It’s been many a year since I last dusted off Denmark and they’ve certainly been pretty busy since then. In the absence of any real need for yet more Eurodemption, along with the fact that it feels like I’ve pretty much cleaned the continent out, it was time to head out to one of my favourite European nations before Sommer came to a close. But first we need to get there.
Our morning chunnel came and went without a hitch, besides the hideously early start, so it turns out you can go somewhere, sometimes. With several countries to pass through and a reasonably significant distance to drive, the first day of the long weekender was filled with a sporadic selection of creddities.
Day 1 – Plopsa Indoor Hasselt
With just a week left on our old Plopsa season pass it felt like as good a moment as any to mop up the remaining offerings at no additional cost. Hasselt was the initial stop on the journey and the family entertainment centre is located in what very much felt like an industrial estate, which was very unassuming and slightly confusing to navigate.
They do have a nice vibe these places, especially when they’re quiet, even though we’re clearly not the target audience.
In fact we were in and out in easily under 10 minutes. #1 Wickie Coaster was a solid stock Zierer and had disturbingly similar visuals to the one in Poland. As is the intention.
Next up was one of the many parks in the Netherlands that has often been considered, but never committed to, while we planned various escapades throughout the region. Thanks to geography and a deal on Belgian website Tripper.be (do check it out if you ever have plans in Europe, it’s pretty solid), today was the day to make it happen.
The place begins as an indoor play area, again one in which the average adult would feel vastly out of place. Luckily there’s a welcoming sight just outside.
it’s not often you get a Wacky Worm with a mine train aesthetic, but I’m all for diversity. The Loch Ness Monster in the middle of #2 Dolle Pier is also an added bonus.
#3 Tyfoon is slightly more substantial and rides rather unusually for its style, though it’s the only Zierer ‘Comet’ to have existed. It’s full of relatively aggressive turns and block sections banked at 30° angles which wouldn’t feel out of place on a coaster manufactured by Pax. Not sure what they were up to when making this ride for Tivoli Gardens in 1989, but I’m all for uniqueness.
2022, Hellendoorn Acquiring our complimentary tickets was straight forward and immediately the park atmosphere was off to a better start. Damn kids.
Most importantly though, #4 Balagos – Flying Flame was open, so a courtesy visit brought the fruits of a +1. Soon to be the only one of two Vekoma ‘Tornado’s in the world, it rides pretty damn good with the new rolling stock made by Sunkid. For what it is anyway. There’s some unnerving laterals in the first drop while the unforgiving metal lap bar digs into your skin and I even caught some air on the big turnaround between inversions. Better than Loopen, though the memories of guests faces on that one still make me laugh.
Can’t have it all though, a delay in parts has left this relocated Mexican spinner out of action for the season. Don’t think we can get away with coming back a third time.
Something else that was unfortunately missed before, due to crowd related reasons, was Jungle Expedition. A quaint little boat ride with an interactive puzzle, some animal action and a surprise cave scene to finish.
We also gave Discovery Club another courtesy lap and it fared much better when experienced in a lighter mood. The simple act of walking down the queueline stairs uninhibited was incredibly cathartic and we had great fun setting off the many effects on this quirky dark ride.
Satisfied with the park’s redemption arc, there was time for one more freebie before the day was out.
Plopsa Indoor Coevorden
It all looked somewhat familiar on the outside, though this one is located in a field on the outskirts of town.
And then it was just plain creepy on the inside. You’d barely know we had travelled several hundred miles since the morning at all, save for this being called a #5 Wickiebaan instead of a Wickie Coaster.
All in all a highly successful +5 for the count. Onwards!
After waking up from one of the deepest sleeps of my life, it was finally Kondaa time.
As we got in the car and started to make our way to the park though things weren’t looking fantastic. It was raining heavily and the internet told me it wasn’t going to stop raining heavy until about 2pm.
“It’s their grand re-opening weekend, surely they aren’t going to want to close or open with no rides.” “Yes, but, then again, they recently flooded and maybe heavy rain makes them nervous now.” Statements to that effect were exchanged on the rather nervous and slippery drive to the park, until we finally arrived in the mostly empty car park we last visited in 2016.
Let me briefly interrupt the flow of this report to recount our rather underwhelming visit from that year.
The park as a whole was fine, probably the nicest in Belgium at the time, Challenge of Tutankhamon was amazing, the rest of the park was not, end recount. Yeah, in 2016 the park didn’t have 1 decent coaster, now however they very much do and we could see it from the slightly flooded car park.
We equipped our waterproofs, prepared our bodies, then jumped out of the car (straight into puddles…) before making our way to the park entrance.
Due to Covid restrictions we had to walk through an uncountable number of flooded cattlepens, while there was no queue…
I’m not sure why, when there was no queue, we couldn’t just bypass this, but either way my shoes were now breached and we were at the park entrance.
There were no signs announcing ride closures due to the weather, only slightly damp but still friendly staff members welcoming us into the park.
Rain still pounding down, waterproof blocking 70% of my vision, rain on his glasses blocking 95% of Heartline’s vision, we blindly stumbled across the entire park using Kondaa’s seductive lifthill as our only waypoint.
When we got to the coaster itself though it was clearly not operating, as evidenced by the 10 or so Walibi staff members standing outside getting soaked.
It wasn’t quite 10am yet, it might not be the weather stopping Kondaa…
As we were thinking this we saw Tiki-Waka going up the lifthill with people on, move!
Tiki-Waka is the park’s new (to us) Gerstlauer Bobsled.
Note, all pictures in this report were taken later in the day, when the rain had calmed down.
On our last Europe mega trip we had a running joke that every new (to us) Gerst Bob we rode was the best ever, the streak would sadly end today with Tiki-Waka.
It’s good fun don’t get me wrong, it’s just much less intense than the likes of Heiße Fahrt, Van Helsing and Prater’s Gesengte Sau and as evidenced by my short review left far less of an impression, even after several rides in the wet and dry.
Upon leaving Tiki-Waka, we noticed Kondaa was running, and with people! Walibi you absolute lunatics, not only are you unphased by heavy rain despite being flooded a few months ago, you’re also happy to run an Intamin Mega in it, when did Belgium get this good? 1st July 2021.
So Kondaa then, yeah, it’s amazing and I love almost everything about the experience. This Intamin Mega Coaster has transformed the park and with the help of Ride to Happiness put Belgium on the map as one of the best coaster countries in Europe.
Thanks to the park being almost empty today, I ended up riding Kondaa 21 times, so hopefully that means I’ll be able to give a pretty solid review.
Let’s start with the theme. I love it.
It’s one of my favourite themes for a coaster actually, theme the coaster itself as some form of creature (good or evil), we get caught up in it’s business and get taken on the ride of our lives.
As best I understand (and want to believe), Kondaa is a mythical creature living in its kick ass Aztecy, jungley temple home. We bastard humans go in, create issues, steal baby Kondaalas. This angers Kondaa and we’ve done it now lads, we’re going on the ride of our lives.
