credit for the three coasters. This process was time consuming, but there were two sideshows to keep us entertained while we waited. The first was a near-continuous stream of middle-aged adults with cameras lining up to take the same exact photo of the park entrance, a surprisingly difficult shot to get right as the lighting changed colour every few seconds. I spotted someone in local dress taking a mobile phone snap of the photographers with a broad grin on their face. The second was Megan, who'd made friends with a stray dog; even up close it was hard to tell which of the two looked happier.
In due course we made our way through a metal detector into the park. Some of our group triggered the sensor, but the staff were apparently unfazed by this as we were waved through. This was to become a recurring pattern throughout our trip; while there were some locations that checked everyone thoroughly we found that quite a few places were not bothered. I rather suspect that some profiling was taking place and that a large group of Caucasian tourists in roller coaster t-shirts was deemed low risk. There's probably a joke to be made about a specific coaster club here, but in the interest of diplomacy I'll let the reader fill it in for themselves.
We congregated en masse at Twister Coaster (#2505), a standard layout Zamperla spinning coaster and the first eminently forgettable tick of the trip. Several sets of trim brakes prevented us from picking up much speed, and despite careful loading we managed no more than three full rotations around the entire course. The one interesting feature of the ride was its cars, which were of a plain solid pink design with no theming at all; having thought about it I cannot recall seeing similar in any of my previous encounters with the genre. I found myself wondering why a park would go with a plain design when themed options are available; I can't imagine that fiberglass mouse ears add much to the overall ride cost.
Justin set up a group photograph in front of Elma Kurdu (#2506), which he planned to superimpose with someone holding up the number one, indicating the first of many Big Apples. This would have made for quite the photo series, though as things turned out the trip encountered fewer versions of the design than I'd expected. There were just four within the organised itinerary, two more on a bonus day, and two more that we were able to look at: one on the side of the road at the Levent Lunapark factory, and another in pieces on the back of a trailer. (Those really seeking to credit whore the type should probably head to Georgia, where eight of the eleven known coasters are Apples. Earlier this summer we managed to do six of them in twodays.)
The third and last coaster of the evening was Shark Trip (#2507), a double helix from SBF Rides and my tenth in the last six years. This version was one of the better looking examples of the kind, with an elaborate hand-painted backflash and a colour changing LED sign above the station platform. The ride experience was grossly ordinary, however; our three laps featured the usual clatter as the train trundled its way around the course. After disembarking I took the time to visually confirm that the wheels in use were actually round, as it wasn't at all obvious from on board.
One curiosity of Turkey is the procedure for buying ice cream, which invariably includes a complimentary show. The seller at Aktur Park wasn't quite to the level of this genius, but he ran through a few similar tricks for our group. His performance was mesmerising to watch, mostly because I was absolutely sure that it would end in tears. The fact that it didn't was a testament to skill, practice, and cheating; it turns out that quite a bit of the ice cream sold in Turkey includes a quantity of mastic gum, which makes it considerably less likely to disintegrate when thrown around.
We also partook of a large two level dark ride manufactured by Emiliana Luna Park. Korku Tüneli (Horror Tunnel) is described in some detail on the manufacturer's web site, which lists it as having twenty-nine moving horror tricks, and though we didn't count that many there were several extended periods of darkness, suggesting that some may have been out of service. Visible scenes tonight included a witch stirring a cauldron, an exceptionally angry cat, a skeleton apparently shooting at us (the sounds were there, but the gun wasn't), a corpse hanging from a noose, and two separate instances of a zombie sitting up in its coffin. The scenes were detailed and well presented, and we were glad that we'd made the effort to ride.
Our final hit was the Başkent Güneşi Ferris wheel, broadly translated as Capital of the Sun. The ticket price was six lira, though we only had five left on our cards – and thus the long-suffering lady at the ticket desk dealt with a line of people doing a one lira (~€0.15) top up. The ride was well placed for overhead photographs, and it had fully open cars allowing unrestricted shots.