Gold Coast – September 2013

Day 6 – White Water & Dreamworld

Thursday 19th September

I got up this morning and had the extreme pleasure of welcoming another child to another year older. My little girl is steadily becoming less little and has now reached the ripe old age of 7. Happy Birthday Jennifer 🙂

The Ashmore Palms kids’ club activity for this morning was a meet and greet with one of the owner’s parrots (they have lots of parrots, macaws and other such birds here). Jennifer was keen to go so off we trundled to the kids club just a few meters from our cabin. There was also a balloon man there and both kids made off with a shaped balloon each for their troubles. We stayed for no more than 20 minutes or so before coming back to the cabin to prepare for the rest of the day. As was the case with Joey turning 8-years-old just 4 days ago, we celebrated Jennifer’s 7th birthday with a bag full of birthday gifts.

With those fun formalities out of the way, I whipped up a dozen rashers of bacon on the BBQ and we all sat around the table to breakfast. As a family, we actually rarely sit around a table for a meal together so it was nice to do so this morning.

Today’s theme park of choice was White Water World, which sits adjacent to Dreamworld and is operated by the same company. Our tickets entitle us entry to this theme park already so we packed up the car with swimming supplies and set off on our merry way – this time being very careful about which exit to take from the motorway!

Despite the clear skies and 27 degrees weather forecast, the one and only main car-park was again only around half full by the time we rocked up shortly before 11:00am. Our plan was to spend some time in the water park initially but to finish up the day across the fence in Dreamworld again, so we parked the car equidistant between the two parks and went in.

First impressions were quite favourable – especially since there were plenty of shaded seating areas. We spotted some cabanas that we could have rented for $100. These are self-contained little huts with loungers inside them. They are fully enclosed on 3 sides with canvas walls, with the forth being optionally closed, have a ceiling fan, a fridge stocked with complementary drinks. Being in possession of one of these cabanas also granted you access to a waiter through whom you could order a meal from a special menu. When we were in Aquatica, the water park adjacent to Seaworld in Orlando, we actually rented one of these cabanas. They are expensive for sure but, depending of where in the park you ended up (they are dotted about in different spots), they could be a good bet if you plan to be in the park for the whole day. We found our cabana in Aquatica very useful because it was a guaranteed shaded area from the blistering heat and somewhere that the kids (and us parents) could have a mid-day nap. Since we were only planning on being in the water park for a short time, not to mention the fact that we immediately found some shaded area to sit in, we decided it wouldn’t be worth the expense in this instance.

There are a number of different areas to explore in White Water World. The one that Joey and I explored first was the Pipeline Plunge. It’s an outdoor climbing structure that has lots of different mechanism for getting you drenched – including a huge bucket that tips its load every minute or two. It’s a fun thing to play in and around but the water, as is so often the case with this sort of thing, is very cold. Joey and I spent only a short time here. Annoyingly, the one smaller slide that Joey seemed to take a fancy to was, so we were told by a nearby staff member, only available to smaller children under a certain height. This was particularly annoying given the fact that Joey is very reluctant to do many of the things that Jennifer so freely does and we’ve struggled to find the balance of things that would appeal to him as much as the things that appeal to Jennifer. Sandy queried as to why it was such a big deal for Joey to go down this very gentle slide and was told that larger children might cause the water that collects at the bottom of the slide to spill over so much that it takes too long to refill. I call bollox on this but what can you do; everyone has to abide by the rules such that they are.