The theming in this new area is amazing, I love Kondaa’s temple, the design of the creature (and its babies), the coaster station, the train design, even the design of the shop. Everything is great and far more than was expecting from Walibi after the terrible design choices they used for Untamed.
Now for the coaster itself. Oh it’s good.
It’s worth noting now though that for better or worse Kondaa’s ride experience differs depending on where in the train you are sitting.
For example, in the back row, Kondaa’s 160ish foot twisting drop at 80 degrees is incredible and never stops being terrifying.
But the following massive airtime hill provides the strongest ejector airtime when you sitting towards the front of the train, it is really good in any seat though.
Next up is an element that’s rather unique, and very RMC, an outwards banked airtime hill. At first I wasn’t all that impressed with it, instead wishing they had done 2 back to back standard airtime hills. As the day went on though (and the rerides counted up) I started to really enjoy the strange and unique forces it provided. I’d advise letting your body go limp as best you can to really get the most out of this element.
Following the outwards banked airtime hill is the World’s only non inverting cobra roll and I have very similar feelings about both elements. At first I thought the non inverting cobra roll looked great but was pretty lacklustre to experience, but I came round to enjoy the airtime and whip the element provided towards the end of the day.
Unique(ish) elements out of the way, it’s now time for Kondaa to become the airtime machine we all wanted it to be.
Straight after the non inverting cobra roll is another standard airtime hill that provides strong ejector, followed by some fun twisty stuff. Then it’s yet another standard airtime hill before you rise back up into possibly my favourite element of Kondaa, the twisted double down, which provides silly sideways ejector airtime and is impossible to prepare for.
The final standard airtime hill of the coaster is next, once again providing strong ejector airtime. Then, after a whippy turn around, it’s time for Kondaa’s extremely fun ending sequence. 4 tiny bunny hills in a row, with the first and last twisted to the left, all 4 providing a sudden and hilarious jolt of ejector that’s certain to make even the most hardcore enthusiasts smile.
21 laps in a day and I would have happily done more, I think that alone speaks of the quality of Kondaa, what a great coaster and investment for the park.
Challenge of Tutankhamon
To take a break during our seemingly never ending laps of Kondaa, we visited one of my favourite dark rides in the World, Challenge of Tutankhamon, and my God, they have made it even better.
Now I don’t know when they did it, but the park have refurbed the entire ride and it looks brand new in there. All the scenes look and sound fantastic and effects I didn’t know existed are now back in operation, it made me so happy to see that this wonderful trackless dark ride has been given the love it deserves.
Speaking of very impressive dark rides…
It was time to experience Popcorn Revenge for the first time.
Heartline had been saying the name to me for months but for whatever reason I never did the research into what exactly it was. I think this was the right decision because not knowing what I was about to experience really added to the suprise of this fantastic interactive dark ride.
Popcorn Revenge is cute, it’s funny, it’s shocking, but most of all it’s just really good fun.
As the rain began to calm down a bit we next went to add Fun Pilot to our count.
Credit where it’s due the park clearly made an effort when they added this family Zierer in 2019, it’s really well presented, for what it is at least.
Le Palais du Genie
With the park mostly empty, Kondaa laps already in double digits, all the new creds ticked off and Popcorn and Tutankhamon already ridden 3 times each, we next decided to go revisit some of the better stuff from our last visit, starting with Le Palais du Genie, the park’s Madhouse.
This almost seems unfair, but it appears the park have also refurbed the Genie’s Palais since our last visit because the attraction we were presented with was far better than we both remembered.
Next we went for a lap of Loup Garou, the park’s Vekoma woodie, one of only two in the World.
I didn’t think much of it last time, but somehow it’s even less impressive now…
The thought of Kondaa sharing the spotlight with an RMC on a similar scale to Twisted Timbers or Untamed is too strong for me to ignore.
Give us Twisted Garou please Walibi.
The last ride on our revisit list was Calamity Mine, not because it’s any good, but because you can get some great pictures of Kondaa from its queueline.
Speaking of Kondaa, we ended our day at the park with a queue less marathon with the beast, taking me to 21 laps in a day and Heartline to 22, there may have been an emergency toilet visit at some point.
And that was Walibi Belgium, and the master class in how you go from underwhelming to one of my favourite parks in Europe.
Add a World class coaster, add a great family coaster, add an amazing trackless dark ride, refurb your incredible trackless dark ride and refurb your not as incredible not trackless dark ride. Ok, so that may be a bit specific and a rather expensive tactic but the results speak for themselves.
I had a fantastic day at Walibi Belgium today and I’m very excited for the future of the park.
We had been soaked to the skin for almost the entire day, so spent the whole drive to the Chunnel drying off, feeling ruined, but victorious.
Less than 3 weeks after our epic 3 week Europe trip (which you can read about here) it was once again time to get up too early and make our way to the Chunnel.
The main goal of the trip was to visit Walibi Belgium and ride Kondaa, a goal that was not possible during our mega trip due to the park being closed for months after severe flooding in July.
The park was set to reopen this weekend and we figured why not add a couple of other parks on and really make something out of it.
Call it Kondaa excitement, but for some reason I was barely able to sleep the night before the trip, meaning our already early start was even more unwelcome. This did have the advantage of putting me in a dream like state during the first day of the trip though, which I think may have been a good thing.
The first park of the day and trip was Bellewaerde, a park that me and Heartline had previously visited in 2017 and not thought very highly of.
I don’t want to get too carried away this early in the report but it appears not only Plopsaland De Panne has improved since our last visit but instead the entire country’s park scene. Whenever I’d exclaim “when did Belgium get good man?” to Heartline he’d always reply the same, “1st July 2021”, the day Ride to Happiness opened.
Bengal Rapid River
So it turned out during our 2017 visit that we missed a few attractions that are apparently Bellewaerde staples, so in order to keep the World happy we checked out some of these attractions today.
The first of which was Bengal Rapid River, a Vekoma rapids ride, and fair play to the critics, it was good fun, aided massively by the funky segmented boats.
Next up however was the real reason for our visit, the park’s brand new Gerstlauer Family Coaster, Wakala.
As you’d expect from a Gerst Family Coaster, it was great, but I think the park deserve a lot of praise for just how impressive the ride as a whole is presented.
The soundtrack is fun, the theming looks great, as do the station, trains and queueline, the spike over the water looks fantastic, the location amongst the trees is a treat, hell, I even like the colour choices for the track and supports.
It was about now that I asked aloud, “when did this park get good?”, oh yeah, 1st July 2021.
Het Magische Huis van Houdini
After a leisurely stroll around the admittedly very pretty park we came upon a ride that had been eluding us for a while now, Houdini’s Madhouse.
We missed it last time we visited, we missed it a couple of times in the US, but now it was finally time.
