A wild and untamed beast

The Wilderness of Walibi Holland

Up to now, Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC for short) has usually created new life for older wooden coasters with a bad reputation, but that it would also affect very solid and absolutely great wooden coasters, was new. Robin Hood has been one of my favourite coasters since my first ride in 2009, at times due to the uncertain future of the wooden roller coaster Colossos from Heide Park in Soltau, it was even on the first place of my wooden roller coaster favourites – so why rebuild it? Don’t get me wrong, I am on your side. For the park, the modification has advantages that shouldn’t be denied, be it the lower maintenance effort or the great advertising effect of such a roller coaster. Untamed is on everyone’s lips and that has its reasons.

Blast and Merlin’s Magic Castle

With the arrival of Untamed, the theme area Sherwood Forest has also undergone fundamental changes and has thus adapted to previous adjustments in this area. The theme area Wilderness picks up the festival theme of the amusement park and complements it with new, hip planting and colourful painted rides. The slick top Spin Excalibur has become Blast, and the formerly discreet looking castle of Merlin’s Magic Castle now looks like it’s out of a drug trip due to its wall art. Apart from these adjustments there are no other changes, which is a little bit strange, especially when riding on the Vekoma Mad House.

Untamed

Nevertheless, let us now come to a ride on the new roller coaster Untamed. After you have left the now beautifully designed queue behind you, or after you have waited a little bit on the stairs in front of the station as a single rider, you are assigned a seat. Shortly after that, the employees expertly close your bar, whereupon the ride starts effectively. After the station there is a turn tilted to the wrong side, whereupon the lift hill of the roller coaster is reached. This takes you up to the starting height of 36,5m and thus 4m higher than it was before.

With a maximum inclination of 80° we immediately fall to the ground. Here we race over a very tiny speed bump before we skilfully screw ourselves up into the air. Very similar to a banana roll we experience the 270° Double Inverting Stall, in which we roll away first in one direction and then in the other direction and in between we also experience some lateral airtime. Back on the ground we immediately witness a double-up element rich in airtime, whereby we merge into a left turn. Two more hills later we turn upside down once more as we approach the turning point of the ride, which is the front turning point from the visitor’s point of view. After a pressure-packed turning manoeuvre, we dedicate ourselves to the way back, whereby we now go over numerous hills with a good pinch of ejector airtime. Here we hit the bar again and again, which efficiently prevents us from falling out of the train. Over a twisted hill the final part of the ride is initiated. Now, the ride goes over hill and dale in an ever faster and faster pace, before another roll (just above the ground) is introduced. After this fulminant orgy the train drops down again quite suddenly, before the braking section of the layout is reached.

Untamed is a dignified successor of the wooden roller coaster Robin Hood. The ride is simply breathtaking and has many unique elements, which are just wicked and absolutely great. Accordingly, Untamed did everything right. I would have liked to ride it more often than just two laps, but I’m sure this will come true, if the first rush will have settled down sometime. Until then I remain curious about my next ride and, as always, I am looking forward to another visit to Walibi Holland.

Pictures Walibi Holland

 

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WAA!!! Walibi à la française

History of Walibi Rhône-Alpes

À chacun son WAA!! While I’m looking for the book by Dominique Fallon to entertain you with some lively facts about the entry of Avenirland in France, you can already be amused about the great phonetic cry from Walibi Rhône-Alpes. Eddy Meeùs, founder of the Belgian amusement park Walibi and exclusive distributor of waterskiing facilities in Belgium, was offered a share in the French amusement park Avenirland near Les Avenières in 1981. This rather small amusement park near Lyon offered since 1979 a small collection of rides from Mack and Soquet in a – not necessarily matching the name – western setting. Meeùs and a French amusement ride manufacturer first took over 40% of the shares, before they each owned 50% just two years later.  Differences of opinion between the two parties led to Meeùs holding all the shares by the end of 1985.

