Over the years I have learned that it’s generally a good idea to verify promotional discounts found on third party and deal-of-the-day websites. Unless you’re dealing with big names like Groupon or LivingSocial, it’s wise to err on the side of caution and make sure the business for which you intend to purchase discount tickets has actually endorsed said tickets. There are quite a few advertisements out there that are, in fact, too good to be true.
Hence, my first direct encounter with Adventure World was ringing them one morning to inquire if the Scoopon deal I had seen online for $41.00 all day passes (a $13.00 savings over the gate price) was valid. I keyed in enough numbers to take up nearly half the screen of the cordless phone and waited for the miracle of long distance telecommunications technology to do its thing.
“Adventure World! How may I help?” answered a male voice, its chipper tone discernible even from 15,000 kilometers away. I asked my question.
“Eh, Scoopon? Yeah, we take those!” he said exuberantly. “Now, just be sure you print it out and bring it with you to the main gate. We can’t accept it if it’s on a mobile device, just so you’re aware.”
I got the distinct impression I could have asked this man about the chemical composition of margarine or the digestive patterns of freshwater slugs and he would have been no less enthusiastic than he was now.
I thanked him for the information and he cheerfully thanked me for calling and wished me a great day.
I clicked off the phone thinking two things: 1) No wonder Richard lets Australian Karen misguide him on his GPS; surely there’s no way anyone could remain annoyed at that accent no matter how many times it chirps out “recalculating” after directing you to roads that don’t actually exist* and 2) What a super duper rockin’ incredibly nice friendly guy.
*Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we in the biz call “foreshadowing.”
That super duper rockin’ incredibly nice friendly guy was only the beginning.
I had always imagined Perth as the absolute worst place where a coaster enthusiast could live, apart from maybe, oh, Antarctica. Perth is the most remote city in the world. Its closest urban neighbor, Adelaide, is a three hour flight away. Now granted, such isolation combined with the existence of just two permanent roller coasters in the entirety of Western Australia does not exactly lend itself as a breeding ground for enthusiasts.
This is a crying shame.
Not because the world needs more coaster enthusiasts. (Ugh! Can you imagine the horror?)
But because if Adventure World is an indication of how Perth can run an amusement park, then it is our loss that there aren’t more of them, no matter how many hours of sitting in a cramped 777 subsisting on inedible Emirates meals it would take to reach them.
Let me be blunt: I love this park. I love this park in a way that is bound to get pelted with accusations that will try to unmask some sort of ego ballooning motive behind my statements. And that’s okay. I mean, it’s just a kiddie coaster and a Euro-Fighter, right? What could possibly be so great about that? Yeah, yeah, here we go again, another coaster enthusiast spewing exaggerations just to make the rest of us envious that we haven’t been there.
You know how it goes. The fewer enthusiasts who have visited a place/ridden a coaster, the more hyped the ratings tend to be. Coasters that are reasonably decent are morphed a slurry of superlatives usually containing such descriptors as “insane” and “Schwarzkopf” while a slight knock or two to the head from a lesser ride becomes cranial trauma of unprecedented proportions. Such exaggeration is self-serving: Look where I’ve traveled. I have been there, you have not. I’m one of a handful who have experienced this, and I want you to know it, so here’s an extravagant description to remind you what you’re missing. I did something different. Therefore I’m special. Remoteness breeds bragging, where bragging is disguised as dramatic adulation or derision.
So I can understand why my strong opinions over this small, seemingly inconsequential park in the most isolated city in the world may be met with skepticism.
But when I say that I would choose living nearby Adventure World over your average Six Flags park, I’m not saying it to be a pretentious hipster asshole intent on belittling the mainstream.
I’m saying it because I mean it, and if you’ll walk with me through these gates, I’ll try and show you why.
As I mentioned, we’d bought discount tickets from Scoopon, which we swapped for wristbands at the gate in an exchange both expedient and pleasant. Entering the park, we began mentally mapping our plan of attack. To do this most effectively, we naturally sought out the nearest…
Wait, who reads…why…I don’t…
Why are there newspapers at an amusement park? Is this an Australian thing?
Yes. Yes, now I see.
