Continuing to shake the cobwebs off my trip reporting. It’s kind of hard to talk about your thoughts when nobody is asking for them…
Day 4 - Bobbejaanland & Bellewaerde
I’m not going to lie, I was irrationally excited about this one. You all remember the book Roller Coaster
by David Bennett that was published in ’98? I remember getting that book for Christmas and it was next level compared to the other books that were available at the time. It was filled with rides and photos that I had never seen or heard of before. One of these was Air Race at Bobbejaanland, now Dreamcatcher. I was fascinated with the cartoonish plane trains.
Fast forward to 2004, I became enamored with the place when they opened Typhoon. You may laugh now, but the Eurofighter was such a fascinating ride at the time. A beyond vertical drop? Are you kidding? Typhoon really stepped up from the relatively short Vild Svinet. Four inversions including some pretty funky heartline rolls? It just wasn’t that common back then and the oddity of it had me captivated.
Factoring in all of the reviews I heard and read over the years about how strange the park is, it just continued to climb up my list of desired parks. Finally, the day was upon me to check it off the list. However, knowing that it wasn’t really a full day affair, my hope was to wrap the park up as quickly as possible and then head to Bellewaerde in the afternoon and get as much in there as I could (while also hoping to avoid another Phantasialand situation).
I seriously underestimated how busy these parks would be on a week day. As soon as the rope dropped, I went straight to Fury. I waited maybe ten minutes, but by the time I was in the station, the queue was already clearly full.
First run, I decided to try and get a backwards ride. Once I sat down and attempted to cast my vote, I was convinced that the voting system wasn’t actually functional, but @Hixee’s experience seems to dispel that notion. Regardless, I got the backwards ride that I hoped for.
The ride experience was truly excellent. Sure, it had a little bit of Gerstlauer’s trademark shakiness, but I thoroughly enjoyed the layout. It was weird, it was forceful, and the backwards nature meant I was always caught by surprise. I absolutely loved it. This thing should be getting cloned and I’m slightly stunned that nobody else has bought one. It’s compact and on a plot that really isn’t all that large. Not to mention it looks so menacing.
After a quick glance at the queues in the vicinity, I knew that I had to fork out for the express pass if I was to maintain any hope of getting time at Bellewaerde. I opted for the medium option which simply provided one ride on all of the major attractions and headed back towards the Fury area.
At this point, I was getting nervous about my chances of riding Typhoon. Maintenance folks were working on the ride which was encouraging, but it didn’t seem like it was a small issue. So, I decided to head right back to Fury to get a forwards ride.
The theming of Fury is quite nice, but upon going up the express pass queue, it became apparent that the express system was fairly new…
Express pass riders had to climb through this window into the station where they had clearly cut off the dungeon window lattice and casually caulked over the metal edges. This whole situation is a never-in-America scene for multiple reasons, so I was quite amused.
The ride op asked me if I wanted to go forwards or backwards as opposed to forwards or vote, which led me to continue to believe that the voting system doesn’t actually work, but I guess it’s just exceedingly rare that the voting side goes forward.
While I think I prefer backwards, the forwards ride was almost equally great. Again, I loved this ride. Clone it. Now.
Between Fury and Naga Bay was this charming little area. I know spots like this aren’t terribly uncommon in parks in Europe, but I still think they are so very cool and fantastical. I partook in hopping on the pads myself.
Next up was Naga Bay which I don’t have a lot to say about. It was perfectly enjoyable, but the drop off of the first block brake was the only real noteworthy moment. Everything else was fun, but relatively tame. I will never complain about a custom Maurer spinner, but this one lacked the punch and fun elements that Spinball Whizzer and Winjas offer.
At this point, I was in search of a restroom and found one in some random building that had rides. Because the park didn’t seem to have park maps, I had no idea what was inside of here, but in finding a restroom, I also found the entrance to Revolution.
I’m dating myself here, but It’s only as I type this that I realize that I have now ridden the only two Vekoma Illusions to ever exist. I was looking forward to experiencing the ride, but I had a general idea of what to expect even though it had been an insanely long time since I last rode one.