1986 saw the opening of Aqualibi, the first water park in the group. Although there were already plans to build a swimming pool in Wavre in 1975, these were never realised due to a lack of funds. Ten years later Dominique Fallon visited the Duinrell amusement park with its brand new Tikibad, and the idea for the Aqualibi water park was born in Belgium. Eddy Meeùs himself could only be convinced of the idea in January 1986. After that, everything actually happened very quickly. Both Aqualibis opened in a tight time frame, although the French water park would only be open during the summer months due to its location and therefore was rather sparse compared to the Belgian Aqualibi – which at the time was the status quo for water parks in Belgium.

Two years later the park received its first large roller coaster, the Boomerang.  However, the lack of visitors almost meant the end for the amusement park. The park had an image problem and Dominique Fallon had the solution. The Walibi brand was known throughout France through extensive advertising on the Luxembourg radio station RTL – although the advertising was always aimed at the Francophone Belgians – and the new rapid river, the Radja River, was on everyone’s lips. So Avenirland was to get its own Radja River, and the park was to be renamed Walibi Rhône-Alpes. Within one year the number of visitors increased from 250000 to 450000.

The 1990s were characterised by the rapid growth of the Walibi Group, while Walibi Rhône-Alpes stagnated somewhat in terms of visitor numbers. In 1997, a large part of the group was sold to Premier Parks (with the exception of the two Brussels attractions Mini Europe and Océade which were henceforth managed by Thierry Meeùs). During the Six Flags era, the number of visitors stabilised again at 400,000. This was followed in 2004 by the takeover by Star Parks, a chain of theme parks created by Palamon Capital Partners. In 2006, it was sold to Grévin & Cie, the current theme park division of Compagnie des Alpes.

From then on, Paris had the say and the first action was the massive expansion of the Aqualibi water park. It also received a new name with L’île aux Pirates. In 2011, the park’s biggest innovation followed, when the cuddly kangaroo was given its own universe and was then given a much more modern appearance. As a result, the water park also regained its original name. Large parts of Walibi Rhône-Alpes were redesigned and were now based on the leitmotif around the two fictional bands WAB and The SkunX. Even if the overall reorientation was only short-lived, it was groundbreaking.

Nowadays, the decision-making power on the orientation of the amusement park is no longer exclusively in Paris, which allows the individual parks to develop according to their own needs. The fact that a new attraction has been offered every year in Rhône-Alpes for the past seven years is a very interesting development. Not every park is able to perfectly adapt its novelties to the themed area in question.

Tour of the park

Dock n Roll and Hurricane

So it is hardly surprising that I was absolutely thrilled by the park right after entering the newly created entrance area. Walibi Rhône-Alpes is downright stylish, which is also due to the newly created Festival City themed area with its Rockin’ Tug Dock n Roll and Vertical Swing Hurricane, as well as the park’s 4D cinema. Unfortunately, the chain flyer was still under construction at the time of the visit; I liked the design idea with the multitude of fans very much.

Bamba

For dramaturgical reasons, we are now moving counter-clockwise through Walibi Rhône-Alpes. We will soon come across the original principal area of the park, the actual western town. Nowadays, this area is of course very colourful to match the look of Morvan’s, L’Hermenier’s and Wuyes’ comic strip. The area boasts a wide variety of restaurants and family rides, including a merry-go-round, a vintage car ride and a bumper car, as well as two faster rides. The first of these is the Mack Rides Calypso Bamba, which offered a solid, albeit monotonous, ride and, at almost 40 years of age, is still able to thrill the family crowd.

Skunx Tower

The main attraction in this area is the Skunx Tower, which at the time was placed in the park by Premier Parks as the Totem Infernal. This 57m high launch freefall tower from S&S Power does what a freefall tower from the company in the Space Shot programme does and takes you to the top of the park with a good dose of speed. Once there, however, something happens that you would never expect and you are transported to the shoulder restraints. Airtime olé! Needless to say that you get out of the ride with a big grin on your face and if the queue at such a tower wasn’t always so long, you’d get back on board in no time. A great tower that you should not miss!