Adventure World’s entry area is devoid of grandiose focal points: no castle (well, not anymore), no carousel, no fountain, no main street, no whimsical topiaries. Instead there is…a lawn.
Just that. A lawn. You know, grass. Some trees. A pool down the way. It’s like walking into your backyard.
It doesn’t seem like much of an opening statement, except it is because it captures exactly the essence of this place.
Adventure World is not a park where shirts and shoes are required to ride; where bearers of homemade food either slouch in camp chairs atop baking blacktop or are pointed toward splintered, unshaded picnic tables outside the gate; where the decision of whether or not to ride risks hinging on having enough change handy to hire a locker for loose articles.
It is a park for spreading a blanket in the shade, grabbing a soda from your cooler, kicking off your sandals, sitting back, and unfolding that newspaper you picked up on the way in.
(That is, of course, if your kids don’t pull you beneath the monstrous dumping bucket of the splash structure. Which they most assuredly will. Multiple times. So they can giggle. And you can shiver and wonder how many more years they will find this so entertaining. Because parenting. There was a lot of such parenting going on in this area.)
But seriously, the first thing that really grabbed my attention about this park was just how much green space there was. Adventure World is very much a place that encourages spending the whole day, but they don’t do it by cramming the place with enough adrenaline pumping stimuli to keep even the most ADD-addled brains entertained. Instead, they invite you to bring your own coolers, chairs—even tents (and if you don’t have your own, there are several park-provided canopies dotting the lawns). Sure, they have rides and slides—but if you’d rather just hang out and chill, there’s nothing stopping you from settling in and enjoying a lazy afternoon.
At the center of it all is this massive swimming pool, and this—to me, at least—made the whole setting very reminiscent of summer afternoons at the community pool or family gatherings at my grandparents’ house.
Even some spots on the surrounding grass were well worn from hundreds of bare feet tramping back and forth. It all had a very homey, laid-back feel to it that emitted a very warm and welcoming vibe.
Anyway, I’m guessing you probably want me to shut up already about lawns and talk about this, right?
Well, just in case you were worried my fondness for Adventure World would turn this entire post into a prattling, rose-colored rhapsody, I’ll put it out there now: I went for the Excedrin after my first ride on this.
And yes, it pains me to say that…but not as much as the headache that plagued me the next 36 hours after riding.
Let’s at least start with the positives: The ride is well themed, starting with this “guardian” patrolling the height check.
All around the base of the ride are these hooded grim reapers.
And there are plenty more to guide you toward the station. The station exterior could stand some improvement over the corrugated-tin-warehouse-with-2D-mock-stone-corners look, but if the other rides around the park are any indication (and more on this in a bit), I say it’s only a matter of time before this gets its due.
The safety announcement video played inside the station also kept in character, so to speak. Never have preexisting back and neck conditions sounded so sinister—a deep, menacing voice growled out the usual spiel as shadowy figures drifted within misty darkness on the screen.
Even the souvenirs go a few steps beyond the norm (you’ve gotta admit, this is creative and a lot more useful than yet another t-shirt).
I read in an issue of First Drop that the “abyss” theme was chosen due to its flexible interpretation and timelessness. I give nothing but kudos to the park for this, for this is something whose storyline isn’t dependent on renewing a license every few years and then spending money to rip out the theming and redo it as characters and brands become obsolete or the license expires (coughSixFlagscough).
Common sense also prevails here, where the park thought to demarcate separate front and back row queues. It’s a little thing, but I’ve always appreciated the freedom to choose my seat. We chose the front row for our first ride.
Back when we were first planning this trip in November, I watched a load of POV videos, most of which I’d completely forgotten by the time February rolled around. This was good. It meant that I was caught totally off guard as the car slowly rolled out of the station into the enclosed pre-lift section. “Welcome to: the ABYSS” rumbled an ominously deep voice, and, right on cue, the hissing of the final syllable mutated into a medley of screams (including an unintended “oh whoa!” from yours truly) as the train abruptly pitched forward and dropped sharply. The track was black, the room was dark—for the first time rider, there was no way to detect that move ahead of time. Brilliant.
