Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
We left the car not long after 9:35 and headed straight to buy our tickets. The rain seemed to be lessening as we queued to buy Boulton’s tickets, disappointed by the signs stating that Spinball Whizzer was to be down all day “for essential maintenance”, and curious as to why the queue time displays were only prepared to give us the times when the Tweenies would be performing. It was around a 10 minute queue to get in, during which time I decided that putting my fleece on would be a good plan, and the unpleasantly tight bumbag was discarded, this led to a terrifying situation when I thought I’d lost my season ticket, before it turned up in some random pocket, anyway, at 9:45ish when went through the turnstiles and into Towers Street for visit 2 of 2004.
As we walked through the park, Boulton wanted to repeat the beginning of our last trip by starting with Teacups, but, after 2 minutes or so at the front of the queue, we were told that it wasn’t open until 10:00, so we continued our walk. The same opening time seemed to apply to Runaway Mine-Train, Rapids and The Flume: Unplugged, so it looked there would be no interruptions as we headed towards Forbidden Valley. Sadly, Duel was open, and after a bit of pestering and the handing over of a belated Easter egg, we walked through the queue line and onto the ride. The first thing I noticed was that it seemed a lot darker on the ride, but the next was much more annoying – my blaster wasn’t working properly and switched itself off repeatedly. Before long, I put it down and just watched the effects which were working (not all of them), and watched as Boulton’s score mounted up to a high of 70,000. We wandered out through the shop, and continued towards Forbidden Valley.
Here, Nemesis was our first stop, and I actually managed to get Boulton into the queue line for the first time surprisingly easily, considering how hard I had tried on previous visits. This was it; he walked through the entrance and through the line towards the end of the queue, which was on the bridge leading into the station. There was an interesting mixture of expressions on his face as he watched the barrel roll over his head, and the loop on our right, then entered the station. Being with a first timer, the middle of the train was the obvious choice, and, after less than 5 minutes in the queue, we climbed in.
Boulton showed surprisingly few nerves as he climbed the lift hill for the first time, looking down at the longer sections of the queue line beneath our feet, and the track surrounding us. He was fairly quiet as we went round the track, which was possibly more than could be said for me, shouting away as ever! We reached the brake run, and Boulton’s reaction was very similar to mine after my first go. “Is that it? I thought it would be better and more intense than that,” our photo was nothing special and we left in the direction of Air.
Walking down the single rider queue, we were stopped by a confused staff member, telling us that this wasn’t the queue line. I pointed out that it was, possibly nobody had informed her of the existence of single rider, and she let us carry on. We weren’t standing in the bay for very long at all, before being put together in bay 6 of the next train to enter the station. Having both been on Air before, this was a contrast to our last ride, if not as good. Falling whilst in the flying position still offers a great sensation of weightlessness, as does the first twist, so another good ride there. “Two roller coasters in half an hour,” Boulton was pleased to observe. We were less happy, however when the rain had started again as we left the air shop.
“Now for my rides,” a happy Boulton informed me, as he led the way to Katanga Canyon. Runaway Mine-Train’s queue looked boringly long, and Rapids was still not open, so it looked like the Flume was our next stop, stopping in Katanga Cookhouse on the way, as the rain became harder, and we decided it was time to swap fleeces for waterproofs (and I noticed the distinct lack of waterproof trousers L). Boulton was dancing to the happy music drifting in our direction almost as soon as we left Katanga Canyon and virtually walked through the entirety of the Flume’s queue line. We were at the front of our bath, with me right at the front, for optimum photography. We managed to stay relatively dry on the early stages of the ride, then entered Howard’s tunnel. More effects had been added there since opening day, it now looked more like something from Toyland Tours, but Howard seemed to have less light on him, meaning that my video of him didn’t work. Now that this happy meeting was over, it was onto the more unpleasant business of the last drop. We both got totally soaked as water poured in over the top of the boat and all over my legs. Dripping, but thankful that the power showers hadn’t been turned on, we wandered over to the dryer, where we ended up queuing, due to a combination of the ride and the weather. We didn’t have to pay though, as, strangely it turned itself on once we were inside. In excess of 5 minutes was spent leaning against red lights in here in an attempt to dry off. We were partly successful in this, and were a good bit dryer than we had been as we headed back to the Runaway Mine-Train queue. We stood around here for 15-20 minutes which was one or our longest of the day.