Aqualibi

Following the paths, we cross the tracks of the park railway and have a look at the water park Aqualibi from the outside. It was not in operation at that time of the year and also the interesting looking slide Coursaire was located on a site next to the water park. Actually I always wanted to go to Walibi Rhône-Alpes to test the park and the water park, but now I was a bit too early. But that doesn’t matter, because the water park will be massively extended in the near future in order to entertain the guests as an independent water park just like in Wavre. I am very interested in the tube slide with the constantly narrowing curve diameter.

Bambooz River

Directly opposite the entrance to the pool is the modern log flume Bambooz River by Interlink and Soquet. Built in 2012, this ride was the first new attraction since the rebranding. The ride stands around relatively naked in the area, but is impressively adorned by larger steel sculptures. The ride features two shots of different heights, with the smaller one also featuring a double downhill run. Both are wet. In fact, the Bambooz River can really soak you, which is great and desirable. Unfortunately, however, you are not allowed to do any of the water rides in the French CDA parks on your own, which is why I only left it at one ride, which seems strange, especially on the next ride on our park tour.

Tam Tam Aventure

We are now embarking on a French classic, the Tam Tam Tour or Tam Tam Aventure, as the eternally long boat trip is called after its transformation. As I know the ride from Walibi Aquitaine – today’s Walibi Sud-Ouest – I was very curious to see whether the ride would drive you crazy with the monotonous croaking of countless frogs. It turned out differently. Very much so, in fact.

Since I was not allowed to go alone in the boat, but was the only one far and wide at visiting time, I was allowed to wait a little bit for other passengers. It was a good thing that within a few minutes a big crowd of girls passed by at a bachelor party. There was singing, trumpeting and of course drumming, after all there are drums built into the boats especially for that purpose. Actually, you are supposed to drum in the appropriate rhythm to the built-in film scenes – but nobody really does that. The trip itself has a great visual impact, the scenes are really creative and funny. The narrator is also highly ironic. This is really a lot of fun and gives the old boat trip a right to exist.

Coccinelle

Speaking of the right to exist, let’s now move on to the Coccinelle. Since 1992, this classic ladybird coaster in its largest version has been entertaining park guests from Walibi Rhône-Alpes. As always, the roller coaster with the layout of a side-by-side double eight knew how to convince, but unfortunately the track was only used for a single lap. This is of course a bit of a pity, after all these rides are predestined for a multiple lap operation.

Mini Ferme and Les plongeurs de l’extrême

I spent an unexpectedly long time at the Mini Ferme, a small domestic animal zoo. It is vividly designed and yet surprisingly spacious. It’s amazing how many French family parks have such an area, the Mini Ferme here in Walibi Rhône-Alpes is one of the most beautiful examples and is especially suitable for families with small children to spend the time or at least to use the time until the next wet side story. Les plongeurs de l’extrême offer a great and absolutely worth seeing Acapulco Cliff Diver Show.

Gold River

Let’s now turn to the Radja River rapid river, which has belonged to the Explorer Adventure theme area since the construction of the MonORrail – at least parts of which run above it – and has been called Gold River ever since. In contrast to the original from Belgium, the Radja River is a Soquet product with eight seats per boat. However, the trip through the rapids is quite leisurely and without a major highlight.

On the other hand, I was quite taken with the monorail running above it. This monorail, also made by Soquet, scores with unusual insights into the park’s Vekoma Boomerang, as well as with a terrific smoothness. A truly great ride.

Le Galion

Past the park’s large amphitheatre, which is only used in the summer months, the attraction now moves more and more towards the Timber wooden roller coaster! But before that, we dedicate ourselves to Le Galion, after all we are in France. This HUSS swing ship would not be worth mentioning if the seats were not separated by seat dividers, so that even small children can ride on each seat absolutely safely. As these seat dividers were never used on a Pirat, I was quite astonished.

Timber!

“It’s going down, I’m yelling timber! You better move, you better dance”. Someone must have liked the song by Pitbull quite a bit, because the exclamation Timber! was certainly not known to any Frenchman before. So it’s all the nicer to have a Montagne russe en bois with lots of timbres in the park. The manufacturer of this beauty is the American Gravity Group, the founders of which were previously responsible for numerous works by Custom Coaster International, or CCI for short. For some time now, the company has been building mainly smaller wooden roller coasters, which makes them especially interesting for small to medium-sized amusement parks. So it’s no wonder that Walibi Rhône-Alpes took up the business back then.