Our choice of seating placed us a few steps from the main lagoon in the centre of the park, which doubled up as a wave pool. I took both kids in for a bit of a splash. There were a dozen or so inflatable tubes that various other guests were using. These all belonged to the park and were freely available on a first come, first serve basis. A small group of young kids were leaving as we were entering and were very kind enough to volunteer their inflatable tube to us so we graciously obliged. Sadly, it was less than 5 minutes before our first ‘incident’ of the day. 1 inflatable tube and 2 children made for a less than perfect mix and, sure enough, a misunderstanding over who was going to put their feet where caused Joey to flare up. Joey’s mild autism (to use the newly appointed verbiage as designated in the new DSM IV) is such that he does not have control over himself in such situations and the only thing that can really be done is to separate him from whatever it is that is the object of his aggression at that split second. If we see such a flare up coming, we can often intervene to prevent the problem from deteriorating but if not, then it very quickly escalates to him lashing out uncontrollably. Unfortunately, I was unable to get in-between quick enough and couldn’t prevent a couple of smacks that he managed to land onto Jennifer in his brief fit of anger. Even though we know and realise that his condition means that he is still unable to control himself quite yet in these circumstances, hitting is NOT tolerated and I had to remove him from the water for a mandatory 5-minute time-out. Unfortunately, this left Sandy with the burden of dealing with him – something that she could have done without.

As Sandy was trying to get Joey to a calm place in his mind, I set off with Jennifer to explore some more of the park and to partake in some of the larger rides with the birthday girl. By the time we returned, Joey had indeed calmed down somewhat but this had also by now taken its toll on Sandy, who was already very tired from early start every morning on the heels of restless nights in an unfamiliar bed.

We decided that it was now a good time to sit around on the loungers to partake in some lunch. I pondered to myself just how long will it be before the kids are old enough that we can take a family holiday together that isn’t itself a big strain on Mummy & Daddy. Up until this far, going on holiday with the kids has really meant doing all the same stressful things we do at home but just somewhere else – with the added stress of being in a different bed and having to deal with other pressures. That isn’t to say that we’re not enjoying our holidays, we most certainly are. Even though we look forward to our holidays, however, we often find that by the end of the holiday, we are looking forward to the holidays finishing so that we can get back to our normal surroundings just as much.

The lunch and sit down on the loungers did us all the world of good and Joey had by now returned to his normal self again, although this would not be the last ‘incident’ that we would have to contend with from him today.

Probably the most conspicuous attraction in the park is something called The Green Room. It’s an enormous green funnel lying on its side that you can see from far and wide. It’s a family ride, where square’ish inflatables that seat 4 people are dropped through a large flume and into one end of the funnel via a rather large and rather steep drop. The tube and occupants then slide up and down the walls of the funnel before eventually sliding through its centre and into a waiting pool on the other side. It’s really great fun and a very good water attraction by any standards. We went up as a family, but my expectations that Joey would bail right at the very end of the line did come to fruition. He and Sandy went back down again (much to Sandy’s relief I suspect) but me and little miss adrenaline junkie shared the inflatable between just the two of us. So impressed was Jennifer with this ride that she insisted that I take her up for a second go, which I did.

Given that Joey was in a somewhat fragile state today with at least 1 incident in the bag already, I decided I’d pamper him just a little by trying to indulge his request for some popcorn. Alas, none of the concession stands anywhere in the park sold popcorn and we had to make do with a glazed doughnut instead. This wasn’t my first choice but we’d by now already had lunch and it was a holiday for the kids just as much as it is for us after all and so a single doughnut didn’t seem too unreasonable.

Having seen and enjoyed just about as much as the park as we were going to, we decided that it was now about the right time to bail and head next door into Dreamworld. The kids really liked it there yesterday and both seemed eager to go back there again. So, we packed our stuff and put most of it back into the car. A quick stamp on the hand ensured that getting into Dreamworld right next door would be a painless exercise.

There’s but a single major attraction that none of us had yet done in Dreamworld and this was the Buzz Saw roller-coaster attraction that’s the most visible ride right at the very front of the park. As I suspected, there was a minimum height requirement that precluded the possibility that either of the kids could have a go. Joey was never going to even try but Jennifer was certainly game. Still, she understood the minimum height thing and was not overly fussed. The truth is that Jennifer is actually very easy to please and very rarely upset or disappointed in any given situation that deprives her of something. She just seems to take life in her stride with no worries at all.