A slow in-line twist with plenty of hang time followed and the train emerged outside at the base of the lift.
So far, so good.
The vertical lift was unsettling, as it always is on a Euro-Fighter. The drop was quick, brisk, and ass-lifting, as always. My photo of the lift came out crooked, as always.
It wasn’t until exiting the second inversion that it started to unravel, beginning with a hard yank that delivered a mild flogging to the temples. I winced as the first pings of a headache began teasing me.
But the overbanked turn was (thankfully) taken with more grace.
And then a marvelous thing happened.
You know how great airtime hills are? You know how great headchoppers are? You know how absolutely genius it is when you combine the two?
Yeah, so someone on the design team decided to place the peak of an airtime hill beneath the midcourse block. Like, really, reeeeeally close beneath the midcourse block. This person deserves to be showered with puppies and ice cream because OH MY GOD WOW.
By this point in the ride, the train is plowing along at a considerable clip. There’s not much time to react, let alone anticipate, the shock of shooting up that hill, feeling your rear eject from the seat and suddenly seeing some steel bars about to give a whole new meaning to the term “face time.” This was the part that generated the most screams. This was the part where any hands in the air quickly found their way back to the grab handles.
Of course, you dive at seemingly the last second. The whole thing—up, ohshit, down—is just two seconds, but it’s two seconds where speed and agility combine to maximize the shock value of an optical illusion.
It’s like a sound bite advertisement for a Euro-Fighter.
Unfortunately, the next bit was like a segment from a 60 Minutes exposé.
The train’s next move was an upward turn to the midcourse block, where I yelped in pain.
I have never done this on a coaster before.
Let me be clear about this. When I say that I yelped, I don’t mean the theatrical grunts and expletives that often accompany a ride on something like an SLC—in other words, the noises we (usually) deliberately make to, er…enhance the ride experience. I mean that I yelped like my dog Zoe did that time I accidentally stepped on her paw, which is to say that I did it involuntarily because I wasn’t expecting what I can only describe as laterals of all the wrong sorts that got my head in all the wrong places.
The car careened off the block, although my throbbing skull left me a little distracted and not exactly looking forward to the third inversion. I focused instead on bracing…
…which was wise, because this final turn into the brakes was just as loaded with nasty yanks and jolts as the one up to the midcourse.
We exited and neither of us was in any hurry to rejoin the queue. I took some painkillers for the headache that I knew would destroy my afternoon if I didn’t, but I still spent the rest of the day (and indeed, most of the next) with residual pangs popping up here and there like a Whac-A-Mole game.
So what went wrong?
We eventually came back for more rides in the afternoon, racking up a total of five for the whole day. This means that you’re probably thinking I have no one to blame for that headache but myself. You are correct. Yet both of us felt that we couldn’t travel all the way here and ride the star attraction only once. I wanted to dissect it and really get a feel for it. It didn’t seem fair to write it off after just one ride.
So, five rides later, here is what I learned:
- The back row gave a smoother ride than the front. Don’t know why, but this seems to be a common Euro-Fighter thing, at least in my experience.
- Once I knew what to expect, some tactical defensive riding enabled far more tolerable rides. Yet I wouldn’t go so far as to say the experience could be classified as pleasant.
- Except for that airtime hill. Oh lordy lordy, that airtime hill.
- It wasn’t just my jaded enthusiast self who noticed the headbanging. One girl in the queue was warning her friend that she had to keep her head back because otherwise, “your head will go like this,” she said, demonstrating some moves that appeared to be inspired from Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” music video.
- The layout is really well done. It has elements of surprise, a varied and interesting set of inversions, disorienting directional changes, and it capitalizes on every inch of its compact footprint.
- That. Airtime. Hill.
- The ride has superb pacing. It never lets up in terms of speed. You really get a sense of this observing it from the ground—the car just relentlessly barrels along the course, quick and crisp and adroit. It’s quite fun to watch.
- Which means that airtime hill is breathtaking every single time, just in case I hadn’t mentioned it.
And yet, therein seems to lie the problem.
