Etnaland

27th August 2015

There are two separate parks under the Etnaland banner. During the main season the Acquapark opens during the day and the Theme Park opens at night, an entirely sensible approach in a location that often has daytime temperatures in excess of 30°C. The European Coaster Club trip planners originally allocated us three hours in the water park including a lunch break, but our tour leader took the decision to cut that allocation to two hours given the late finish the night before. This wasn't even close to being adequate, but Megan and I were determined to make the best of things, and thus didn't hang around on arrival.

I'm given to understand that shortly after the group dispersed, a member of park management offered us a backstage tour of the Theme Park. Valiant efforts were made to find as many participants as possible, but it was never going to be possible to catch everyone in such an enormous facility, and we were among the dozen or so people that didn't get the message.

Fountain

Our day began with the realisation that a water park in a hot climate had installed footpaths made of unshaded concrete, and these had already become unpleasantly hot in the morning sun. Fortunately we were able to cool off quickly at the Lazy River, a long and narrow course spanning almost half a kilometre memorable chiefly for the unavoidable waterfall placed on the return leg. The staff on duty clearly hadn't taken any customer service training in the proceeding two lifetimes, but we didn't let their dour nature impact our fun.

The next obvious stop was at the Wave Pool, which had been surrounded by highly photogenic but utterly impractical pebbles which had to be crossed while barefoot, an experience best described as uncomfortable. The pump mechanism wasn't operating, but despite that the huge area was full of people bobbing up and down to the accompaniment of enormously loud dance music, their actions directed by what I'll charitably describe as artists standing on a small island protruding from the the water.

We took a quick glance at some nearby slides but decided to abort when we saw the length of the queues. Instead, we relocated to the Crocodile Rapids, an exciting course complete with three tunnels, a herd of animatronic elephants, a whirlpool, and a surprisingly thick waterfall that didn't stop as the boat went under it, completely soaking all on board. At least one member of our group made the mistake of riding without swimwear, much to the amusement of everyone else!

It would have been nice to try the Dragon River flume too, but we'd run out of time. There was just long enough to take a few photographs, change back into dry clothes, and wolf down some lunch before power walking to the exit in time for the announced 2:00pm departure. We made it there with about ninety seconds to spare, but found that the majority of group members were still enjoying their special tour, adding insult to injury for those of us who missed out. The situation reminded me very much of a trip organised by the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain back in 2003, when a small group (including the club chairman!) disregarded the announced departure time so that they could enjoy a ride that the rest of us had been forced to skip. That incident was the main reason I allowed my membership of that group to lapse a few months later.

The limited time had put me in a bad mood, and eating too quickly had given me indigestion. The wait outside the park in the baking sun gave the embers of anger time to develop into a full fledged inferno, and when the tour group finally returned, some twenty minutes later, I blew a gasket. With the benefit of a cooler head I'm willing to accept that the decision to run a tour with only some of the group was probably the right one, as all possible efforts were made to spread the word, and I did subsequently apologise to our tour leader in person for what I'd said in the heat of the moment. That said, it was completely unacceptable to have the lucky few keep the rest of us waiting, and it's a great pity that a group like the ECC allowed this to happen.