Notwithstanding the height restrictions for the kids on the Buzz Saw ride, I decided that I wanted to experience this ride for myself. The sparse numbers in the park meant that the wait was literally just a few minutes for just about all the attractions today – including this one. The Buzz Saw is really just a brief loop in a slightly elongated circle. The entire footprint of the ride would probably sit in a standard quarter acre home plot. The car climbs slowly through a quarter circle from a horizontal resting position and then up a completely vertical incline about 10 stories high and then over backwards (you are completely upside down and held in place in your seat only by a lap harness) and with a twist to send the car hurtling back down the other side of the loop face first. It passes through the initial starting point, which is situated at the bottom of the circular loop, and climbs back up the sheer incline again but not quite to the top. It then reverses course with the aid of gravity and its own weight and shoots dow, around the bottom of the curve, and back up again in the reverse direction but only going part way around the twist at the top again (sending you briefly upside down again) before falling backwards again under its own weight. Down through the initial starting point again, this time forwards, and then up the sheer incline again, at the top of which the car reaches its apex and is halted completely stationary some 8 stories or so up (you are now facing the sky at this point). A few seconds later, the car is then slowly manoeuvred backwards back to the original starting position again. The whole thing takes probably less than 30 seconds but it really is quite the thrill – so much so that I went straight back around for a second run around the loop.

I met up with the rest of the clan who were by now enjoying themselves in the Shrek play area on the milder kids fairground-style attractions. Clearly not enough to satisfy Jennifer, she insisted that we pay another visit to the Tower of Terror II rider, which we did – twice! The first time, we got to ride in the front of the car an the second time the very rear of the car. Despite being one of the most intense theme park rides you’ll ever encounter anywhere on the planet, Jennifer would have happily spent the entire day repeating it over and over. Fortunately, I was able to persuade her otherwise. As it happens, there was another roller-coaster that we still hadn’t done yet and so we decided to give it a try once we re-joined Sandy and Joey. Once again, Joey bailed part way up the entrance gantry but Jennifer and me continued op to experience the ride. This must have been an older roller-coaster, as it really wasn’t that good. It buffeted us about a bit quite violently at numerous point during the ride. Really modern roller-coasters don’t have this problem but this one clearly did and it was less enjoyable for it.

Another attraction that we didn’t get to see yesterday was the soft ball play room. Hundreds of little foam balls and dozens of compressed air canons of various descriptions on 2 levels granted the kids and I a good half hour of fun sending balls hurtling at each other. It had just closed by the time we had realised it was there yesterday but we managed to get in today and have a ball (no pun intended).

We spent probably the next hour or so just accommodating the kids’ desire to repeat the gentler riders over and over … and over and over … and over and over again! The sun was by now starting to cast longer shadows and we slowly started to make our way towards the direction of the main entrance. One of the static attractions that squirted water periodically was still working and capturing various unsuspecting passers by in the process. Joey and Jennifer were having fun both trying to dodge and simultaneously trying to get caught by the random squirts of water … until Joey slipped and his inner ‘red beast’ immediately looked for someone to blame. Unfortunately, Jennifer was in the wrong place at the wrong time and she bore the brunt of his uncontrollable flare up. It was a good 5-10 minutes before he had tamed his inner ‘red beast’ and was ‘normal’ again.

Both kids wanted to spend their daily pocket money and so yet more soft toys have now been added to our seemingly never-ending growing collection. All in all, it was a good day today and we all left the park quite content that we’d had a good, if not oftentimes rocky, family day out. We loaded up the car and were swiftly all back at the cabin, where we all unwound a little. I made tonights dinner, whilst Sandy sorted through the day’s photos. During and after dinner, the kids and adults alike enjoyed another round of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We did have 1 more flare up with Joey at dinner but it was short-lived and as much to do with his being tired than anything else. Everyone is very tired and, I can only hope, everyone will sleep soundly tonight.