My thoroughly discombobulated body clock conspired against me yesterday evening, treating me to a grand total of two and a half hours of sleep despite my retiring at a sensible time. I had no need of an alarm clock as I was wide awake from 1:00am with absolutely no prospect of resuming slumber. After five hours of staring into space I gave up, had a shower, and set out for the domestic terminal at Sydney Airport thirty minutes ahead of my planned schedule. I thought the extra time would allow me to enjoy a relaxed breakfast, though I can report that it was entirely unnecessary; under most circumstances those flying domestic hops on the Australian flag carrier can safely arrive an hour before departure, especially when travelling without luggage.
In due course I boarded a QantasLink flight to Armidale, operated by a Dash-8 300 series, my first and very possibly last encounter with a “classic” – given that the model ceased production in 2009. The interior of the nineteen-year-old aircraft was extremely dated, but the legroom was plentiful and the seat comfortable, and in the end that’s all that really matters. Those seeking to try the type for themselves may need to look at regional flights in ANZ; the vast majority of examples elsewhere in the world are in use only for private charters.
Green Valley Farm
4th February 2023
Green Valley Farm is one of these places that is very difficult to categorise. The words “amusement park” don’t really fit a venue that features a museum, a retired Piaggio aircraft, animal exhibits, a water slide (just one), and a wide variety of creative home-spun playground equipment featuring ingenious ways to get hurt. A signed legal waiver is required for admission, and for once this feels entirely justified. European readers might want to think of the place as “Ozteria Au Pioppi”; while the equipment selection is smaller than in Italy, the principle is very much the same.
The park is in the absolute middle of nowhere. It takes almost seven hours to drive there from Sydney, and about five and a half hours from Brisbane. Armidale Regional Airport is just over an hour away, but a very limited flight schedule makes day trips by air effectively impossible. One-way rental cars are available but not recommended as charges apply for exceeding a hundred kilometres per day. I was exceptionally fortunate to be able to hitch a lift with my friend Gavin, and in all honesty I wouldn't have been able to visit today without him as I was just too tired to drive myself safely.
Our morning was always going to begin at the Roller Coaster (#3056), a single-rail oddity most notable for the absolutely terrific noise it makes in operation. Guests push the three seat car to the top of an incline then roll back down a track punctuated by deliberate flat spots that produce airtime. A loaded car has enough speed to climb most of the way up an incline that I’d estimate as being about twenty feet in the air. The result is terrifying, and while it is unlikely to feature in many top ten lists it’s definitely worth trying if you find yourself even remotely nearby. (Those without the means to travel to Australia can find a smaller yet significantly more accessible equivalent in France.)
I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow report on the other devices I tried out, with the exception of Mac’s Slippy Dip, an enormous steel slide that looked horrifically dangerous from ground level. This turned out to be far less frightening than it looked; I found myself stalling at the top of every dip allowing a mostly controlled descent. Signage advised staying off the slide in wet weather and for good reason; removing much of the friction could easily result in a launch into orbit.
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