Alton Towers

13th June 2005

Something is wrong. It's not supposed to do that. Maybe it's just the operators playing around? No, they are all looking puzzled as well. Then I hear the announcement that Alton Towers' latest ride has broken down. I'm right at the front of the queue and the ride has broken down. Why did I leave this ride ‘til last? Why did I have to go to all the other rides before finally seeking out this one, the one with the longest waiting time?

I have been in Alton Towers for the whole day. Having booked into the Alton Towers Hotel early yesterday afternoon my girlfriend and I went to experience the Cariba Creek Hotel water park, including the 'legendary' Masterblaster; a water slide exclusively for hotel customers that actually propels you up hills. Flying along the ride for the first time I was inadvertently turned around half way, and as a result completely missed the camera flash at the end of the ride. With a little concentration I managed to control the rubber ring a bit more successfully and now have a photo of myself in swimming shorts with a big toothy smile, my eyes screwed up tight to keep out the water I am about to splash into.

After a great time at the water park, a delicious evening meal, a good night's sleep and a hefty breakfast we were ready to face the theme park proper. To start with we joined a queue on the outskirts of a forest on the hotel grounds. We waited for the staff to open the gate and check our pre-booked tickets, which allow us privileged few into the park an hour earlier than those who turn up at the front gates. One pleasant walk through the forest later and we were greeted by a member of staff who explained that the Air ride was experiencing some technical difficulties and would not be operating as soon as we got into the park, but he did provide us with a pass that we could use to queue-jump later.

Considering Air and Nemesis were the only rides that would actually be operating at this time in the morning we headed straight for Nemesis and actually spent a couple of minutes queuing so we could sit in the front row. The ride started and after slowly climbing an incline the ride looped and swung all around the track with our feet dangling freely below or above us depending on the bends of the track. We took a couple more rides on Nemesis before noticing Ripsaw had started – its two rows of seats suspended on rotating arms spinning round and round while the passengers pulled various expressions of joy and fear.

The park still hadn't opened yet and Air now had people strapped in as it flew around the track, so we headed for the queue. After a warm-up ride we waited patiently for the front seats again; turning round we noticed we were the only people on the ride, and then we were off. Before I left for my trip I was sure someone told me that Air was actually very gentle and was just like flying. This I found to be entirely false as the ride shot round with us strapped in horizontally, flying round loops that at times made you lose track of the track itself. Thoroughly satisfied with the Forbidden Valley section of the park (and starting to regret our hefty breakfast) we made our way into the Gloomy Wood and waited for the Duel ride, in what was the Ghost House, to open. This time the ghosts fight back – all the cars are equipped with Quasar-style laser guns to shoot sensors on the ghosts and spiders and everything else lurking in the house. At the end of this ride the photo also gives you your score, showing how many points you accrued. The addition of the laser guns has really made this ride a lot less relaxing, but it still isn't quite as disorientating as the park rollercoasters and I was very happy with my 55900 score compared to my girlfriend's 41100.

Most of the rest of the day was filled with us taking some friends round all the places we had already been, but we also made time for the Teacup ride, the Runaway mine train, the Log Flume (now sponsored by Imperial Leather), the Congo River Rapids and Hex, the story-based ride inside Alton Towers themselves. We also stopped for dinner at Pizza Hut part-way round.

We really had been all over the place but had somehow managed to skip out Ug Land entirely, including the newest addition to the park: Rita, Queen Of Speed. It is here where I have now queued for longer than anywhere else, and have sacrificed the opportunity to ride Corkscrew since the rides are now all closing for the day. This is where I am now waiting while the Alton Towers engineers are standing around trying to work out how to fix it. It's hot and memories of the long drive up here are starting to play on my mind now. A “sorry we can't fix it, please take these free passes to any other ride” just isn't going to cut it.

The anticipation has built up and the ride has been running all day, unoccupied and seemingly ok. Finally the ride is declared fixed and the first ride full of people (looking a little nervous) are sent on their way. A second group strap in and now I am sat next to my girlfriend, arms in the air, waiting for the ride to begin. The lights change to green and we are launched around the track at 100 (mph/kmph wasn't actually specified). Before we knew it the ride was over, but it was definitely worth the wait. I only regret not starting my Alton Towers adventure there.

Final thought: Rollercoasters are great.