Despite not understanding the plot at all (90% language barrier, 10% no really what the hell is happening?) I thought it was alright, a mid tier Madhouse maybe, that’s still a good compliment.
Finally, on the new to us list, was another ride that people were upset we missed in 2017, Jungle Mission.
Jungle Mission is like a combination of Disney’s Jungle Cruise (without the skipper) and a river safari, and it was great fun. Live animals, special effects and animatronics, what’s not to like?
The final attraction we chose to experience would be our only re-ride of the day, Huracan, the park’s custom Zierer Force.
Me and Heartline both knew we enjoyed it in 2017 but were unsure if we’d got the best out of it due to rushing and being upset with the park at the time.
It turned out we were right, because Huracan is in fact great fun and is a coin flip away from being the best coaster at the park versus Wakala.
With that we were done with Bellewaerde and what a massive improvement today’s visit had been against our 2017 one. Operations were great, staff were friendly, the park looked fantastic, Wakala exceeded my expectations, the rides we missed before were great and it was awesome to experience Huracan as it was intended.
This time I filled out all the forms we needed to come home tomorrow on the drive from Bellewaerde to Plopsa Coo, I’m so glad this is a thing of the past, but it did make the drive fly by.
We had planned to visit Plopsa Coo on our mega trip 3 weeks ago, but thanks to the park changing the day we wanted to visit to a private event while we were on the trip, we were unable to.
Now I’m not quite sure what I was expecting the park to be like, but small, mostly empty and located in a stunning location wasn’t it.
The park had also been a victim of flooding in July, thankfully though they were not as badly affected as Walibi. It comes as no suprise really when this beautiful sight was on the park’s doorstep.
Vicky The Ride
After flashing our passes to a friendly lady at admissions, we entered the park and immediately made our way to the park’s Gerstlauer spinner, Vicky The Ride.
I’ve yet to ride one of these (Gekion Live excluded) that is better than “fine”, and Vicky was no exception. I do really like the design of the station building however.
Heartline, in a stroke of genius, decided it would be funny to try out the insane looking blue slide (see below) of DinoSplash. Neither of us understood the complicated weight restrictions displayed so just decided to wing it and ride together, leading to an honestly terrifying but extremely fun ride.
Next it was time to check out the park’s star attraction and my second ever (out of the 4 in the World) Vekoma MK-700, Halvar.
While it’s no Megablitz (Wiener Prater), Halvar was great fun and a nice sit down as you speed around amongst the trees single file on this terrain coaster.
Well, looks like we’ve completed the park already, do you fancy a ride on the Bobsleigh? Sure.
This was even more intense than the water slide…
Too much responsibility was put in the hands of the rider, which in my case is never the right decision.
So you pick up your collapsible Bobsleigh at the bottom of the hill, I swear I picked up the kids sized one. Then you sit on it, which I’m certain I was doing wrong. Before you’re pulled up the hill by some sketchy cable system, all while my Bobsleigh keeps trying to fold in half again and is repeatedly bouncing off the sides of the trough. It was the perfect combination of so funny I couldn’t breathe but also “oh God I’m going to die.”
Thankfully on the race down the hill the situation had slightly improved, which of course led me to going full speed, which almost led to me dying several times.
All in all, a fantastic experience from start to finish.
And the perfect ending to a very enjoyable visit to Plopsa Coo, “damn man, when did Belgium get good?” “1st July 2021.”
Thank you for reading, click here for day 2 of my trip report, where we ride the incredible Kondaa and Walibi Belgium becomes one of my favourite parks in Europe.
After my first and only (rather awful) trip to Plopsaland De Panne in 2017, I was slightly nervous about returning. You can read my previous trip report for the full details of what went wrong but the TLDR version is, terrible operations and rude staff meant we were unable to complete the park and we had a miserable time not doing so.
That being said, nothing was going to keep us from returning in 2021, as the park, to I think everyone’s surprise, opened one of the most exciting roller coaster additions in recent memory, in the form of Europe’s first Mack Xtreme Spinning Coaster, The Ride to Happiness.
Plopsaland De Panne
We arrived slightly later than opening, thanks to the worst McDonalds in the World, and two things were immediately apparent, it was HOT and The Ride to Happiness looks absolutely stunning and has completely changed the skyline of the park. Infact, it has changed EVERYTHING about the park, but we will discuss that as we go on.
TheRide to Happiness
Oh boy, let’s just throw it out there before we get too carried away, The Ride to Happiness is now my 2nd favourite roller coaster in the World (out of 918), is completely insane and unlike almost any other roller coasters on Earth.
Let’s start with the theme, it’s incredible, and without a doubt helps to make the coaster as iconic as it is.
Themed around the extremely popular Belgian electronic dance festival, Tomorrowland, The Ride to Happiness goes all out to create, in my opinion, a truly fantasy like experience that really gives a character to the coaster.
The entrance plaza is beautiful, and with the aid of the amazing soundtrack and the ridiculous looking coaster track hanging high above, really makes you feel like you are being welcomed into something special.
Continuing this perfectly is the queue for the coaster, which first leads you through a fantastic looking indoor queueline. This is where you first meet the “sexy robot lady”, who is going to be our tour guide on our Ride to Happiness. During this indoor queue you walk past awesome looking steam punky, Tomorrowlandy machines that are creating various elements (fire and snow are the only ones I can make out) that will be referenced later.
Following this you briefly head outside, everyone skips 90 percent of the outside queue by stepping over the shin high fence, you walk up “The Stairs to Happiness”, before heading back inside for another small indoor queueline, where you once again meet the “sexy robot lady”.
Then after another quick trip outside, you arrive at the ride station, where you finally come truly face to face with the “sexy robot lady” herself, in one of my favourite coaster stations ever.
There she is, and pictures can’t do her justice, in person she looks more alive than most of the guests waiting at the airgates. She is the main character of The Ride to Happiness, and she knows exactly how amazing and game changing her coaster is. All of her beautiful ramblings are wonderful, but 2 of her statements seemed directed at me personally, “your life is about to change” and “embrace this change”.
This would all be dumb, and a little patronising, if it wasn’t 100 percent true, because The Ride to Happiness is just that good, and here’s why.
The coaster starts with a snails pace Heartline/JoJo Roll, that combined with the immediate spinning of the ride cars is absolute bliss. The hangtime is mind blowing and taken to the next level when your World (currently upside down) begins to spin around you, it’s nuts and probably too much for some, but I love it.
Then it’s time for the first launch, which you pause before taking. Thanks to this pause, the swelling of the fantastic on board audio and the fact the cars are still free spinning this launch is incredible and hits fairly hard. Depending on various factors you may barely spin as you take the launch, or you may spin to the point of not knowing what’s happening.
No matter how you take the launch though, it ends with an incredible vertical top hat element, with brutal ejector airtime, especially towards the front of the train. Don’t feel bad in the back though, because the drop out of this element is best experienced towards the rear of the train, where it’s now your turn to get violently ejected.
