Friday was a wonderful day for visiting a theme park - it was quite nice weather, fairly sunny for most of the day, and the park was almost empty. On some rides there were practically no queues, i.e. we were waiting for less than 10 minutes before going on the ride, and on other rides there were no queues at all, i.e. we walked straight onto the rides. For some of the more exciting rides I have never before seen the queue so short!
The first ride we went on was the Safari Skyway, located in Market Square near the entrance of the park. This is a monorail which goes round the zoo and lets you see the animals from above. We did this first as we'd eaten a big breakfast before leaving - this ride is not even vaguely thrilling and good to do just after a meal!
Then we went on the Rattlesnake. This is a type of rollercoaster called a Wild Mouse, in which single cars go around the track rather than a train. The glossary at roller coaster database gives this description: "rides using single-car trains on a track with very tight turns. The cars' wheels are positioned closer to the rear of the car than a traditional coaster. The front of the car travels past the turn before changing directions, giving the sensation that the car will fall off the track." The Rattlesnake has been my favourite ride at Chessington since we first started going there regularly in 1999. It's quite rickety, and you get thrown around in your seat a fair bit. There's also a couple of places where it brakes unnecessarily hard, but James and I know the ride so well that shouting "Brakes!" has become part of the experience.
After that, the Runaway Train, just round the corner from the Rattlesnake. This is a powered train on a track, so technically not a rollercoaster at all. How fun this is really depends on who is operating the train that day and how busy the park is. I've been on the Runaway Train when it's whizzed round and when it's crawled round. Going fast is fun, but going slow makes me feel sick, as then the carriages vibrate too much.
We skipped the Rodeo, next to the Runaway Train. This is a ride in which cars spin around three axes of rotation - the ride itself spins, the cars spin in groups of four on top of that, and then each car spins individually. The only time I have ever thrown up at Chessington was after going on this, so I always avoid it. Being spun round until I puke is not my idea of a good time!
The next ride to the Rodeo in my usual order of doing things was the Rameses Revenge, but we skipped this temporarily and went into Tomb Blaster. For years this was a crappy ghost train called the Terror Tomb (and then Forgotten Tomb - new name, no change to the contents), but this year they've introduced laser guns. Instead of just sitting in a car going round looking at not very scary things, you get given a gun and have to shoot the not very scary things. This makes it heaps better! We enjoyed it so much that we went on it again later in the day.
Then we walked all the way round to the Mystic East part of the park to go on Dragon Falls. This is an enjoyable log flume with two drops - one small and one big. This is the most popular ride in the park, and on busy days a virtual queuing system operates - you pick up a timed ticket which tells you which time to come back and queue properly. On Friday, it was so quiet that we got to go round a second and third time without even getting off and walking round!
Samurai was Chessington's new ride a few years ago, and it's still unique amongst UK parks. I don't quite know how to describe it. Basically, there are six sets of five seats arranged in a star shape around a central hub. When everyone is strapped in, the hub lifts upwards and spins. Each of the sets of five seats also spin separately, so you travel in all different directions at forces up to 4G. It usually has a queue of about 40 minutes, and it's worth spending up to an hour waiting for it because it is a very intense experience. Although it can make people feel nauseous people rarely throw up after it. There's pictures and a description on the unofficial guide to Chessington World of Adventures site.
We decided that Rameses Revenge straight after Samurai would be a bit much, so retreated into the Toytown area of the park. This contains rides aimed at very small children (under 7), but if there are no queues they'll let adults on. We went on the Flying Jumbos twice because I really enjoy them - you sit on an elephant which travels around in a circle slowly, and there is a lever you can pull to make it go up and down.
Then we went to Beanoland, which is an area aimed at older children (6-12 I'd guess), apart from the Bash Street Bus which is a totally weedy ride to occupy preschool kids while their older siblings rush around on the more exciting ones. Billy's Whizzer is another ride that I avoid because it tends to make me feel sick. Chairs arranged like swings in a playground turn fairly quickly around a central axis which grows in height as the ride goes on. Apparently it's good fun if it doesn't make you nauseous! Roger the Dodger's Dodgems are, as the title suggests, dodgems - fairly average bumper cars but worth a go if there's not much of a queue. The really good bit of Beanoland is Dennis's Madhouse. This was one of the few parts of the Millennium Dome that everyone raved about, where it was called Time Keepers. It's an area in which you collect soft balls which you can load into guns to shoot at people on the other side. Unfortunately, you are supposed to have a child under 1.40m with you to be allowed into it, and Chessington was full of schoolchildren :(
After this we went on Rameses Revenge, after having walked past it twice. This is a ride on which you sit on one of two long benches. After being thoroughly anchored down, the ride lifts up and spins. There's a better description and picture of it here. Normally you go through two slow spins and three fast ones. However, on Friday we went through three slow spins and 5 1/2 fast ones!
After that we felt quite sick and went back into Toytown to calm down, and then to Professor Burp's Bubbleworks in the Transylvania area of the park. This is a ride designed for young children (4-10 would be my guess), but it's also great fun for adults. You sit in a boat and get taken on a tour of a pretend fizzy drink factory, ending with fountains and coloured lights. There has been a lot of trouble with teenage groups going on the ride and spoiling it for younger kids, so these days they only allow "family groups and mature couples" onto it. I love it, and always try to go on it when I'm at Chessington.
Finally, we went on the new Vampire. I've been looking through a load of rollercoaster glossaries online to figure out the correct terminology for it. From 1990 to 2000, it operated as a Suspended rollercoaster with enclosed carriages. This is a type of coaster featuring trains that are suspended from wheel assemblies - the trains travel beneath the track and pivot on a swinging arm from side to side. This exaggerates the track's banks and turns. The new Vampire uses essentially the same track as the old, but the cars are now floorless. It's still a Suspended coaster, however, as the trains are not rigidly attached to the track (as they would be in an Inverted coaster).
The new Vampire is not much different to the old, partly because the company doing the renovations went bust in 2001. However, the new floorless trains are noticeably faster than the old ones. The ride is merely enjoyable if you sit in the middle of the train, but if you sit in the very front row it becomes absolutely thrilling, as you're able to see so much more of the track. We rode on it three times in the middle and twice at the front (iirc), and it's like two different rides.
So overall, what I thought - would I go again? Well, of course - Chessington is my local theme park - it's 25 minutes by bus virtually door-to-door from my house! I usually go there at least 4 times in a season (I get a season ticket for £70 that allows unlimited entry to each of Chessington, Thorpe Park and Alton Towers) and this was already my 3rd visit of the year! For some reason riding rollercoasters really helps with my depression.