The ride seemed to be having some sort of problem once we got on. The front row was emptied, then closed off and we had to lift up our lab bars to be checked again. This resulted in a further five minutes of sitting around, before the ride got going. The camera was out again, for an improved on-ride video, which resulted in the standard bad picture, though Boulton’s wasn’t too bad.
Now it was back to Nemesis, but, although Boulton had a Fastrack ticket, the machine hadn’t worked for me so we both ended up in the 20 minute line, which was made longer by waiting for people with Fastrack tickets to be let through. However, this longer queue did mean a different angle to film from, and some better and longer Nemesis videos were made from viewpoints where nearly all of the track is visible, which Boulton was interested to see. At length, we went through the gate, and then into the station. We decided to queue for the front row as the queue was fairly short, and made more so because there were two free seats, so we jumped most of the queue for a second time. The rain seemed to stop again whilst we were on, though we did get dripped on by the lift hill. The ride was even better from the front, and this time Boulton could see what it was that makes it a world beating ride, though I forget his exact description.
We planned to head for the Meltdown for lunch, but with the Skyride “having temporary difficulties” (closed all day, as accurately translated by Boulton as soon as we arrived) we couldn’t face the walk, so our KFC and Pizza Hut was from Katanga Cookhouse, which was a nice place to keep dry, though the rain had lessened again for the time being. After a nice meal, it was time to hit the Rapids, another queue which was short due to the weather. We didn’t get as wet as on the Flume (thankfully) and it was the kid sharing our boat who was hit by the hosepipe, as well as the majority of the splashes. Both sides of the waterfalls were on, but Boulton (who seemed to enjoy getting soaked) leaned in the way, which provided a very effective shield for me, our picture was also reasonably good.
Now, our walk continued, but, as we stopped for a look at Spinball Whizzer (no sign of any essential maintenance going on), Boulton spotted the Beastie, and we ended up having a go, once we got past the ducks which were following us around Adventure Land. We had to queue almost 5 minutes for Beastie, and I can’t remember the last time I saw the whole queue line open! The view of Spinball Whizzer was good from the top and the ride was it’s usual self, the speed always takes me by surprise, but still rather rough, especially on the final turn. I like the new paintwork on it though, nice to see a bit of maintenance somewhere!
After a look at Spinball Whizzer, which was obviously the closest we would get to it until May, we continued towards X-Sector. Black Hole’s Fastrack seemed to be running smoothly, but adding gates in the areas were people in the queue are stopped would probably be a good idea! Here again, we were stalked by a duck, the population of which in Alton Towers seems to have increased considerably this year.
We waited here a few minutes before making our way through the cramped tunnel. We managed to get front seats, despite the couple in the bay behind trying to talk us into swapping with them. Boulton sat in front of me, which was annoying and the operative looked bored. The new effects were still good, but the ride was still rough, if quite good. Our photo wasn’t especially good, and we left towards Enterprise, which Boulton had lost, and needing directing into the queue line. The queue was over 15 minutes, and the people behind us were annoying, so I ended up making random films, and complaining that there wasn’t enough to watch in queues in the X-Sector compared to Forbidden Valley.
After a boring queue, we climbed into the first car we spotted, where Boulton was also surprised by the annoying new safety catches, managed to close the car ourselves and waited for the ride to start. An Enterprise on-ride video was filmed during the ride, and Boulton made random comments including “we’re spinning,” which led to great amusement, as our car was swinging as it spun, which was a little worrying. We left quickly once I managed to walk in a straight line, towards Submission.