Now is a great time to once again mention that the cars are free spinning. Ejector airtime is one of the greatest feelings on Earth, experiencing it sideways or backwards is even better and the beauty of The Ride to Happiness is you never know what’s going to happen.
Speaking of, next up is 3 back to back inversions (banana roll, loop & zero g), that perfectly blend together in an absolute mess of what the hell is happening? Spinning while inverting doesn’t sound great to many on paper, but trust me, it’s awesome. Your body feeling all the normal forces of these perfectly excecuted inversions, while your eyes and brain can’t begin to work out which direction you are moving is something else.
The coaster’s second launch isn’t all that powerful, it’s used only to continue the insanity, it does feature a pop of airtime mid launch though which is very welcome.
Next up is my personal favourite element, the step-up under flip, words can’t even do justice to the insanity this inversion provides while seated in spinning cars, it is absolutely outrageous and stands out as so on an already bonkers coaster.
Following this madness is a large airtime hill that exits into a snappy left hand turn. You always get a nice pop of air on this hill, but what you really want is the stars (and car) to align so you take the hill facing halfway between backwards and to your left. This way you’ll get viciously ejected up and to the left and will remain PINNED there until the coaster finishes turning left. Sounds complicated, but just trust me, The Ride to Happiness gained even more bonus points when I realised it could throw you out of the seat and hold you there, it’s an incredible feeling.
Your Ride to Happiness sadly comes to an end not long after this, but not before 2 more back to back vicious ejector airtime hills.
And there it is! Hopefully I’ve said enough to both sell you on why I love both the coaster and the theme so much, if I haven’t, I’ll steal a line from the park’s website, “In short, an experience not to be missed”.
We rode The Ride to Happiness 16 times today and would have happily ridden it more if it wasn’t so hot and the coaster didn’t demand a break after every 4 laps for recovery.
Oh wait, Plopsaland has other rides too, and two of them at least are actually pretty cool.
Heidi The Ride
Let’s start with Heidi The Ride, the park’s twice cloned small scale GCI woodie.
Last time we visited, thanks to previously mentioned issues, we were only about to get 1 lap and unable to form a real opinion. This time though, after several laps, I can officially reveal, it’s good.
Bos van Plop
Either through lack of research last time, or not having enough time last time, we completely missed the park’s only dark ride, Bos van Plop.
Thankfully though, this time, we able to take a ride and I’m glad we did because I honestly enjoyed this cute old school boat ride themed to the Studio 100 character Plop.
Anubis: The Ride
We should have left the memories alone in regards to Anubis: The Ride.
The park’s previous star attraction and quite possibly my previous favourite ride at the park now feels completely redundant (and rattly) after the opening of The Ride to Happiness. At least the station building looks amazing, on the outside at least…
I think the list of things we opted to ride other than The Ride to Happiness, on a very quiet day, perfectly helps show another way that The Ride to Happiness has changed everything for the park.
The place has changed from a family park, with (maybe) 2 good coasters, into a park that is going to draw visitors from all over the World, desperate for their Ride to Happiness.
This leads to 2 other ways the park has changed thanks to The Ride to Happiness.
For better or worse, Plopsaland was 90% coaster fans today.
For most certainly better, operations and staff morale were hundreds of times better than when I last visited. This may have been a fluke, but I’d like to put this down to the park being proud of what they have now and being eager to show themselves off to the hundreds of thousands of new visitors that their outstanding new coaster is going to bring in.
In short, Plopsaland De Panne is now most certainly a park not to be missed.
Thank you for reading, please click here for day 20 of my trip report, where we visit Efteling, only to discover that it’s not as good as it was in 2016.
Poor Walibi Belgium. They’ve had a rough year to coincide with the opening of their brand new headline coaster. I really admire them for all the hard work and effort that went into getting the place up and running again before the end of the season, after seeing just some of the extent of the flood damage, and thought it was only right to visit and show our support.
And yet day 2 of their grand re-opening weekend – rain like you wouldn’t believe it. The final few minutes of the motorway drive were particularly hairy when it came to visibility, with water hammering in on all sides. Not the best of omens when heading to a park that’s only just been crippled by this type of weather.
Day 2 – Walibi Belgium
As we pulled into the car park, there were only about 10 others in total. We were vaguely directed towards a space, though ended up picking the one wrong spot in a sea of emptiness. Top tip – don’t park next to a tree, they like to keep them clear for emergency access, though they might not tell you that until you’ve already stopped and got out.
The moment I had stepped out of the car, though the actual rain had subsided just a little, one of my shoes was instantly filled with water. Bracing ourselves against the weather with whatever resources necessary, we headed towards the entrance. This is either going to go very wrong, or be amazing.
Expecting the masses, a large series of cattlepens had been set up as the only means of access to the ticket desks that morning and, though it ended up being entirely unnecessary given the current situation, they were unavoidable. And so our day began with several pointless minutes zigzagging back and forth through endless puddles, getting soaked to the bone and already unable to see.
Once inside the park we headed straight towards the back, though only by internal compass. Rocking my raincoat hood down low, along with a medical mask and glasses combo, all I could do was stare at the blurred floor directly two feet in front of me and I didn’t actually manage to lay eyes on any rides at all until we reached the new (to me) area.
Kondaa was showing no signs of life at this stage and had two staff members standing ominously at the entrance, but Tiki-Waka was drowning a couple more staff members with some test laps.
Though it was yet another Belgian Gerstlauer I had managed to suppress, it actually became a momentous occasion. By riding #1 Tiki-Waka I had now completed the entire set of their Bobsled coasters worldwide, all 14 of the beasts.
Sadly this one broke the tradition of ‘every time I ride one of these I keep thinking it’s the best one yet.’ While it looks fantastic (once I could actually see it) and has many more of those quirky track profiling moments, there’s a bit less of an overall punch here than I had grown accustomed to, even while not being able to see what was coming next, but at least it’s unique yet again. Probably also took the crown of best coaster in the park for three years, without too much effort.
More good news, #2 Kondaa was now also testing.
I’d bigged this modern Intamin Mega up in my head for a good while now, though I didn’t know the ins and outs. The theme was all brand new to me and the ride joins the ever-growing list of mythical creatures that find themselves decorating an Intamin train. In this case, Kondaa is a big snake thing with arms, who has a bit of a clash with the local humans. Maybe they’re building on his habitat, maybe he’s just being predatory, there’s an excellent mural on the outside far wall of the station building that depicts a bit of a battle scene between the two. Some men on their knees, head in hands, doomed (will that be me shortly?), while two cheeky bastards abandon the cause run off with one of his eggs. I’m already loving the aesthetic. The station has a cramped, jungle feel to it, with great accompanying audio. Took a few listens to work it out, but the tribal chanting that echoes throughout is actually repeating the word Kond – Aa in two disctinct syllables. Maybe they’re trying to appease him, maybe they’re building themselves up for the fight. Yet more paintings on the wall depict men literally riding the creature’s back by means of the spears they’ve stabbed into him in combat. Guess that’s the experience we’re going for.
