Bellewaerde Park

5th November 2021

Day two of our trip began at Bellewaerde Park, located roughly forty kilometres from the western coast of Belgium. We’d bought admission tickets and parking ahead of time, though the latter apparently confused the staff on duty today. The person manning the car park exit was absolutely convinced that our printed voucher wasn’t a valid parking ticket, and it was only after 30 seconds of arguing with us that he finally decided to hold the barcode under the scanner to prove his point. In an ideal world we’d have received an apology when the barrier lifted, but I guess that was a bridge too far.

Wakala (#2977) is an unusually large family coaster from Gerstlauer. The size of the ride is perhaps best qualified by the fact that it was the fourth-longest coaster to open in Europe during 2020, behind F.L.Y., Hals-über-Kopf, and Pitts Special – and it missed a top ten place in the global 2020 rankings by just 112 feet. The track covers a wide area, and the queue is routed all round it rather than being a boring cattle grid. The angles are not amazing for photographers unfortunately, but despite this there's plenty to see for the average guest waiting in line.


The experience begins with a puff of dry ice and a 21 metre high chain lift. The apex leads to a gentle S-turn and turnaround above the nearby Dawson Duel, followed by a curved drop and a sequence of airtime hills and turns that seem to go on for quite a while. These culminate on a tyre drive lift that feels almost like a gentle launch. Airtime over the top prefixes a ground level drop, an airtime hill, and a reverse point over water. The train then rolls backwards onto a block brake, and a track switch redirects it back into the station. I’m not quite sure what I’d expected from the ride experience, but I can report that I really liked it. Though the intensity level was very much at the family end of the scale the variety of the design and the novelty of a deliberate rollback kept things interesting. We took two laps, one in the back and one in the front, and as we’d likely have done more if the queue hadn’t built up substantially by the time our second came to an end.

The other major hit today was Dawson Duel. This is a curiosity that can be thought of as a twin-tracked alpine coaster built upon an artificial support structure, but those words tell only part of the story. The tracks have full circuits with cable lifts, but guests only get to use the downhill section; boarding requires walking a long way up an inclined ramp. More significantly, the sleds do not have individually controllable brakes; instead, all speed changes are fully automated by the ride computer. The system is officially badged as the “Sport Coaster” by manufacturers Wiegand, and it has since been used for a ride that definitely qualifies as a roller coaster due to its dramatic hills, but for me at least this installation is more of a slide than a credit.

Those seeking to ride both tracks anyway will be pleased to know that there is a choice between blue and green sides right before the boarding area. My first lap was on the right hand side (blue), and it’s fair to say I found it more than a little freaky; the track is angled slightly away from the support structure, and the cars are extremely open. Passengers do have car-style seatbelts which are undoubtedly sufficient for safety purposes, but they don’t feel like they are; those uneasy about heights will have a very bad time, at least for the first half of the layout. The ride picks up a certain amount of speed during its descent, but the maximum never exceeds a stately 40 kilometres per hour, making the experience more of a novelty than a thrill. The result is enjoyable enough, though there is one major problem that became apparent when I rejoined the line for the left hand side (green): the capacity is horrible, peaking at no more than 120 guests per hour when both tracks are operational. It’s worth noting that this apparently hasn’t fazed the more obsessed among us – as of this typing Coaster-Count has 958 ticks on the left hand side and 951 for the right – and yes, one of each is me.

The oldest coaster in the park is a Zierer Tivoli generally named Keverbaan, which translates as Beetle Coaster. Today the ride had a temporary rebrand for Hallowe’en; signage referred to it as Mortal Express, and the open grassy space in the middle of the layout was filled with skeletons and retired caterpillar train bodies. There were a lot of the latter, suggesting that the park replaced the original rolling stock at some point and kept the remnants for use as theming. Neither of us felt like standing in the lengthy queue, but we did take a selection of photos for our collections. With that done we wrapped up our visit with a ride on Huracan; it would have been rude not to.