That evening, Richard posted to parkz.com.au about our disappointing Abyss experience. In a rare example of candid communication between the higher ups and their guests, Mark Shaw, Adventure World’s general manager, responded. The jolts, he said, occur when the coaster is running close to maximum speed. The steel starts to bend above 40°C and therefore Gerstlauer’s formal recommendation is to close the coaster if the mercury rises higher than that.
In other words, the warmer it is, the faster it runs, which means it’s going to take the turns more recklessly than is optimal. The temperature that day was in the mid thirties. As such, I am hopeful that the heat may have been the major factor in our eventual conclusion that Abyss—sadly—just isn’t that rerideable.
So I’d certainly be willing to give it another shot in the future because I honestly feel like a class one beeyotch for trashing Adventure World’s top attraction. I really do.
After that first ride, we recovered with a breakfast of champions: French fries (me) and sushi (Richard) before heading for the kiddie coaster.
Which brings me to the next reason why this park is so great: the elaborate theming of their children’s area.
When Richard first visited Adventure World in 2008, the children’s area was known as “Kids Cove.” It has since been expanded and turned into “Dragon’s Kingdom,” complete with an original back story about a lovable dragon named Yarli and his sister Yarlotte. (Their website encourages reading it to kids as a bedtime story, which is a pretty darn terrific way to get kids excited about their visit.)
None of the rides here are buy ‘n plop off-the-shelf models. Rather, they are cleverly themed to the characters, like this Frog Hopper made to look like Yarli is hoisting himself up the castle tower to visit Yarlotte.
Attention to detail is evident everywhere, from large scale scenery pieces…
…to the way the park made a seemingly vacant patch of trees…
…into a miniature world of its own.
The entire package makes it feel like you’re walking through a fairy tale.
Although I can’t say as though this is my definition of happily ever after.
I am fairly certain that the creators of the Zamperla 80STD were on a mission to make kids hate roller coasters (actually, when you consider the likes of the Volare and the Coney Island Thunderbolt, I’m also fairly certain those same creators decided to turn this into a lifelong mission).
Let me put it this way: even the ride operator warned everyone that Dragon Express was rough.
This was not exactly a shining endorsement, especially coming from a representative of the park itself. In this case, her cautionary words were not those of a teenager trying to deflect would-be riders in the interest of remaining in sedentary texting mode. She merely wanted us to realize that holding on tight was pretty much our only chance at emerging with as little bruising as possible (okay, she didn’t say it in quite so many words, but what she did say sounded so cheerful that it almost made the prospect of imminent injury seem just super duper).
Of course, such advice can only go so far when you are six foot two. To borrow one of Richard’s favorite phrases, this coaster rode like a shopping trolley that’s missing a wheel rolling over cobblestones during an earthquake.
I use Richard’s phrase because I think it’s the best way to honor someone whose knees were totally obliterated after our ride, their skin red, deeply furrowed, and of great amusement to me.
Here’s hoping Adventure World hatches something better on this spot someday.
Adjacent to Yarli and friends was the Aussie Wildlife Experience.
We ventured in and were heading down a sloped path, when all of a sudden: “Hello there! How are you?”
The voice was not exactly next to us, but still close enough that I turned. There, standing at the kiddie jeep ride across the way, was a ride operator. It didn’t dawn on me until I realized there was no one else in the immediate vicinity that he was talking to us.
Now, you have to realize that separating us was a fence, a line of trees, a path and part of the queue for the jeeps. He didn’t have to greet us. In fact, given the distance, he probably had to raise his voice considerably to do it. He went out of his way to make the effort, but this wasn’t some rote enactment of corporate culture just because the boss was watching. He wasn’t done yet.
“Do you guys wanna ride?”
Wait. You’re asking us, two fully grown adults, if we want to ride a children’s jeep ride? Seriously?
So we left one safari for another, but we didn’t get very far on this one either because the power supply chose that moment to go on the fritz. With apologies as upbeat as his invitation to ride, the ride op told us he’d let us know when it was back up and running.
Back to the animals we went, and…well, it was about what you’d expect, right down to the didgeridoos sounding from hidden speakers and animals turning away the second you aimed a camera at them.
There were koalas…
…and, of course, kangaroos.