The wild ride in the short trains starts quite quickly with the ascent of the only 17m high lift hill. After a tight turning curve, the train rushes down mercilessly over the far too narrow hilltop, accompanied by appropriate music. With plenty of airtime we complete the first drop of the ride as well as the following hill, which is quite close to the ground. After a short bend to the left we wind our way up over three tops, once in one direction and then inclined in the other direction, and are torn out of our seats every time. In a right-hand bend close to the ground we approach the park boundary, shoot over a very flat hill once more and turn around. Below the third hilltop we now perform a wild and airy turning manoeuvre. Just after that we make another turn and fly over a hill shortly after. A series of smaller hills follows immediately after a right turn, whereby the speed is reduced a little in a trim brake. Before you know it you reach the braking distance of the ride and the short and wild ride comes to an end.

Timber! is an extraordinarily great roller coaster, which has been fantastically staged and scores with its extremely powerful ride. If you compare the ride of the roller coaster with the wooden roller coasters of the manufacturer GCI which are better known in this country, Gravity Group’s ride here is quite a statement. Unfortunately there is one small detail on the ride that spoils the fun a bit and that are the trains! Timberliners may be justified, especially since they allow smaller children to ride safely. But what on earth are the blinkers on the sides of the train for? I’ll let the manufacturer get away with the stupid construction of the stirrups, because they are actually only clumsy, but the blinkers are very restrictive. You just don’t sit comfortably. Nevertheless, a good ride – but not my highlight because of the trains used.

Woodstock Express

Passing the Zamperla Barnyard Volt-O-Vent we are now heading for the Wild Mouse Woodstock Express. This Italian mouse coaster construction from the house of Zamperla offers a similar ride pleasure as the rides from L&T Systems, but with a small, but extremely fine difference right at the beginning of the ride. While the other mice escort their passengers in a right-hand bend into the lift hill of the ride, the Zamperla Mouse shoots out of the station on a short gradient before the lift makes a big noise. As I already knew this behaviour from Walibi Sud-Ouest, I was accordingly riding by and supported myself from the backrest until the moment in question. This was followed by an absolutely butter-soft ride, for which I was always happy to get in line.

EqWalizer

Passing the boat slide Surf Music, we now go to the last roller coaster of the park and my personal favourite: the Vekoma Boomerang EqWalizer. Now you might ask yourself, why of all things a Boomerang should be better than a crazy and extremely powerful wooden roller coaster. The answer is simple: The train.

Vekoma Boomerangs are per se extremely funny roller coasters, which can easily convince on both forward and reverse ride through cobra roll and looping; as long as they ride well and at least that is what they are good for in Europe. Of course there are better roller coasters, but when a Boomerang suddenly comes along without shoulder restraints, you have to be in a pretty good position to compete against such a ride. The unusually high level of freedom on the Sunkid trains is a great benefit for the ride and makes you hungry for repeat rides. And here in the park you don’t have to pay 5€ every time like on the Vienna Prater.  However, I also have some minor points of criticism regarding the EqWalizer, which at least partly concern the ride, but do not diminish its quality. For example, getting into the second row of seats in a car is an extremely tight procedure, which could certainly be optimised with a slightly different lap bar shape. Altogether a great coaster!

Pictures Walibi Rhône-Alpes

Conclusion Walibi Rhône-Alpes

Walibi Rhône-Alpes was – as the last remaining Walibi Park – on my bucket list for quite some time now and fortunately, thanks to the upcoming novelties, it has been back on the list for quite some time. The park has a great charm and convinces with its really coherent overall concept. The park also has a very pleasant audience, which further strengthens the family park character. It was also nice to meet the bachelor party troop again and again, who really thanked me every time for the ride with them on Tam Tam Aventure. In any case, I couldn’t have imagined a better start for my roller coaster trip, although the Yukon Quad roller coaster celebrated its premiere in Le Pal on the same day, but we’ll look at it in the next review.