What with all the external sensations of the weather and my temporary blindness pressing in on me, I really had the time to process that we were actually riding Kondaa until part way up the excitingly fast chain lift. Suddenly we were thrust into a big, vertical twisted drop and, by means of the train alone, it’s already better than GeForce.
The first large hill is an interesting one. It’s not your standard massive ejector experience you might expect from Intamin, instead I feel like it’s more what I always wanted B&M hypers to be/do. There’s a combination of a gentle lift out of the seat and a more intense ejection at different points, that can flip depending on where you sit, and I like that, it’s not just a tease, it still has payoff.
The wacky outerbanked big hill is pretty special if you’re feeling a bit free and easy in those comfy seats. Yet more strange, falling out of the train sideways sensations are coming into play, though nothing in the realms of their wing coasters. It was also often a fun moment later on in the day for the views of Calamity Mine’s second half. Though it took five laps before I even managed to spot it, many times after that the little mine train would pop out of it’s tunnel and say hello to Kondaa in a cute moment of interaction.
The non-inverting cobra roll is a bit of a non-event in the grand scheme of things and I’m tempted to say it should have just actually inverted. There might then have been a bit more whip in the transitions, perhaps like a double version of the dive loop on Hyperion. Instead it doesn’t really deliver much except a very strange creaking noise from the train and I’m left feeling like it was an element created for the sake of the name. We want to build the world’s first ‘one of those’ and see what happens.
This is turning into one of those reviews where I keep name-dropping other relevant coasters, so I may as well keep going. The exit of that leads into the first of the speed hills, rather reminiscent of the highlight moments of Coaster through the Clouds, combining that momentum with some headchopping (albeit a little late) to really send you flying for a moment, though perhaps not quite as powerfully as I would have hoped.
At the risk of continuing to sound a bit negative (I love this thing, but nitpicking is what I do), Intamin appear to have failed to break the tradition of having a meandering couple of corners in the middle of their mega coasters. I desperately wanted this creation to cast away the shackles of it’s oppressive forebearers, yet it still appears to follow that age old underlying formula. The turns are at least low-down, fast and far less jarring than the competition in their impact on the layout, but without a key highlight like a snappy i305 transition or something it still feels sub-optimal. Also, worryingly, this part contains a sideways banked hill that rode exactly like the one on Abyssus – pure visual, all style and no substance, didn’t feel a thing on it.
Good stuff returns in the form of a second speed hill, and then a weird combination of drawn out twisty hill into wonky double down on a corner that I don’t have a name for. This leads into another decent airtime moment, some more low down twisty and then the hilarious climax of little flat hills that are just silly fun. This is the type of creative stuff I can get more behind and adds a certain wild flavour to the ride that is more often than not lacking on Intamin’s clinical airtime machines. A strong start and a strong finish, it all feels so familiar.
And that’s the quandary for me. It both is and it isn’t like their past creations I’ve regularly bemoaned for being too ‘obvious’. It draws on their beats and yet delivers them all differently. There’s more spice and more flavour to Kondaa, it has an out of control feeling at times, but it never truly kicks your ass like you might have expected from the manufacturer. While these days I would tend to be drawn towards coasters that take everything to an extreme, I can also just be appeased by a good, solid, fun layout. And it is that, for one of these. World class yes, world beater no.
They do have other stuff here of course. It had been far too long since I was acquainted with Challenge of Tutankhamon, so much so that it had begun to fade in my memory. Our previous visit was such a rush, what with fast track and SLCs to contend with, that it barely made an impact. Far from just another shooting dark ride, this is potentially the best of its kind in the world. It appears to have been well loved just recently, with many of the more technical effects working really well, much more so than I remember from before at least.
The ride provides a perfect balance between interaction and spectacle, something which I believe so many others miss the mark on. You feel compelled to both shoot at the targets, many of which are (for the sake of the story) active moving threats, and gaze in amazement at all the other scenery and magic (fire!), with neither disctracting from the other. Underneath all that is the drive to actually score well as a a team, not just for unrelated bragging rights, because achieving a certain amount will take you down a different route at the end of the ride, to fight the big boss. More to see, more to do – get involved!
Why have one shooting dark ride when you can have two though? I was a little concerned for what Popcorn Revenge would be like, though admittedly knowing nothing about it. Turns out it’s also fabuous in its own right and the two are easily different enough to justify the co-existence.
These popcorn critters are out for mischief and need flavouring to calm them down, so the trackless ride vehicles pass between a central, circular hub to reach several different rooms that contain a screened scene for shooting. There are a lot of fun little details beyond your average screen based romp however, with each room being complimented by some degree of physical set, a chaotic little screen in the central room from which you can continuously rack up points while transitioning to each area and other, more hidden bonus ways to score points. Loved it.
Elsewhere on the dark ride front we gave Palais du Genie another shot. Again this was better than I remember, mainly in the music department. It had a solid, catchy tune playing throughout the main madhouse portion, something that all of these should have by default.
Time to mop up the last cred, #3 Fun Pilot, the Zierer Force 190 putting in all the hard work while the legendary Coccinelle is out of action.
It was rather amusing to contemplate what else in this park justifies a reride, the place used to be such a cred run and yet they’ve done so much to dramatically transform that status in such short time. Belgium’s getting serious. Why can’t we?
Settled on Calamity Mine for old time’s sake, though I’ve since ridden a hundred different iterations of the same throughout China. The OG version still has charm and is nicely decorated for it, though it is a little distracting to have Kondaa looming over it now.
Based on how dramatically the wooden coaster experience can change over time, thought we might as well give Loup Garou a lap as well. I took issue with the restraints previously and spent the duration surviving, rather than enjoying. Not sure exactly how, but they weren’t an issue in the slightest on this occasion, which then only helped to highlight that it just aint very special. A lot of mild mannered bouncing around that makes for some light entertainment, much like the Intamins of old.
All this was done between wanting to rack up some ridiculous number of laps on Kondaa simply because it was a walk on all day (thanks to the weather) and really, stupidly good. The aim was to better 16, which was my tied personal best between local boy Icon and the recent Ride to Happiness revelation. That became far too easy by the end of the day. See if you can beat 22.
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.
2017, De Panne. A faffy cred hunting trip that ended in failure. The inadequacies of Plopsaland and our own misplaced stubborn desperation to ride a cloned GCI that had broken down resulted in us missing out on Vleermuis, potentially forever. Ticket machines were out of order, staff were slow and chunnels were missed. Not the best of impressions were left.
Many years later they weren’t making it any easier for us, with sporadic opening dates and a soon-to-be-abolished pre-book system that wouldn’t let you pre-book. We ended up getting full blown Plopsa season cards in anticipation of dusting off several other +1s from the chain either later in the trip or within the next year. Saves a fortune on parking at least.