Richard eventually called to me that the jeeps were running. I turned to leave, then stopped dead in my tracks. My eyes widened.
It was Hampton!
Last December, the time came to send my 13 year old English springer spaniel, Hampton, to the Rainbow Bridge following a gradual but steady decline from Cushing’s disease complications. Anyone who has loved an animal knows how devastating that moment is. I cried so much that I’m pretty sure I bruised an eye and facilitated an increase in the stock value of Kleenex.
But that kangaroo, with his “disdainful expression and lackadaisical pose,” as Richard so eloquently put it (Hampton could be quite the grumpy old man), made me wonder if this was my dog reincarnated (okay, well not seriously because this kangaroo was clearly born before last December, but you know what I mean).
And that made me smile.
(And then cry some more as I wrote this section. But anyway.)
With Yarli finally ready to join us on safari, we set off.
Yarli’s Safari was both fun and educational:
Fun because how could any ride that involves toot-tooting a jolly little horn in a pimpin’ zebra striped bubble gum pink jeep that’s cruising around a flamboyant blue dragon not be fun?
Educational because it teaches kids practical life lessons, such as that speed limits need only be obeyed in the presence of law enforcement,
See, anywhere else this would be considered theming, but this is Australia, so I’m pretty sure that’s a legitimate warning.
It was about this time that the pool was really starting to look appealing. Considering that the temperature in perpetually-cloudy-Dublin when we left was hovering just above freezing, Perth’s sunny skies and 30+ degree dry heat were kind of a shock to the system.
I oh-so-casually mentioned to my favorite hydrophobic Irishman that it sure would be lovely to dip our toes in the water later.
He gave me a look that suggested I’d just asked if we could pedal a red sleigh past some dinosaurs and a shack offering Golden Gaytimes.
Although this could have been because we approached a ride that required us to pedal a red sleigh past some dinosaurs and a shack offering Golden Gaytimes. I dunno.
Rail Rider is a self-propelled pedal ride. The course is actually quite long…
…even going so far as to travel outside the park perimeter—that’s the orange track you saw in the photograph of the entrance.
If nothing else, Rail Rider is good for overhead shots.
And yes, it does travel above Dinosaur Island, sometimes referred to by its other name, Not A $5 Upcharge That Closes In The Rain Despite It Being A Walkthrough Attraction.
And yes, it does pass by the Surf Shack, which sells Streets brand ice cream treats…
…who make these. So no, I did not actually make that up.
Our route next took us down the front end of the park, which we’d initially bypassed in favor of Abyss.
What did the pirate say when he turned eighty?
The theme of self propelled rides continued with bumper boats…
…paddle boats (although they looked decidedly closed today)…
…and go karts.
The latter even came equipped with shaded stadium seating and a viewing deck.
And what a view.
Indeed, all morning long, Richard had kept remarking how much better the park looked compared to his first visit in 2008. Later that evening, he set his past photos side by side to the ones he’d taken that day and it was like watching some extreme makeover montage. The only thing missing was that Jill Sobule “Supermodel” song they play in Clueless.
Remember how I said earlier that I’d bet it’s only a matter of time before Abyss‘s station gets an upgrade?
Rampage went from being an Ikea colored and equally minimalist (Moser) Maverick…
…to a raging minotaur intent on churning his victims’ stomachs and inner ear equilibrium into a queasy entanglement more disorienting than the Labyrinth (on which he succeeded quite admirably when some poor guy projectile vomited on it later that afternoon, literally dousing both my opportunity and desire to ride it!).
What was once an off-the-shelf Zamperla Power Surge in both name and color scheme…
…has been morphed into the Black Widow, featuring not only a new paint job and what I presume is a small to average sized Australian spider to go with it, but also a soundtrack.
Yes, really. While Richard and I were getting all paparazzi over Abyss, we were momentarily puzzled as to where this jaunty children’s singsong rendition of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” was coming from.
The arachnid themed soundtrack ranged from cutesy to the truly horrifying: later, I heard Iggy Azalea’s and Rita Ora’s “Black Widow.”
