The incomparable thrill of a rollercoaster is something that everyone has to experience at some point. Once you reach that long awaited height of 1.4m, it’s like crossing into an elite society of queuers. For me, it took a little longer to reach than my friends, as I am – how to put it? – vertically challenged. Yet upon that moment where the top of your head graces the tip of the measuring ruler, a whole other world blooms before your eyes: a world full of breakneck speeds, corkscrew coils and dizzying heights. I decided the morning of my trip to Alton Towers that I would not “chicken out” of anything; and regretted it the second I saw Oblivion. For those of you who don’t know, Oblivion consists mainly of a 150ft drop, whilst facing downwards. I mean, this thing is the incarnation of pure evil. Merciless, relentless and as unforgiving as a summer heat wave, this ride builds the childhood fear of falling. Except post 1.4m-hood, instead of childhood. The rest of the big five at Alton Towers (Nemesis, Air, Rita and Thirteen) include a range of unique rollercoaster feats, although none of them gave me the urge to cry as I reached their peak the way Oblivion did.
The pictures on this blog are scans from the cases on my own photos that you can buy after the ride. I did momentarily consider posting the photos contained inside, and then decided that in order to preserve my own dignity and any respect that you readers may have for me, I would not put my screaming face on the open internet. A genius money making scheme though: take pictures of someone in a moment that they cannot really remember as it has gone by so fast, and present them afterwards with an entirely “mug-shot” photo. Come to think of it, I’m not actually sure how it makes its money, except in the hilarity and humiliation of others.
Of course, the one thing that does come to mind when you mention theme parks is queues. Endless winding nightmares that seem to extend further into more coils just when you think you’ve reached the end. Filled to the brim (although some are virtually empty, depending on the time of day and quality of the ride) with people in varying degrees of appropriate dress, nauseating smell and ability to recognise other’s personal space boundaries. Oh, and then there were the remarkably wet people who had evidently just survived the Flume. The Flume made me look like I was wearing tie-dye jeans; fortunately we had the foresight to leave the wet rides until the end of the day, rather than walking round like penguins for eight hours. However, those eight hours were mainly filled with queues. Even when optimising time, we rode nine rollercoasters (two of them twice, so eleven rides in total) out of 24 and had lunch in eight and a half hours. Now this may not seem that bad considering how busy theme parks can get, especially since we are now in their peak holiday season. But you would think that with the extortionate prices that are paid to get in, that they would be open a lot longer or at least give out a few free Fast Track tickets, without having to pay more on top for them. Of course there is always the help of vouchers and discounts, but even then it’s still quite a lot. Yet for some incomprehensible reason the short thrill is worth it every time. The questioning of your own sanity as you begin to climb the steep track and feel the frame of the seat shuddering around you; the combination of adrenaline, fear and hopelessness as you approach and hover over the edge of the drop; and the loss of stomach as you plummet unremittingly into the black abyss, not knowing in the moment if you’re going to appear out of it again.
Well. On a lighter note, there is nothing more exhilarating or frankly refreshing than screaming at the top of your lungs whilst refusing to hold onto the handles. And while I remember, I’d like to apologise to anyone next to me on any rides – especially my uncle who sat with me on all of them. I hope the damage to your ear drums was not too significant.
I eagerly await the next time I can go on a rollercoaster ride: in the meantime I hope that they can only reduce prices, queue times and amount of people there.