Aussie World

11th January 2018

For almost two decades Aussie World was a bucket list park for enthusiasts the world over thanks to it having one of the last remaining examples of a wooden Wild Mouse. The classic coaster, manufactured in 1962 by Hopkins & Pearce, was beloved of all except those who had to maintain it; enthusiasts in particular were unanimous in their praise for a top notch ride that delivered lap after lap. Sadly increasing costs and insurance requirements resulted in its closure and disassembly in 2016. Today portions of the track and support structure remain in open storage in a field behind the park, a sad end for what was one of my favourite coasters in Australia.

Squeak

Last year the park was granted a development permit for seven new rides, including a steel mouse that will almost certainly be sourced from Zamperla. That said, as of this writing the sole coaster is Bug Run (#2407), an elaborately themed but fundamentally standard Wacky Worm. Those who don't count credits may legitimately wonder whether the place is worth the two hour drive from the major theme parks and Surfers Paradise. The answer to that question is an unequivocal and resounding yes; though it lacks the headline attractions of the big names the place nevertheless holds its own with an interesting mix of equipment and friendly staff who give it the feel of a family business rather than a large corporate. One of the staff told us that there were eight hundred people in the park today, a tiny fraction of what would be seen further south.

With the tick out of the way Megan decided to head for Redback, the Australian premiere of the Zamperla Disk'O (and somewhat larger arachnid) that was one of two new rides added to the park in 2011. The hardware was delivered in a particularly attractive red and black colour scheme that the owners subsequently decided to retrofit with a huge painted spiderweb and a canopy over the boarding platform, the latter presumably coming as a enormous relief to the operators on sunny days. I decided against riding myself due to slight indigestion, though I'm told that the ride cycle was enjoyable if not particularly noteworthy.

The oldest attraction in the park is a portable Ferris Wheel dating from 1966 that spent the first three decades of its life touring. It is quite a large machine for its time, with space for twenty-four cars (though a number were absent today, presumably for maintenance reasons). Each is covered in a wire frame with holes for would-be photographers to poke camera lenses through, and we made the most of the opportunity. The recent demise of the Wild Mouse made me wonder whether this ride might be on borrowed time too, though it appears that it is safe for the present, as it was put through a comprehensive overhaul in early 2016 that should allow it to continue servicing guests for many years to come. We also made our way up the Giant Slide, again primarily for overhead shots.

Our next stop was at Professor Bogglesworth's Illusionarium, a walkthrough with a wonderfully creative backstory centered around Scrigglers, which the official web site defines as a species of "pesky critter"; readers who feel so inclined can research an alternative definition for the term on Urban Dictionary (though don't do that at work). These creatures are being chased across the multiverse by Reboot the Android (apparently of the robotic rather than telephonic persuasion), leading to mayhem and entertainment. In more mundane terms the experience involves a series of optical illusions, a mirror maze, a vortex tunnel, and rooms full of coloured lights made more fun by special glasses. The experience was quite low capacity but worth waiting for; those visiting the park on busier days should think about heading there first to beat the queues.

Our final port of call was at Mayhem Maze, a short but extremely well done horror walkthrough with a live actor dressed as a slightly demented clown. The intensity level of the experience was set surprisingly high for a family park, to the point that we saw a number of visitors bailing out after just one room.

Mayhem Maze

 

Dreamworld

11th January 2018

The accident that took the lives of four people at Dreamworld in October 2016 made headline news around the world, entirely disproving the old adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity. The park was closed entirely for six weeks in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and its various thrill rides remained closed for months as each was put through a comprehensive safety review. Today it was very evident that we were visiting a park that remains in recovery mode; the Rocky Hollow Log Ride was not operational, and the area surrounding the decommissioned Thunder River Rapids was blocked off behind metal sheeting.

We decided to begin our visit with Buzzsaw (#2408), now the only attraction in what was and is still (technically) the themed town of Gold Rush. The only Maurer Rides SkyLoop in the southern hemisphere has been installed adjacent to the car park, and it certainly looks impressive. Unfortunately the onboard experience is not good, especially when compared to the similar footprint ride installed at the park up the road just three months later. The programme starts with an extremely unsettling inversion that is more terrifying than fun, and continues with a drop that would be fairly decent were it not for the side-to-side shuffle experienced as the train approaches full speed. The backward and forward drops that follow both deliver passable airtime, but they are quickly forgotten as the train engages the stop mechanism with a brutality akin to a collision with a brick wall. Once was more than enough.

The highlight of our day was always going to be the magnificent Giant Drop, which today had a ten minute wait. While standing in line I found myself thinking about my favourite amusement rides in Australia, and in particular how we were queuing for what is now the only entry from Dreamworld in my personal top ten, indicating a once proud park that was stagnating even before the accident. The western side of the tower was out of use today, apparently for maintenance reasons though likely also at least in part to avoid giving visitors a birds-eye view of the closed off area. The eastern side was running perfectly, though, and I could easily have spent the balance of the day riding over and over again.

There were other things on the list, however. We had intended to skip over Mick Doohan's Motocoaster but decided to give it a go when we spotted that it only had a one train wait. This cost us several minutes of our lives that we'll never get back; the ride was slow, the train rattled a lot, and the seating position was uncomfortable. The restraint design wasn't as bad as it might have been, though it still required quite a bit of contortion to climb on board. I've since learned that the ride came second last in a respected enthusiast poll some years ago, and while that rating is perhaps a little harsh it nevertheless reflects the fact that Intamin's motorcycle coaster design is not one of their finer product offerings.

Big Red Car

Megan had been talking excitedly about renewing her acquaintance with the Big Red Car dark ride from the day that we'd booked our trip to Australia, making it a vital (and quite possibly critical) hit that I decided to endure in the interests of a peaceful life. The one memorable portion of the experience was when we were asked to wake up Jeff by yelling at top volume, which earned us an enthusiastic thank you followed by a cheerful song. This seemed more than a little unrealistic; we'd have expected such cruelty to induce a murderous rage. (Personally I feel that placing all those even peripherally involved in the creation of The Wiggles into a Hunger Games-style contest would arguably benefit humanity as a whole. But I digress.)

The ride once known as Cyclone was re-themed into Hot Wheels Sidewinder at the end of 2015, and as part of the change it was given a new Vekoma train with soft vest restraints and onboard audio. The latter was out of service today, though that was actually a fringe benefit as it allowed us to fully appreciate a wide range of exceptionally colourful metaphors courtesy of James in the car behind. The lack of rigid overhead harnesses makes the ride marginally less uncomfortable than it used to be, but it still has a number of decidedly suspect moments, not least the climb out after the first drop which features a sharp left turn that looks every bit as painful as it is.

I decided to keep my feet on the ground while James and Megan went for quick flight on Tail Spin, a Gerstlauer Sky Fly that was under maintenance on our last visit to the park in 2015. They both ended up in middle seats, and neither of them managed to flip their cars, apparently because it's far easier to catch the wind in the front row. Megan subsequently described her ride as a total failure, and she's determined to practice over the next few years to avoid a repeat.

With that done we finished out our day with three circuits on the Tower of Terror II, once in the back and twice in the front. The car was only making it about half way up the tower today, but the floating airtime was still great, and I really enjoyed the incredible noise of the launch mechanism (though I do appreciate that it probably gets old for those who work at the park). One wonders whether it might be possible to retrofit this ride with a more modern propulsion system to allow it to reliably reach maximum height; personally I'd love the opportunity to experience Tower of Terror III at some stage.