From faded and drab…
…to vibrant and revitalized. It’s as though the park were a manuscript, with the earlier photos showing the first draft and the present ones showing the published edition, which is why I suspect they’ll eventually take the proverbial red pen to Abyss‘s station.
It’s clear Adventure World takes presentation very seriously, and while I’m sure an argument could be made to the contrary—after all, if it was so important, why didn’t they do it right the first time around?—I’d put it to you that budgeting is invariably different here than at a corporate theme park.
Get the ride open first, bring people in, then use the revenue to theme later. At least, that’s how I’d approach it.
Or, you know, invest some capital in upping the quality of the basics, like food. They do that, too. From Mark Shaw, as posted on parkz.com.au:
I was excited when I read this. I had the chicken Caesar salad for lunch, and the dressing…well, let’s just say that Richard laughed uproariously when I said with complete seriousness that I was worried the dressing might be fat free (apparently women don’t generally say this kind of thing?). You know how reduced fat dressings make up for the lack of flavor by adding sugar so that the result is this cloyingly artificial, watery swill?
I’m not saying it was fat free, but it sure seemed inspired by something similar.
So yeah, I’m not too thrilled at having paid something like $11 to eat dry lettuce, but when I think of the cardboard covered gristle that has lasted long enough to make “Flags Famous Chicken Strips” famous for all the wrong reasons, I realize with Mark’s post that this is a park that recognizes the importance of making its food appealing to more than just scavenging seagulls. They understand priorities: at the end of the day, a flashy attraction is not going to quell a growling stomach.
And nobody likes feeling like a hangry T-Rex.
So, speaking of food.
German fairs have lots of food.
Now, if Adventure World was as amenable to importing some German fair food items as they were with this, they might really be onto something. Ahem.
Adventure World’s new for 2009 toy was Freefall, a Huss Shot’n Drop tower that made many appearances at European fairs under the ownership of Michael Goetzke.
It came at the expense of Turbo Mountain, a customized Schwarzkopf Jet Star II that once stood on this spot. Turbo Mountain also began life on the fair circuit before establishing permanent Australian residency (first at Luna Park Sydney before arriving at Adventure World in 1991), but sadly, it has now gone to that great big midway in the sky.
And while it may not be on the same level as a classic Schwarzkopf (sometimes it’s a few levels above, other times a few below) Adventure World, being AWesome, milked their new addition for all it was worth:
They decided to put it on a hill.
Which was good, because it was more scenic than thrilling. To me, at least. The macho looking guy next to me who turned into a shrieking six year old girl probably thought otherwise.
The ride cycle consisted of three skyward launches and one drop that were, if not particularly powerful, at least smooth and pleasant. The ride operator seemed to take special delight in drawing out the time between upward launches. She sat in the control booth where she appeared to be doing paperwork. As the car settled, she’d take a few seconds to write before looking up. Then she’d grin at us and reach over to send us up again.
Richard tells me that she couldn’t have been doing this because the ride program is all automatic, but it honestly looked like she was controlling it. Either way—whether she was actually teasing us or knew the cycle so well she could pretend as such—it did provide those delicious seconds of suspense so integral to the drop tower experience.
Then again, maybe she was still in a festive mood from taking the time to make one child feel very important by wishing him a very happy seventh birthday over the ride’s PA system for the entire midway to hear :)
Said festive mood prevailed when we reached the hill’s summit, where the chairlift operator practically threw us a party upon our arrival: “ALL RIGHT, GUYS! WOOO! CONGRATULATIONS ON MAKING IT UP HERE!!”
Amidst the imaginary confetti and the din of noisemakers, he invited us to take in the view as a reward for a physical feat that apparently only a few accomplish. Indeed, given the hill’s steepness, I suspect the majority of foot traffic comes from departing sky ride guests who opt to ride up and walk down, not the other way around.
He picked up on our accents immediately, which predictably led to chatting about travel and even more predictably about how far away Australia is from everything and still more predictably about how long it takes to get there from anywhere and how long it takes to get anywhere from there.
This segued nicely into the recommendation he made as he locked the restraint.
“Alright, it takes about three months to get down the hill, so make sure you’re comfortable and have enough food!”
And with that we were off.