Day 19 – Plopsaland De Panne
Ideally we would have visited this on the way home, seeing that the park is under an hour from the channel tunnel and closer to my house than Alton Towers, but a 6 hour round trip from the German border, on a Wednesday of all days, would just have to do.
Was it worth it? Yes. The reason for visiting of course was the recently opened Ride to Happiness. I had no idea what to expect, having never ridden a Mack Xtreme Spinner and not understanding the rather unusual theme that came with it and, well, we’ve certainly got something special on our hands here.
I’ve totally fallen for the theme for #1 Ride to Happiness now that I understand it. Sign me up for this Belgian music festival. There’s a wonderfully serene and other-worldly aura to the area, from the calm and soothing queueline soundtrack to our new robot friend here in the station who makes bold but reassuring statements to imminent riders about how their lives are about change forever.
And they are. This ridiculously slow inversion out of the station is the most comfortable and natural sensation ever, even if it has no right to be. The ability to take it at any angle and a variety of speeds makes it an instant classic. From there, you pause at the start of the launch track in a moment of nervous anticipation, sometimes spinning, sometimes not. How will this play out? You never know, it’s a surprise every time. The sudden burst of acceleration might initiate an intense spin, it might pin you sideways, forwards or backwards. You’re at the mercy of the machine now and the on-board soundtrack matches this change in dynamic perfectly.
The first element out of the launch is another that just conventionally shouldn’t work. A 90° turn in the midst of a 100ft top hat? Why not. If you’re in the front of the train, the airtime at the crest of the hill immediately tries to kill you before teasing you into a slow and inevitable vertical plummet. If you’re in the back it seems fine, we’re just turning and spinning a bit, up high, and then comes the terrifying drop that has you out of your seat at any angle for what feels like forever.
I can’t go on describing all the different combinations of what this ride can feel like and do to you because the spinning aspect makes it an endless list. Highlights for me into the banana roll and vertical loop combo were moments of intense positives that literally folded me in half around the lap bar while trying to implant my belt inside my stomach, leaving an ugly bruise. Sure, if you like. There’s a gloriously disorientating fourth inversion straight after that, out over the water, which is just one of those ‘coasters don’t get much better than this’ moments for me.
And yet you’re only half done. Mack’s strangely humped second launch makes a return appearance, giving a weirdly satisfying shot into the last inversion that defies description. Hangtime, sideways airtime, falling out of your seat… you name it, it can do it.
And just to seal the deal on the whole experience, some more epic ejector on the last few hills, any which way you like. This ride left me laughing and crying on the brake run every time, without fail, mask either over my eyes or around my neck There’s just so much to process and it never gets old. I love it.
There are other rides here, though you’d be forgiven for not knowing or caring at this point. The gap in quality is just ridiculous, as we soon reminded ourselves.
Nevertheless we started with a token lap on spiteful Heidi The Ride. It’s fine, I guess. Only been a year since we rode the Polish equivalent to death, so it all felt very familiar. Why did we let this thing cause so much fuss?
Anubis: The Ride is still here and I bet it’s feeling rather embarrassed and redundant right now. Just a sub-par launch coaster with inversions, not Eurofighter bad at least, but probably time to step aside.
We also managed to miss their dark ride last time. Bos van Plop is a brilliant little boat ride through a million different gnomes up to various tricks, complete with catchy soundtrack and bundles of charm.
Thus concludes our circuit of the park. We were here for Happiness and made it our mission to ride it as much as physically possible. The weather was ridiculously hot, the coaster is stupidly intense and we were struggling, but with regular rest and sustenance, we got it done.
I was having scary thoughts throughout the day about how much I like this thing. Each go would bring something new to the table, moments that I once thought were exclusive to certain other top ten coasters. Of the 16 laps we ended up with, honestly, there were a couple that weren’t as special, there is a degree of luck involved. But the majority were just something else and it simply can’t be beaten on that rerideability factor, nor the fact that it can blow your mind equally in any seat.
Every time I doubted myself, head in hands on the brakes, not knowing what to do with all these thoughts, we’d roll into the station and the robot woman would be there looking down on us, sometimes judging those feelings, sometimes affirming them, with those weird monocle cogs that rotate in and out of place. Once again I find It’s the little details that can endear you to a ride. Suddenly the return of the station soundtrack would stir up an overwhelming emotion that almost has me shaking, even now, as I merely think about it. Yes, this is the second best rollercoaster on the planet.
In recent years, my youngest brother, who’s slowly making his way up the enthusiast ladder, has been begging me to take him on a trip inspired by the ones me and Heartline go on. For various reasons it never came to be, but that was until summer 2019, when plans came together so perfectly there was no way I was going to let it slip away again.
This trip would see me return to 3 parks I’d previously visited, completely ruining the reputation of 1 and improving that of the other 2. It would also allow me to go to a park I’d be dying to visit for many years.
That’s enough set up, let’s dive in.
Today began early as we made our way towards the Channel Tunnel, which is still the best way to explore Europe.
In no time at all we were in France, not long after that Belgium, finally, after a brief stint of driving on ancient cobblestones, we were in the car park of Bobbejaanland.
A history lesson… Last time me and Heartline visited the park we walked away very disappointed. Rude staff, an unpleasant atmosphere and questionable decisions that kept us from getting on all the coasters were the factors that led us to that opinion. I was hoping things had improved since then but was going in expecting the worst.
First impressions were strong, with the park’s entrance area looking far better than it did last time. I paid for parking on a fancy new touch screen, before we made our way into the park and headed straight for the reason I came back.
The park’s brand new triple launch Gerstlauer Infinity coaster, named Fury and themed to the element of fire.
Firstly I need to mention just how great the coaster looks. Fury has forever changed the skyline of Bobbejaanland with the way the striking orange track towers over the park, easily visible on the drive in. Then there’s the theming, which for a park like Bobbejaanland is really impressive. The station looks awesome and the queueline rock work was far more impressive than I was expecting.
How’s the coaster though? It’s really good! The launches, 3 on a multi-pass, are much more intense than I was prepared for, especially the backwards pass that you can’t see coming. Then you’re violently ejected over the first hill, which once again I wasn’t ready for. Then from this point onwards Fury is a wonderful blend of inversions and strong forces.
Oh but I haven’t told you the best bit…
Fury has a unique element to it that massively enhances the experience. The coaster has a turntable just after you leave the station, which means it has the ability to tackle the madness forwards or backwards. This on it’s own is awesome, but to make it even better you and your fellow riders are given the choice of which direction you will be travelling, via buttons on the restraints.
Forward Fury is really good fun but backwards Fury is insane. This way you now get 2 backwards launches, hit the violent ejector with no way of seeing it coming and brave the high speed twists and turns blind, it’s a crazy experience and a rare one too.