It was enjoyable enough. A strange ride, and I like strange rides, but still nothing to write home about. The incredibly long trains provide some weird forces on occasion which is always a good time, but I can’t help but wonder if the ride experience would be better with a shorter train. Anyway, time to go stumble upon the next cred in the park…
The theming that I was seeing on this side of the park was generally pretty impressive. Speedy Bob is of course a standard Mack wild mouse. It ran well enough. At this point, I knew that my express pass money was well spent.
I loved the aesthetic of this. Nevertheless, as an American, it is funny to see so much of this park themed to the Wild West.
Finally, it was time to experience the ride that first sparked my interest in the park: Dreamcatcher. It also helps me generally point to what made this park really interesting for a coaster collection standpoint. Typhoon was the 2nd Eurofighter. Fury is one of a kind. Naga Bay is a custom Maurer spinner. Revolution is one of only two models ever built and the only in existence. Dreamcatcher is one of three ever built. Oki Doki is a custom family coaster. For a small park, it has a pretty interesting collection.
Nerdy, but I liked the station. No drop floor or anything and a slot in the middle to stabilize the cars. Perfectly rational solution, but I had never seen anything like it.
The ride itself left a bit to be desired. For a coaster that I had looked forward to for so long, it was a let down. In all fairness I didn’t really expect a lot either, but was still a little let down. The swinging felt really dampened, and despite being a suspended coaster I took a few nice shots to the head by the restraint. I was happy to ride it, but also happy to move on to the next coaster.
Walking from Dreamcatcher towards Oki Doki, the park began to feel a little two faced. The right/south side felt well themed and charming. The north side felt neglected and at times bare. This stretch felt really strange.
Next was Oki Doki. I have a strange appreciation for custom Vekoma family coasters. Weird, I know, but sometimes they can produce some fun little layouts for what they are. I liked the interaction over the midway that Oki Doki provided, but the layout was fairly drawn out and unremarkable.
After this, I stumbled upon Indiana River. A lot of friends told me about a ride that was pretty offensive and played to terrible stereotypes, and since the ride was on my express pass and I knew it was slated to be rethemed, I decided to give it a go.
Not only was it not offensive, but it was a ******* log flume and I got wet… again. Not happy. Nevertheless, it was a fairly neat indoor flume and I didn’t entirely regret it.
Shortly after, I came across El Paso and immediately realized my goof. I rode it. Just wow.
With my self-imposed time deadline approaching, I couldn’t be bothered to wait for the powered coaster so I made my way back around to Typhoon and was thrilled to see that it was up and running!
Love might be a strong word, but I really really
enjoyed this ride. I was fully prepared to get concussed, but it refused to deliver. There were a couple of jarring moments, but I found the ride to be extremely tolerable. The heartline rolls were even weirder than I ever imagined and the turn pictured above was decently intense. It doesn’t hold a candle to Fury, but I honestly enjoyed it way more than I expected.
With Typhoon checked off, I was able to comfortably leave Bobbejaanland and begin the two-ish hour drive to Bellewaerde!
Learning at least one lesson from the Phantasialand debacle, I bought a ticket for Bellewaerde before I left Bobbejaanland. I just had to hope that they hadn’t closed the gate altogether like I once experienced at Klotten. I arrived at the park around 2:45pm and had zero issues entering, fortunately!
I was looking forward to this park as it is a Compagnie des Alpes property and I have loved my experiences at Walibi Holland and Walibi Belgium. Two things were immediately apparent shortly after entering Bellewaerde: 1) it was going to be as nice as the other two CdA properties I’d visited, and 2) it was going to be a very different type of park.
I was of course aware of the collection of coasters that Bellewaerde has, but I did not know much else. I was not aware of how spread out the park is nor did I realize how animal-centric the place is. It certainly had plenty of charm, but it was not what I envisioned in my head (and that is fine).
First thing’s first, I beelined to Wakala, arguably the most interesting coaster in the park. With a 45 minute queue, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had a single rider line and even more pleasantly surprised to see that the single rider line was fairly short.
If you give me an opportunity to take a photo of a lift hill like this, I am going to take the shot.