Well, actually, we kept talking with him because it took awhile before we were out of hearing range. But eventually we were off, in a slow, creaky, Grandpa-Simpson-chasing-that-turtle-who-stole-his-dentures kind of way.
I’m serious. This thing took longer to get to the end than a Peter Jackson film.
(Now I understand why Yarli has aged about 70 years on the ride sign.)
We passed the time taking photos. Lots of photos. Lots and lots and lots of photos.
(Which you’d think I’d be able to center and focus given that we might as well have been standing still, but no. Seriously, what even is this?)
Hell, I probably could have drawn the surrounding scenery if I’d wanted.
The pool came into view again.
I thought again how we were the only people in the park not wearing bathing suits.
(Really. I honestly don’t think I saw anyone without one, even on the dry rides.)
I not-as-casually-as-before mentioned to Richard that it sure would be lovely to dip our feet in that water later.
He gave me a look that suggested he had seen a sign quoting the chairlift’s maximum speed as 1.2 meters a second.
Although that could have been because there was actually a sign in the downhill station quoting the chairlift’s maximum speed as 1.2 meters a second. Or maybe it was 1.8. I probably should have taken a photo of this, but we were too busy chatting with the ride operator, who was asking us about our favorite rides and how our day was going. I’m sure if we’d been younger she would have praised us on our bravery for conquering Abyss like she did with the eight year old boy in front of us (how do I know he was eight? She asked him, of course. And he was one proud eight year old after she complimented his bravery, that’s for sure).
But the idea stayed with me the rest of the day.
It stayed with me as I looked down upon the Abyss dudes sweating it out in their robes as the chairlift crawled back up the hill for its return journey, a musing interrupted only when the voice of the hilltop ride operator bellowed out like he was auditioning for a Ricola commercial each time he welcomed an incoming gondola.
It stayed with me as we watched a wipeout or two on the water slides.
And it stayed with me as we relaxed at this secluded patio, which we originally sought as a quiet spot away from the sun to eat lunch. Yet forty minutes later, long after I’d managed to work my way through that Caesar salad, we were still there, just sitting.
Which was very, very strange.
If there is one thing that Richard and I lack the ability to do, it is to just relax in a park, and I’m sure we’re not alone in this. Enthusiasts, you know that when your trips are scheduled around racking up as many credits as possible (and trying to work in some classic touristy stuff while you’re at it because hey, you never know when or even if you’ll be back someday), downtime can seem like wasted time. I, for one, often feel like I need a vacation after my vacation. Accordingly, a typical amusement park experience for us is one of constant motion. We don’t stop to sit on a bench when there are only so many hours to soak up as many experiences as possible. Besides, the sensory overload in larger parks makes relaxing about as easy as trying to fall asleep with a jackhammer cannonading outside your window.
But here, there was no pressure. Granted, it was a small park and we had done what we wanted, but still, we made no move to exit and seek novelty elsewhere, as we might normally have done at this stage in the game.
Instead, we continued to let the breeze cool us off as we watched giddy kids take to the slides of the splash structure and admired the deluge created every few minutes by the tipping bucket.
And I took a sip of water and thought about how the girl who took our lunch order asked if I’d like her to dispose of my previous bottle, which so took me by surprise I had to ask her to repeat herself.
And I thought of how the teens in line with us for Abyss had come to our “defense” when the ride op went looking for a pair to fill some empty seats by making damn sure she knew we were ahead of them so we’d get first pick.
And I thought of how after every ride, that same operator smiled and thanked us for riding as she shined a flashlight into the Ikea wicker basket used to collect loose articles so that we could see what was ours in the dimly lit station.
And I gazed out upon the lawn, which had taken on the look of Seurat’s famous La Grande Jatt painting (albeit a more scantily clad version) as the mid afternoon heat had sent dozens of families to the shade where they sat on the grass or lounged supine on towels as relaxed as…as…well…
And I grinned as I thought of Hampton the kangaroo, and then my Hampton, who could relax anywhere (yes, that is the Coney Island Cyclone in the background. Yes, he managed to get comfortable for his ride on the Wonder Wheel—in a swinging car, no less. That dog took his repose very, very seriously).