Mortal Express


Plopsaland De Panne

5th November 2021

There were more than a few raised eyebrows in the coaster enthusiast community at the start of 2021 when Plopsaland De Panne announced the Ride to Happiness (#2978), a Mack Xtreme Spinning Coaster that up until that point had been talked about under the code names of Robo-Spinner and Time Traveler. The branding on the face of it made little sense; why would a park geared predominantly at families install a thrill ride themed to an electronic dance music festival? Ten-and-a-bit months later I’m not sure I can answer that, but I can at least say something about what is by some margin the most disorienting coaster experience in Europe.

The new ride occupies a previously unused plot of land close to the front of the park, though a first-time visitor would never realise that the space is new; the landscaping has been carefully blended into what was there before, so that the join is imperceptible. The new area is bright and colourful, with pale red stone paths lined on both sides by landscaped gardens. The station building is vaguely reminiscent of a church, with coloured glass windows and decorative stonework on the outside. The queue is also very well done, featuring a variety of elements including brightly coloured piping and an iridescent water wheel. I'm not entirely sure what these have to do with dance music, but then I'm sufficiently disconnected from the zeitgeist that that isn't altogether surprising.

The ride operates with two four-car trains. The individual vehicles look much the same as those seen on Time Traveler, albeit with two key differences. The first is inconsequential: the time light on the front of each car has been replaced with a solid bar, which makes sense given the different theme. The second is much more significant and a definite upgrade: each seat has a pair of speakers that play an atmospheric onboard soundtrack.


The layout begins with a slow barrel roll leading to a dead stop on a launch track. Earlier this year I gave my thoughts on another ride that starts this way, and my comments apply here too; this isn’t particularly comfortable or exciting, and it’s definitely not a patch on the dramatic drop out of the station found on its stateside cousin. The launch that follows is perfectly respectable, though the time at speed is just seconds as the train climbs to a very slow turnaround at the heights. The pacing of the ride to this point is disjointed at best, though I’m pleased to report that things become more fluid following the next drop, which goes to within a few feet of the lake at the centre of the park. A banana roll inversion (as seen on Steel Curtain, Takabisha, and TMNT Shellraiser) sends the train back the way it came. A loop and zero gravity roll follow, leading to a second launch over an airtime hill. This prefixes an inversion with the supremely awkward name of “Step-Up Under Flip” (previously a Rocky Mountain Construction exclusive), a series of airtime hills, and a turn onto the brake run.

I found myself getting much dizzier than I did when riding Time Traveler, and I also noticed quite a bit of vibration while on board, and the two factors combined to greatly limit the number of rides that I was prepared to do. My first two rides – a back and a front taken fifteen minutes apart – left me with a headache, and while part of that might have been caused by fatigue and an empty stomach it’s still not something that I had to worry about on the original. A third ride before leaving the park was better, partially because things had warmed up, and partially because there were two screamers sitting opposite providing some on-board entertainment, but I still don’t think it’s a ride that I’d want to marathon on. It’s not a bad ride by any means, but I rather suspect that it’ll be a one-and-done on future park visits. (Readers should also be aware that strapped glasses are forbidden on board. Boo, hiss, grumble, whinge, etc.)

The only other attraction on the shopping list today was Heidi The Ride, the park’s wood coaster. The one hour wait was a little more than we’d have preferred, but it was worth it for a perfect ride that was exactly what a wood coaster should be.


Ostende Octoberfoor

5th November 2021

I hadn’t planned to include any fairs this weekend, but George spotted a tick that wasn’t all that much of a detour on the way back to our overnight hotel. Dragon - Torfs played the Star Wars theme on dispatch, which felt more than a little overdramatic as the backdrop to a single helix powered coaster with an arthritic motor. It took forever to climb to the top, particularly on the first of six laps; I rather suspect a replacement left phalange will be required before too long.