With the trip off to a great start, it was now time to let my brother dust off the park’s other coasters. Our plan was to keep bouncing back to Fury every few rides, a genius plan, because Bobbe’s other creds are mostly awful.
I apologise for the lack of photos from here, but rest assured you aren’t missing anything special.
First up was the Mack Wild Mouse that the park closed in mine and Heartline’s faces last time we visited. Thankfully I was more successful today and credit where it’s due the coaster was hauling serious ass.
Next up was the park’s enclosed Vekoma Illusion that the park closed in mine and Heartline’s faces last time we visited. I honestly quite enjoyed this strange coaster. Firstly for the comedy of just how messed up it was, but then when it really got going it was pretty awesome, especially the surprise vicious pop of air that suddenly made me pay attention to what I was riding.
I’d run out of new things to try, so I decided I’d keep myself amused by watching my brother get assaulted by a terrible Eurofighter. The word progression is redefined when you look at how far Gerstlauer has come from this crap to Fury…
Probably the worst custom Maurer Spinner ever created. At least I didn’t have to wait 40 minutes to ride it like I did last time.
For lunch we had pizza, which was an improvement on my last visit, when the park closed a restaurant in mine and Heartline’s faces… The food was nice and I enjoyed that I managed to go through 6 plastic forks in 10 minutes.
This custom Vekoma Junior was the best coaster in the park previously, now it’s the 3rd best, progress!
The queue for Dream Catcher brought back some terrible memories of everything going wrong for us last visit, oh and yeah, the coaster is still awful.
Bobbejaanland’s Mack powered coaster is quite good for what it is. It was also nice to experience it in a much better state of mind than last time around.
With all the coasters now ridden and 3 new credits added to my list, we went for 1 last lap of Fury before leaving the park and heading to our hotel in the Netherlands.
Well, I wasn’t expecting that, Bobbejaanland had done it, it had been a massive improvement on last time and I managed to walk away rather satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be rushing back, but I would be happy to revisit when the time is right, unlike last time when I cursed the park and everyone in it.
Thanks for reading, click here for day 2, where I visit the fantastic Heide Park and get angry at an Intamin prefab…
This was a revisit to the park for me and a first time visit for Mega-Lite. Although I already adored the place, the most persuasive factor in my returning was their new coaster Baron 1898, of which you can find a review here. We had an amazing time and the park was as lovely as ever.
The next day didn’t go very well and I have only one picture to prove it ever happened. For some reason we decided to hit both of these parks in one day, to maximise our time and I assume because we thought neither lineup was particularly significant enough to warrant sticking around.
We crossed another easy border out of our centralised hub in the Netherlands and into Belgium for the day.
Day 4 – Walibi Belgium
We opted to head for the park’s new coaster to begin with, Pulsar, the first ever installation of a Mack powersplash. It’s a shuttle ride using their larger water coaster boats to power you both forwards and backwards up spikes of track before cleverly letting the water that surrounds the ride flood directly in front of the boat to produce a massive splashdown effect at the end. The queue was particularly interesting as we raced through it, with many of the actual walls having violently pulsing and vibrating sections to denote the theme. It wasn’t the most thrilling of rides, the size of boat makes it all a rather lumbering experience, but it was rather fun to try and we got absolutely soaked for the privilege.
There’s another shuttle coaster nearby called Psyke Underground. This time it’s a Schwarzkopf shuttle loop, with the added features of being entirely indoors and having replacement Gerstlauer trains fitted. It consists of launch, loop, spike, backwards loop, spike, end and simply wasn’t very interesting.
Calamity Mine is a standard layout Vekoma mine train that was worryingly better than Colorado Adventure earlier in the trip. With more than one train running, the two lift hills side by side and interaction of track between the two halves of the layout makes for good entertainment.
Cocinelle is a great name for the British to say and a small Zierer Tivoli. +1.
We were now at the back of the park where the shooting dark ride, Challenge of Tutankhamon sits. Excitement had built for this one as it was meant to be rather good and it didn’t disappoint. Navigating through various haunted Egyptian scenes, shooting as you go, the ride provides a number of either effective or amusing scares by use of animatronics. It also has the intelligence to split cars off and take them through different end sequences based on your score. Because of this, and how good it was, this was the only attraction here we did twice, though we failed to score too well both times and got the same ending.
The other dark ride is a Vekoma mad house. Le Palais du Génie had an interesting preshow, with guests gathering round a central area of the room and some trickery on the ceiling. The ride portion was par for the course on these attractions, the highlight often being other riders reactions to believing that you are genuinely going upside down.
Even though we still had a lot to cover for the day, we had been putting off the major coasters at the front of the park, the main reason being that one was a Vekoma SLC and another was a Vekoma boomerang, both prolific clones in the theme park world that I’m not sure anyone has ever enjoyed rather than endured.
Realising that time was now against us, and that they were all holding significant queues, we purchased a single fasttrack for each – a horrible thought to be paying extra for such rides.
Vampire is the SLC, where we were immediately let in through a secret back door into the station. It wasn’t the worst version I’ve ridden, but it wasn’t good either.
Cobra is the boomerang, where we stood in confusion at the exit for a while before being let on. It wasn’t the worst version I’ve ridden, but it wasn’t good either.
Finally it was time to try Loup-Garou, hoping for something better from the park’s Vekoma woodie. At least it was unique. Unfortunately I didn’t get on with the positioning of the awkward lap bar restraints very well and spent the duration of the ride bracing myself against that rather than taking in any of the layout. I believe it had the potential to be quite good, it just wasn’t for me with those trains.
With that, the park was complete and we hurried out to the next destination.
Our master plan was relying on the advertised operating hours of this park, it was due to close at 18:00 but on our arrival at the ticket desk, even though the car park was heaving, we had struggled to even find a space and it was still the school holidays in Belgium, they bluntly told us they were shutting at 17:00. Being madmen, we reckoned we could still manage everything in the remaining time and bought tickets anyway – we’ve come this far.
We started at Typhoon, the biggest coaster in the park, an older Gerstlauer Eurofighter. It’s an unattractive ride, looking more like it belongs at a fairground than a theme park, but then Bobbejaanland had been unattractive thus far as well. It fits. The queue was unpleasant and barely moving, we lost our first half hour here. The signature vertical lift and beyond vertical drop starts the ride, throwing you into a vertical loop where you immediately to notice that these trains are clunky and ride poorly. Some strangely high up turns and slow inversions go against the grain of what I have experienced previously on the ride type so it’s an unusual layout at least, but not really any good for it.
For some reason the only ride I have a picture of for this day is Dizz, perhaps in false hope that this Maurer spinner would be any good. It wasn’t. Another slow half hour queue for a ride that barely gained any speed throughout the uninspired layout and therefore didn’t really spin either.
With time slipping away from us, we had to get a bit tactical, bypassing the wild mouse which, if we did fail to ride everything, we would be the least bothered about missing. We also skipped past the indoor coaster which had a new Virtual Reality overlay advertised, knowing that the VR plague always destroys the throughput of any coaster it touches.