I turned to Richard. “I really, really love this place,” I said. And this time he didn’t give me a funny look.
I knew we wouldn’t sustain this pace given the rest of the trip’s schedule. This isn’t one of those “how a seemingly trivial thing caused a major reevaluation of my life that I’ll describe with buzzwords like ‘existential’ and ‘meta’ and here’s a photo of a waterfall to make it all seem so deep and symbolic” things.
It’s just that Adventure World felt so different from other parks I’ve visited, and it was lovely to just absorb and fall in stride with its laid-back, welcoming, and ultra blithe vibe.
In the end, we did spend some time by the pool. Well, I did. Richard stood by and played the role of Good Natured, Tolerating Boyfriend.
He also took this photo where you can clearly see the spots I missed when applying sunscreen because over a quarter century on this planet apparently does not guarantee the wisdom to consider covering both knees with sunscreen instead of just one.
I sat at the edge, unwittingly deepening what would later be a superbly comical red blotch on my right knee, enjoying the late afternoon sun on my back but wishing I’d worn a bathing suit so I could do more than just swirl my feet around in the water.
Turns out what I was wearing was going to be my bathing suit, whether I liked it or not. I watched a young boy jump in a few feet away and paddle past me. The second I realized he had a friend intent on following him, I knew I was in trouble. Sure enough, the second boy launched himself into the water directly in front of me. This kid could not have chosen a better spot if he’d tried. I might as well have been sitting smack dab in the middle of the splash zone at a Shamu show.
Not that I minded, to be honest. The boy couldn’t have been older than six or seven and it was obvious he hadn’t done it intentionally, not to mention it was actually pretty refreshing. Richard hadn’t seen it because he’d wandered off. Shame. He missed out on a golden opportunity to poke fun at me.
The boy’s parents, however, had seen it. A few minutes later, a tiny, timid voice piped up beside me: “I’m sorry I splashed you.” I turned to face a countenance dripping as much bashfulness as his swim trunks were dripping water.
“Oh! That’s okay,” I replied. “That’s really nice of you to apologize. But don’t worry, I didn’t mind it, uh, it’s really hot out so it was refreshing!” I was blabbering, but that poor kid looked so nervous and I didn’t think it was appropriate to shout out, “HOLY SHIT, THERE IS SOME PARENTING GOING ON HERE, BLESS YOU AUSTRALIA!” He didn’t say anything else, just ran off, undoubtedly relieved to get away from this stranger who was now grinning like a goddamn fool.
If you’d told me that I was going to be perfectly satisfied that my day at Adventure World would end with me walking out the gate with big wet spots on my shorts that looked like I’d peed myself (I’m not kidding. I tied my jacket around my waist when we got dinner later. That’s how suspicious it looked!), I wouldn’t have believed you any more than I would have believed that we would wind up staying at the park until almost closing time.
Because remember, it’s just a kiddie coaster and a Euro-Fighter, right? What could possibly be so great about that?
(Okay, well, turns out not much.)
But when that kiddie coaster and Euro-Fighter are located in a park whose commitment to hospitality and presentation surpasses many of the bigger/more well known players in the industry, not even a headache or a bruised knee is enough to spoil the experience. Starting with that super duper rockin’ incredibly nice friendly guy on the phone, Adventure World was one reminder after another that the best parks are not always those with the most impressive ride rosters.
It was the intangible experience—that convivial atmosphere created by smiles, enthusiasm, and friendliness, all of it backed by that laid-back attitude that seems such a singularly Australian thing—that made Adventure World for us. Add to that its polished appearance, from vibrant theming to verdant landscaping, and it all culminated into one of the best park days we’ve ever had. That’s no small claim to make after partaking in this hobby for over twenty years.
If only it wasn’t so far away.
So even if you think I need to stfu already about this place (but hey, if you made it all the way to the end of this, then more power to you. No, I did not think this would be so long), that’s okay. I suppose all I can really do in this trip report is relate how our day went at a remote little park in Western Australia.
And we did, Adventure World, we did.
Well, that and encourage you to add a stop to Perth on your future Australia itinerary.
And maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll walk away with a big wet spot on your ass, too.