The Submission queue was less than 10 minutes, once it had started moving, and the ride wasn’t too bad, as we decided to have a serious conversation on queue jumping, throughout the ride, which distracted me from the discomfort of the ride, which didn’t seem too bad, and provided some comedy, though it was hard to hear each other! Oblivion seemed to be having some problems, the queue, which was already 25 minutes long was moving very slowly, and cars were being dropped at very irregular intervals, and I didn’t want to risk us getting lost again, so I missed it out for the day, and headed towards Hex. The Hex queue looked boringly long, so we headed for Ug Land first. The Corkscrew queue was also unusually long, so the first stop was, unfortunately Ug Swinger. The queue was short, as we only waited for it once before climbing into Boulton’s least favourite seats, near some of my least favourite paintwork. Bone Shaker was still visible, but fenced off. After a bit of boring spinning, and an on-ride video, it was off to the 15 minute Corkscrew queue. The queue seemed to go reasonably quickly, but the operative wouldn’t let us wait for a front row seat, so we had to fill up some seats in the middle. It wasn’t too uncomfortable, and we tried (and failed) to get a decent picture of us. I kept my head forward, which saved my head, but was painful on my neck – you can’t win with Corkscrew!
Now it was back to Hex, where we waited a little over 5 minutes before walking through the turnstile. With the use of a flash camera, it was interesting to notice that the things on the walls which I thought were boarded up windows were actually portraits of people.
The video was the same as ever, the effects in the lightning room seemed to be shorter, and then onto the ride. We seemed to break down at first, as we moved slightly, then stopped, the music and lighting effects were flickering throughout, the music going off a few times, but the ride was the same as usual. We found ourselves talking to some random person who had just got off about walls spinning or something afterwards then lost him as we investigated Crux. After a few seconds of “welcome to the hotel of happiness,” we quickly made our way out of there. Judging from the signs, the queues in Forbidden Valley, where we now began the hike back to (still missing the Skyride). We stopped for a few minutes, for Boulton to throw on waterproof trousers, in preparation for Ripsaw, and the rain which was threatening to return. He met some other random friends briefly in Katanga Canyon, where he stopped to buy candyfloss before we continued to Air, as we were planning to do the rides in alphabetical order. For some strange reason, the single rider queue had shut 10 minutes earlier, so it was back to Blade. It was in the Blade queue when the rain when the heaviest shower of the day started. We got soaked in the 5 minute queue, then on the ride, where I ended up in the middle, in heavy rain, and about ready to go home. Having had experience of Nemesis in the rain (and agreeing with the queue line announcement telling us that the ride may be uncomfortable), I threw our alphabetical order plan out of the window, and waded towards the Ripsaw entrance for Boulton’s first experience of Ripsaw.
The queue was around 5 minutes again, due to the weather, and we decided to be unusual and sit at the front, for minimum soaking. The sequence was interesting, and the bits moving fast were fun, and better still, we stayed dry (except the rain), and decided to go round again. Sitting in a similar place after walking back through the queue, we got soaked, which wasn’t very helpful. With dripping legs, we wandered over towards Nemesis, as the rain started to move off again. It was still drizzling as we walked through the Nemesis queue line again, and into our seats in the middle of the train. It was good, and we still had over half an hour until ride close, so we went round again, and again. By the time I ran back for my 6th ride of the day, though the ride was still excellent now the rain had decided to as good as stop, I had lost my enthusiasm for getting good photos, and opted for the expressionless, after Boulton had said that ride number 5 was for a good photo. The photo involved me looking downright bored, but Boulton excited, so he bought the photo, after being requested to have no repeat rides. It was still 5 minutes from ride close, so (alone) I walked on for the third time in a row, had a random seat on row 7, for a last great ride of the day (Nemmy number 7), with my hands out behind me, for a change. Mine was to be the day’s penultimate train, and, as me and Boulton began the walk to the drop off point, through the drizzle, the music was stopped and Nemesis shut down. This was a slightly depressing sight, as we walked back through the emptying park (though the Flume was still running, without music), at the end of our April visit, which had been successful – except the weather, with a personal best Nemesis count.
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