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# Hard Gaan

Hard Gaan in Walibi Holland

Slowly but surely one can say that Walibi has recovered from the Six Flags era. The re-branding of the brand in 2012 and the changes in the park that went along with it were long enough, but there were no novelties except for the reactivation of the roller coaster Speed of Sound and the truly ingenious design of the launch coaster Xpress: Platform 13. As successful as the restructuring of the park around the fictitious bands W.A.B. and The Skunx is, it seems that people in Holland prefer to go their own way and simply throw a lot of things overboard; because “Hard Gaan” and so on. There’s not much sense in that anymore, especially since they now serve a rather antisocial clientele. But what can you do when the biggest competitor serves all other target groups? As a first step to go fast, according to the literal translation, was to rob Speed of Sound of its soundtrack. Sure, the new track is good, but it takes away its history. The second step was taken this year with the opening of the roller coaster Lost Gravity.

Lost Gravity

The design of the queue is wacky, but partly very conservative and inevitably reminds of the roller coaster Dizz of the Belgian amusement park Bobbejaanland. A lot more would have been possible here, especially since the custom-made comic universe of Morvan, L’Hermenier and Wuye provided a lot more possibilities. The cars of Lost Gravity, on the other hand, are truly unusual. Similar to the Intamin Wing Coasters, they offer two seats with a corridor and two without, but also have a high front. The seating comfort is great and the design of the cars has very little, or more precisely, a negligible effect on ride comfort.

The ride begins with a right turn out of the station before it quickly climbs up via a chain lift. Without any rest the car immediately throws itself down the 32 height meters in an insane way; at least this is the case if one has taken a seat on the left side of the car. The extremely steep and widely twisted gradient is breathtaking without question, but at the right side it is almost boring compared to the left side, the radius is simply too narrow. With a lightning speed you pass over a ground level double-up, over whose hill you literally fly, before you find yourself on a top-hat element that is slightly tilted to the side; which you could also describe as a non-inverted banana roll, if you like. Somewhat contradictory to the previous layout is a huge camelback hill, which takes the passengers out of their seats again. At a breathtaking height, one now races through a wide turning curve, which in addition is also tilted outwards. So far, so good, and if Lost Gravity would end now, it would be a very short roller coaster, but also an extremely ingenious one. But instead of the final braking section there is a block brake followed by the second part of the ride.

After having reduced your speed, you now lean to the side and dive towards the ground again in a dive loop. A tight turn and a Zero-G roll are now carried out in a very tame way. The next turn will also be a turn where at least one of the acceleration vectors is zero. As a result, it is no longer possible to speak of a dynamic ride. You constantly brake and accelerate from new, which is equivalent to the accordion effect known from traffic jams. Over a hill you change direction again, cross another hilltop, pass a last pressure-laden valley, make a last turn and then find yourself in the final brake of the ride.

Lost Gravity is an excellent roller coaster for a little stop along the way, but nothing more. The first rumors were still about a revolving gondola roller coaster, this would have been hardly feasible with the first part of the ride, but ideal for the second. Either way, the first part is absolutely amazing, but the second one is wasted. The last curves are still a lot of fun and let you leave the ride with a little grin on your face, but the premiere of Mack Rides Big Dipper was not as convincing as it should be; at least there is enough potential for further installations.

Pictures Walibi Holland

Closing Words

Finally, I would like to appeal to human reason, which Dutch students probably no longer call their own. I assume that the student in question is striving for an equivalent to the German Abitur (as nowadays everyone does) and therefore should not be stupid – but how could one come up with the idea to sit on the seat and hold on loosely in a rafting ride with movable boats, like Rio Grande is? This is dangerous and should normally be rewarded immediately with exclusion from the park for a lifetime. If this boy would have fallen into the water and drowned, I would have neither been shocked nor worried about him; in fact, it was predictable. His buddies were similar, but in the postfactual age, you can’t let something arbitrary like rational rules distract you from your own horniness. Let’s all have a selfie! Yeah!

Walibi, you’d better think about Hard Gaan again, you might not be doing yourself any favours in the end.

 

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