Which led us to the back of the park and Dream Catcher, a Vekoma suspended coaster. Like Dizz, it had a grim half hour queue and like Dizz, it barely gained any speed throughout the uninspired layout and therefore didn’t really swing either.
Oki Doki was, concerningly, the best ride in the park. I also declared it the best coaster in Belgium, which was ridiculous but also true at the time. The custom layout Vekoma junior had a fun first drop in the back and little else to offer.
We now decided to backtrack to the rides we had skipped earlier, starting with the indoor coaster. While walking through the queue, a ton of guests came pouring out of the ride towards us, having being kicked out, loudly shouting and making X symbols with their arms. It’s closed then… what’s the time? 16:30.
How about the wild mouse then? As we reached the entrance, the gate was being shut and a sign hung in front of it. Closed. As well as cutting short the opening hours for the day, they were also shutting half the park early while it was still really busy. Why?
Defeated, we aimlessly wandered onto something that was still open nearby, a King Kong flat ride. It’s an amusing ride, with a large angry ape picking you up in a bus, shouting and tipping you from side to side sedately, but it didn’t particularly raise our spirits at this time. Though we had played our part to the best of our ability, Bobbejaanland had let us down.
As a slight bonus, though we had written it off, the park’s powered coaster Bob Express was still open until 17:00, not 18:00, so we took our final and uneventful +1 for the day.
Having not liked the place anyway, the most annoying part was the thought that I would have to come back one day and finish it.
Day 5 – Walibi Holland
The final day consisted of another revisit for me, this time spurred on by the opening of Lost Gravity – review here. This really was a good year for new rides and they proved to be the driving force for a cracking trip overall.
During the night I’m certain our hotel room reached 40 degrees but other than that it was quite nice.
Thanks to the location of the hotel we took back roads all the way to Belgium, it was a lovely drive and quite beautiful in places, that was until we took a right and came face to face with 15 heavily armed soldiers! Of course they were fine but it wasn’t what I was expecting to see at 9am on a quiet Belgium back road.
Speaking of Belgium, me and Heartline have a bit of a history with it, in 2016 we visited Walibi and Bobbejaanland and let’s just say the country treated us less than fairly, shall we see if we do better this time? Spoilers, we don’t…
As we were rushing and everything was out to annoy us I don’t have much to say about the park itself, it has lots of trees…? Operations weren’t great…? Staff were alright…?
Our plan was to arrive for opening, knock off the coasters in an hour and then launch over to Plopsa, one of those things happened.
We got to the park 20 minutes before opening and that’s when it started to go wrong, some angry car park bloke lead us and half of Belgium down some sketchy road into a massive grassy overflow car park, good start!
We stood with several thousand heavily smoking Belgians at the turnstyles before running into the park to try to get the jump on them.
Huracan – We got to Huracan and there was only a few people outside, fantastic we thought, maybe we can still do this, then it opened late… Huracan is a partially enclosed Zierer Force coaster and it’s pretty great actually, with some nice theming inside.
Next we ran to the park’s tivoli coaster to find that they were were increasing the rows used every few cycles and that they were currently only allowing 4 people on the ride. As the queue was massive we decided to come back later.
Boomerang – We rode the park’s boomerang coaster while we waited, it wasn’t too rough.
They were now loading about quarter of the tivoli, not yet then!
Dawson Duel – So we went to check out the park’s brand new dueling alpine coasters. They were quite fun, something a little different at least but not worth the 30 minute queue.
Keverbaan – Even with them now loading the whole train we still queued far too long for the tivoli.
Now running majorly late we grabbed food to go and then made a serious scene leaving the car park, not on purpose I promise.
Plopsaland De Panne
We arrived at Plopsa at 2 and had to leave at 5:40 at the latest to make sure we got to the tunnel on time. That would be difficult at most parks but was going to impossible here.
Viktor’s Race – We got bored looking for the entrance to Anubis so we just opted to ride the park’s tivoli large, they were running it even slower than Bellewaerde…
Rollerskater – Then we ended up wasting even more precious time queueing for the park’s Vekoma junior coaster, the operator did notice we were cred running though, did we look that desperate?
Anubis: The Ride – FINALLY! The first proper coaster of the day. Anubis is one of only 2 Gertslauer launch coasters, the other being Lynet and both are really good. The coaster features a strong launch, crazy airtime on the top hat and then an intense and well paced layout.
SuperSplash – Is it a cred? Who knows. Was it a massive waste of time with awful operations? Yes, yes it was.
It was now 4 and we hadn’t yet experienced the park’s brand new GCI woodie, so assuming we’d want a few rides and almost certain there would be a queue, we decided to hell with the park’s other coasters, let’s cut our losses and go ride something decent.
When we got to the coaster we noticed it was closed with a member of staff at entrance, so we sat down and camped it out for a bit. 10 minutes later and the queue was opened and a bunch of us powered in, only to be told to leave by security, right…
We spent the next hour waiting and watching about 40 different staff members show up, do nothing, then leave. At 1 point a security bloke showed up and mocked those waiting and pretty much told us that the ride closes at 6:30, it’s almost 4:30, so what would be the point now, amazing…
Draak – We decided to ride the park’s powered coaster to get away from standing like idiots outside the closed woodie, this was a mistake… The worst operations of the day combined with the locals being as loud as humanly possible in an enclosed station only helped to sour the park experience even more.
Following this awful mistake we returned to waiting outside Heidi and stayed there right until the very last moment before we had to leave, this was pointless because nothing came of it.
Now very disappointed with the park we just wanted to pay for parking and leave, so course this had to be a mission too.
The parking machines were broken, so we had to go to guest services to get a ticket.
Guest services was manned by one very grumpy old lady who would not be rushed. Sell a car park ticket to this man, slowly answer the phone, print this man’s annual pass, go back to the phone, sell another ticket, go back on the phone, oh look we are next, no wait she’s on the phone again. When you’re already late and all faith in the park has already been lost, then the best thing to do now is just start laughing at this farce.
As we got half way back to the car Heidi went down the drop with guests on. It took less than a second and one nod to know what had to be done.
We sprinted across the car park, begged the turnstyle lady we just refused a hand stamp from to let us back in, sprinted across the park including through a restaurant and head first into a parade and finally got to Heidi.
Heidi – Thankfully I really enjoyed Heidi, sadly that about as much a review as I can give after only 1 lap but it’s certainly a positive one.
If you want a straight pros and cons review of Plopsa then I’ll try my best.
Pros – Some parts of the park are quite well themed (Heidi + Anubis areas)
Cons – Literally everything else.
Thanks to some violent driving we only missed our booked check in time by 3 minutes, sadly this meant we got put onto the next free train, which meant a 2 hour wait at the tunnel. Thankfully with the right company that’s no big deal.