I like a good theme park, as testified by the notorious time when I toodled off to Disneyland Paris while my brother stayed in Paris and visited Notre Dame.
But this time, the advantage was mine. Not only had I scored tickets to Dreamworld, but being a resident of the Sunshine State, my bro had already seen the sights of Brisbane so had no excuse for not jumping on the Gold Coast train and going to Dreamworld.
Dreamworld is very much inspired by Disneyland, with its “main street” entrance and themed areas. But while Disneyland gets to have classic weenies – tall, iconic structures that catch the eye and the imagination – such as the Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Matterhorn, Dreamworld’s towering landmark is the Dreamworld Tower. It’s a tall shaft that offers guests an OMG-fast-fall experience.
Oh, before I go any further, I should state that I did not go on the Giant Drop. Nor did I experience the Tower of Terror II, The Claw, the Cyclone or anything else that sounds like a horror movie and/or something that would require a Civil Defence crisis management plan.
But I did start with the Thunder River Rapid Ride. It’s a water ride where one sits in a round boat which then goes for a hoon down a water run. It was fun and had just enough OMG thrills to keep me pleased. But – crap – some water splashed over the side and I got a little bit wet.
Next was the Rocky Hollow Log Ride. It’s a classic log flume ride (New Zealanders: it’s like the one in Rainbow’s End!!!) with a ye old tin shed design and… Oh, ok – I got soaked.
The log came barrelling down the flume, plunged into the water at the bottom and a couple of giant waves flopped over the side and got me all wet. And I’d even set in the back especially to avoid the worst of the water. Dryness fail.
“Take a photo of me looking all pissed off at getting wet,” I demanded of my bro. He obliged, yet somehow I don’t quite look consumed with rage.
It was time for something less aqueous, so off we went to the Vintage Cars ride, comedy replicas of old cars that you drive around a track.
At first this seemed like a challenge (I… I have trouble with the motor vehicles), until I realised that the steering wheel wasn’t actually connected to anything.
So I just sat back, rested my foot on the accelerator, waved my hands in the air like I just didn’t care, and the car merrily self-directed itself around the guide rail.
The Vintage Cars area is one of the oldest rides at Dreamworld and it feels like it belongs to a different time. In fact, it reminds me of the old Footrot Flats theme park in Te Atatu – a bit grunty and run down, but still enjoyable for a while.
Wedged around the back of Dreamworld is the Australian Wildlife Experience, which is indeed full of Australian wildlife such as koalas, kangaroos, emus and the daddy crocodile who was giving a special hug to the mummy crocodile.
The Australian Wildlife Experience feels a bit out of place. In a park full of roller coasters and costumed characters, it’s strange to come across actual real animals. And even stranger to consider that the park is effectively build on the natural habitat of these animals.
Suddenly I turned a corner and there I was in a land I had only dreamed of – Wiggles World. Yes, this was the mythical homeland of Anthony, Murray, Jeff and The New One Who Isn’t Greg.
Me: “Let’s go on the Big Red Car ride!!!!”
Bro: “No. You can, but I’m not.”
Me: “Oh, come on. It’s not like there’s anyone cool here who’ll see you.”
My bro relented, and as you can see by this photo, he was happily toot-toot chugga-chugga-ing along with me and not at all appalled by the experience:
At one point on the ride, I was singing the “Hot Potato” song and a small girl in the driver’s seat turned around and looked at me in bewilderment.
Wot, child? You’ve never seen someone enjoy the musical oeuvre of the Wiggles? Do I shock you with my unbridled enthusiasm for the most successful entertainers in Australian music ever (probably), surpassing Savage Garden, INXS and even the Hoodoo Gurus? Yeah, think about that, little ‘un.
The Motocoaster beckoned. It’s a roller coaster with the seats in the form of a motorbike, so one must sit crouched over. There was a long-arse wait for the ride. The line slowly crawled along, as bogan rock blasted out.
There were a lot of bogans at Dreamworld. There seems to be a whole bogan class in Queensland that you don’t get in New Zealand. Flabby dads with ’90s tribal arm-band tattoos, and bleachy-haired mums with their Chinese “girl power” tats and knock-off Gucci sunnies.
There are also plenty of New Zealanders at Dreamworld. It was the Sunday of New Zealand Labour weekend, so the place was crawling with sunburnt Aotearoans, off for some Gold Coast fun.
Finally I made it to the front of the Motocoaster. As soon as the ride started, I was hit with a wave of nausea from motion sickness. It reminded me of the 110 Upper Hutt bus – the new one with the overly sensitive brakes that makes every set of traffic lights, roundabout or bus stop an extreme and joyless experience.
For a break from the hoop-de-doo, we went on the train that circuits the park. The highlight of this, for sure, was passing by the Dreamworld TV studio. It’s not even named on the map, like an unglamorous secret.
See, the Dreamworld studio is where Big Brother Australia was filmed. The tropical Queensland climate provided just the right temperature to ensure that the housemates never needed to wear many clothes.
Between seasons, the Big Brother House was open for tours, but since it ended in 2008, the tours have stopped and it’s now used for storage. But for me, it’s a sacred televisual taonga.
The day was getting on, so I took one final ride – this time on the Rugrats Runaway Reptar. It’s what’s known in the biz as a suspended family coaster, which means the seats dangle from below and – for the “family” component – it doesn’t go upside down. Because if you are part of a family, you don’t like upside-downness.
In other words, it’s a lite coaster. It’s a lovely ride without any resemblance to the Upper Hutt #110. It doesn’t plunge you backwards into darkness at 160 km/h or put you into freefall. It’s just a nice, fun roller coaster.
With theme parks having rides with movie tie-ins, I reckon Dreamworld should have an Inception-themed ride that travels through worlds of dreams. It could be a roller coaster with van-shaped cars that travel through the Inception levels, finally gliding off a bridge really really, really, slowly before splashing down into Dreamworld’s Murrissippi River.
And with that, the Dreamworld dream was over, with Queenland’s superb public transport bringing us back to Brisbane.