Belgium 10/21 – Bellewaerde + Plopsa Coo
You’ve probably had enough of me for one year, but here we go again. It still felt like there was more in the tank for more redemption once the reopening of a certain Belgian park was announced. As we already had the travel procedures down to a fine art it became a case of get it done, quick, before something else goes wrong.
The world seemingly threw everything it had at me to stop me riding Kondaa this year. Obviously the ever-present pandemic and endless travel restrictions prevented us from flocking with the rest of Europe back during the initial opening days. Nature had a say next, with those terrible floods that put the park out of action for the duration of our time on the continent. Once we were geared up and ready to go, logistical issues kicked in, in the form of the UKs self-fulfilling prophecy of a fuel crisis – until the penultimate day I wouldn’t have had enough (in the non-metaphorical tank) to even make it the tunnel anyway.
Finally on the evening before departure, the covid tests that we’d pre-booked with precision at a local pharmacy simply didn’t exist upon our arrival. “Oh, we don’t do those any more, no one does” And you were going to tell us when? Many phone calls and a panicked night-time journey to Gatwick Airport for a drive-thru test that massively confused everyone involved (“so, what flight are you taking then.” – none!) managed to save the day.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Day 1 – Bellewaerde
2017, Ypres. Back in the days when Belgium was generally unremarkable in terms of a coaster scene, we were forever at fault for underestimating all of their parks and spiting ourselves on the regular. Just because the creds aren’t all that, doesn’t mean the place isn’t fleshed out in other ways – a lesson I’ve never managed to learn. What with staggered openings and two sides of brand new and not-so exciting Dawsons Duel to deal with, Bellewaerde became one of many visits that wasn’t without issue.
We had the privilege of going through the main entrance on this particular occasion, one that paints the park in a far better light when it comes to first impressions.
This is all new to me, I only remember queues, people smoking and Boomerangs.
Checked out Bengal Rapid River first, one of those weird looking Vekoma versions with the low-profile flexy boats. They make for a rather different experience, there was an entertaining theme tune playing throughout several parts of the layout, but it ain’t no Hafema.
Our main reason for revisiting, besides from needing something to do and the fact that it was half-price with the Plopsa card, was #1 Wakala.
I had pretty much suppressed the entire existence of this ride, which is a shame, because Gerstlauer are still delivering strong on these top quality family coasters and this use of fun, quirky track shaping is getting bolder by the minute.
It’s a great little layout with a significant ride length. The first lift hill takes you up and through the aforementioned twisty goodness for a good while, before hitting a second tyre lift that gives you a playful almost-launch down into this weird straight.
Which leads to this genius little spike out over the lake. A brief moment of backwards gets the train straight back to that weird straight which also happens to be the final brakes, with the use of a little switch track to return to the station. The station has great audio on departure and arrival, the trains look real nice, it runs super-efficiently and is a ton of fun. Weird pacing, but can’t fault it.
While dwelling on that little victory, we hung our heads in shame as we looked upon Dawsons Duel from afar. Never again.
Something else we managed to miss, never again, was the park’s main dark ride, Maison Magique D’Houdini.
Colour me massively confused because I had no idea what went on in here, other than ‘Madhouse’. Narration was present of course but, you know, Flemish. There’s a preshow, in a room of full of artifacts from magic trips and escape artistry, that shows some old-timey footage of a classic bit of magic performed by two kids. It jarringly ends by zooming in on the face of one of them suddenly looking rather deranged, with an evil laughter sound effect.
Time to board the ride. It looks rather good inside, a few variations on the usual tricks and some extra things to look at, such as lightning in the fake windows. Spinning happens, magic happens, ending happens. We’re at peace with Houdini? Or his evil best friend? I’ll go with yes.
Something else we managed to miss, never again, was the park’s themed boat safari, Jungle Mission.
A somewhat inspired adventure that intertwines zoo action, being attacked by ‘locals’ and a cave section in which stuff goes down. The highlight for me was a scene in which a man appeared to be smoking himself out of his own hut, standing at the window, potentially dying, not caring, with a look that says ‘I’ve made my choice.’
Took great pleasure in not riding the Zierer Tivoli or patient zero of the Boomerang world.
Instead giving the rest of our allocated time to Huracan, which had always been rather decent.
They’ve done things to this. The trains felt new, bigger, now with on-board audio (I honestly can’t remember last time though). It also moved far slower through the first indoor section with all the theming, music now blaring. This section contained some different things like weird screens of glass full of tiny bubbles in place of raging waterfalls.
Outdoor coaster section was the same of course and then back inside I want to say there was far more going on with lasers and other visual effects. Turned something from rather decent into just plain decent.
Good job Bellewaerde, you’re fully redeemed.
Coo may have been gone, but it wasn’t forgotten. After brimming the tank with some sweet Belgian fuel and having a hilarious run in with some sour Belgian road rage, we arrived at our second park for the day.
This moose is on the way out, but I’ll mention him in place of an entrance shot, of which there isn’t much of one. He moves, he talks, we’re off to a good start.
Gerstlauer Spinners are a rare breed out this way, with the US seemingly being the biggest fans of the model. I’ve never been bowled away by one, they generally appear to lack something I can’t quite pinpoint. Is it spinning?
Well #2 Vicky the Ride certainly looked the part, but the trend continues, in my experience. It had a rather cool drop and the ‘what Maurer calls an immelman’ element was nice to see, though not a whole lot else to offer.
I had a sudden urge to ride Dino Splash (the scary blue one, obviously) upon seeing it. It’s not every day you get to pull a crazy stunt like that without dedicating yourself to swimwear and a waterpark and it simply had to be done.
Scary, crazy, vertical and backwards. Genius.
I’d always liked the look of #3 Halvar. A terrain layout in those rare but cool single file Vekoma trains of Megablitz fame? Sign me up, I said.
It wasn’t quite what I’d hoped, definitely far more family orientated than it’s lung-crushing funfair cousin, just look at that profiling. Entertaining and unique at least.
Have to imagine this little scenic feature looked rather more scary back when this park also fell foul of the flood.
Looks like they’re trying to stop it happening again.
One more ride to do, Bobsleigh, yet another crazy eye-catcher from on the way in. There’s clearly more to Coo than creds.
I had questions:
1) Why are they going backwards up that lift hill?
2) Why are there empty poles coming back down on a cable?
3) Why does the end of the track have an end?
4) Why are staff/guests picking up and carrying the cars at the bottom?
Questions that could only be answered by riding.
1) Because why not? Wiegand are nutters.
2) These poles stretch and hook onto the back of each car, dragging it up the lift hill.
3 & 4) Because the lift hill and the downwards section of track are entirely separate.
You get to pick a car and lug it onto the bottom of the lift hill yourself before boarding and having a staff member hook you up to the system. The lift hill mainly comprises of nice views and the feeling like you’re going to fall into some leaves at any minute, because the only thing keeping you on the standard plastic tea tray with no back is physics, the fact that you are travelling backwards. At long last you reach the top, which once again involves unceremonious lugging of transportation devices.
They’re quite hefty, even in their handily auto-folded state.
Now it’s time to load it up on the starting angle, remembering to keep the brake pinned down at all costs before making a fool of yourself. Not on a track of your choice sadly, for some unexplained reason one track is for singles and one is for doubles, so no chance of any fair racing.
And down you go.
All in all a nice little place with some interesting and quirky attractions. It’s got a great setting and was very refreshing to see how the place has it’s own charm, mostly free from the corporate-chainy-feel of many other Plopsa properties. Not sure it justifies the day ticket and parking cost though – definitely get that season pass.