Nerd moment. I have never noticed these pivoting contraptions near the lift chain on Gerstlauers before and I honestly am not sure what they are for. I have a few solid guesses, but I was a bit intrigued.
Moving on, I really liked Wakala. As mentioned before, I like weird rides and this fit the bill. It had some super strange shaping including turns that were slightly outwardly banked and also had some pretty fun, whippy turns for a family coaster. And the spike worked pretty well. I’m glad it occurs at the end of the ride because switch tracks tend to slaughter pacing. It doesn’t matter as much when the switch track is literally the end of the ride.
Even though the exit of Wakala spits you out very close to Dawson Duel, I wasn’t going to prioritize it and instead decided to head to the opposite end of the park which is when I began to understand how large Bellewaerde truly is.
The park might be spread out, but it is picturesque.
Wild West theming in a European park; as obligatory as a Flake bar shoved into an ice cream in the UK.
I went straight to Boomerang for reasons I can’t entirely explain, but was happy to see that the queue was fairly short. In less than 15 minutes I was on the train.
Two things stuck out to me about this particular boomerang. First, fully enclosed stations on a boomerang are rare and this one felt relatively huge. Second, this boomerang was also pretty enjoyable. I don’t know what it is about the CdA boomerangs, but the three that I have done have been three of the best. The only non-CdA boomerang that I’ve experienced that is remotely as good is Flying Cobras at Carowinds and that is just because it has the vest restraints.
After Boomerang, the next logical endeavor was Huracan. I really didn’t know much about this ride apart from the fact that it is a custom Zierer coaster. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on the ride after waiting just 10 minutes.
The ride started with a dark ride portion which was unexpected but unique. What made it even more unique was the fact that there was no sound! That aspect was quite bizarre and I’m still not sure if it was designed that way or not.
After a lift hill and brief outdoor section, the coaster ducked back into the building and really picked up pace. Shortly after you come back into the building, you are faced with a spectrum light special effect that was borderline blinding but I loved it. I can’t fully explain it, but it was like I was tripping and fall face first into the album cover of Dark Side of the Moon
. I loved it. Alas, it was short lived. The rest of the ride was fast, brief, but a lot of fun. It was a fantastic little coaster.
I completely forgot that they had a functional (and the first!) Topple Tower! Cool to see, but I was on a coaster mission and don’t recall overly loving the version at Dollywood, so I wasn’t too upset to simply snap a photo and carry on.
Next up was Keverbaan, the first of three Zierer Large Tivoli models of the trip. This one is closing at the end of the season and it was quite obvious as to why. It did not ride well, especially the valley that is out of shot and just to the left of the photo above. There was something bad wrong with it. It had an insane vibration and an atrocious noise.
Having conquered the undisputed creds in the park, I made my way to Dawson Duel. It had a listed wait of 45 minutes which really pained me, but I was going to experience at least one side.
It is such a bizarre installation. The entire setup is huge. It takes up a significant amount of space and features a massive ramp system as a queue. But what makes it utterly bizarre is the fact that you have to climb 20 feet of stairs to get to the ramp system, which defeats a lot of the benefit of having a ramp queue, but whatever.
The queue proved to only be about 15 minutes and was fairly enjoyable as the view was nice and there was a solid breeze. As for the ride, it was fine. I was tempted to pass on the other side, but that side seemed to run a lot faster so I waited another 15 minutes and gave it a go. It was also fine. Admittedly, it felt faster, but was still pretty unremarkable.
After grabbing a second ride on Wakala, I made my way to the exit to call it a day, but not before grabbing a cup of the best ice cream that I’ve ever had (sans Flake bar of course). I then made my way to De Panne where I would stay for the next few nights.
I spent the evening strolling along the incredibly windy seaside of De Panne while translating menus to see if there was anything that my stupidly sensitive body could tolerate. Eventually, I found a solid meal and called it an evening. Plopsaland beckoned…
So, creds as I ranked them at this point in the trip:
- Psyke Underground
- Calamity Mine
- Naga Bay
- Tiki Waka
- Loup Garou
- Speedy Bob
- Dawson Duel (Left)
- Dawson Duel (Right)
- Oki Doki
- Fun Pilot