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What a Carry On! Florida, August 2008 - Part 11, Busch & Old Town

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Mike, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    What a Carry On! Part 11 – Wednesday 27th August 2008

    We wake up at 6.10, just before the alarm goes off. Beth is already up – amazing – and MSNing on the lappy (not so amazing!) I wake Adam up and then sort coffee, which we enjoy on the lanai, watching and listening to the wildlife in the nature reserve behind the villa. Dad tells us that they sat and watched a distant and visually brilliant, but totally silent, electrical storm last night while we were out.

    Today we have decided to ‘do’ Busch Gardens, necessitating a fairly early kick-off. The troops perform well, and we are showered, dressed and ready for the off by 7.50.

    The journey takes longer than expected, due to a 9-car pile-up about 10 miles from the point where we leave the I4, and it’s 9.20 when we arrive at the park.

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    It’s 7 years since our only previous visit, and it looks significantly different now: in 2001 the car lot was dirt surfaced, and a rather dodgy tractor-tram took you across the road to the entrance. Now we find ourselves in acres of smart asphalt and new tunnels link both sides of the road.

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    Busch Gardens opens at 9.30, so we are in good time. There are nowhere near the number of people waiting that you would typically find outside an Orlando park, even in off season, and we are admitted without delay.

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    Amanda and I have tunnel vision concerning BG: basically, the only ride we are actually bothered about doing is Sheikra, and we head in that direction immediately – only to find that ‘Stanleyville’ doesn’t open until 10.00! Mildly annoyed, we back up a few yards and ride Gwazi instead.

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    Wow! This ‘traditional’ wooden coaster is an absolute blast! It blends customary materials (that’d be wood then?) from the early days of roller coaster construction with modern, banked-track technology and physics to create a fast, wicked ride!

    Off by 9.45, we lurk in the vicinity of the Stanleyville access. I spot a T-shirt that seems made for Adam, so we buy it for him provided he wears it immediately..

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    10.00am and we are admitted to the next zone, and make haste towards Sheikra. The gardens and grounds along the way are beautifully manicured.

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    Sheikra appears ahead: very dramatic, with the sun behind it:

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    For anyone who’s been on the moon for the last couple of years, this is a (twin) vertical drop roller coaster (not unlike Oblivion at Alton Towers in England, but much longer, higher and faster!).

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    Each ride vehicle has 3, wide rows of seats, each set slightly higher than the one in front (to ensure decent exposure to the terror of the drops!), seating 8 persons on each tier.

    Only Amanda, Bethany and I are riding – the others wait below the attraction.

    We are literally the first people on board and sit in the front row. The trains climb 200 feet for the first drop, hanging you for a few terrifying seconds at the top of a 90º drop, before releasing the brakes and sending you hurtling down at freefall velocity! Various loops and another, almost vertical drop follow! What a ride!

    It’s still quiet, so we repeat ride (second row this time) before rejoining the family. The ride is quite a spectacle from below, too, especially the ‘water-brake’ section which acts as an interactive feature for anyone on the ground wishing to cool off! (or foolish enough to stand too close!)

    We wander onwards, through Timbuktu, to our next target, Rhino Rally. This was under construction when we came in 2001 and so it’s another new experience. From various, website reports, I get the impression that it still attracts large crowds, so we want to get it out of the way early.

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    We’ve nothing to worry about – there are only a handful of people waiting to ride and we are boarding the next Land Rover within minutes.

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    It’s a good laugh, made better by the efforts of the (lady) guide/driver. I’m glad I haven’t over-hyped it to everyone else though, because it’s not that special, just ‘ok’, a bit like a budget version of Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safari, with a less than totally convincing ‘scary’ river trip at the end!

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    We exit the ride at 10.45 and separate into coaster-fiends and wusses. Mum, Dad & Adam head off towards the Skyride and Amanda, Beth & I make our way right back to the ‘front’ of the Park to ride Montu in t’Egypt.

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    It takes around 15 minutes to reach Montu, where we place our gear in adjacent lockers (not free, as at Universal, but only 50¢.) before entering the line. Well, walking to the loading platform, to be precise, as there isn’t actually a line for general boarding, only for the front row.

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    Montu is a superb, modern attraction – a very long, high, inverted coaster, not dissimilar to Duelling Dragons (or Nemesis in the UK) in style, but more thrilling. We ride twice, in the middle rows as they are only using one train & we don’t want to hang around (pardon the pun!) for the front row.

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    Reclaiming our bags from the locker station, we head right back across the Park, through Timbuktu…

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    to the other headliner, Kumba, in the Congo zone, stopping to restroom and take on fluids along the way: it’s extremely hot today.

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    We arrive at 11.40 and enjoy another virtual walk-on, so of course we ride twice. Kumba is a big, noisy, conventional (above track) machine, and it lives up to its name (‘Kumba’ means ‘Roar!’ in the African Kongo/Bantu language) by creating an impressive racket as it thunders through its seven inversions.

    Time to find the rellys and get some lunch. Passing through Timbuktu, the girls stop to restroom, and I realise that I’ve lost my trippie pen, probably on Kumba, so I pop into a shop to buy a new one. The girl behind the counter admires my tattoo sleeves and asks questions about them; this has happened a few times this trip.

    Along the way we pass the giant tortoise habitat, where a young female is helping an elderly male (who has obviously lost the use of his legs) to cross the enclosure by giving him a piggy-back ride.

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    We meet the family at the Zagora Café, where my mum has secured a couple of tables on the (pleasantly) breezy patio. Everyone chooses and we buy a selection of cheeseburgers, bacon burgers, fajita sandwich, veggie burger (guess who!) and a salmon salad. The quality is surprisingly good, much better than Universal’s offerings.

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    The pigeons are a funny shape round here.

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    We’re all finished by 1.00pm and set off in search of the wet rides. Walking through the park we remark on how much better kempt it is than on our first visit. Then it was a bit tatty around the edges, and there was a lot of construction disruption. Now we can liken it more to Seaworld; the landscaping and garden maintenance is excellent.

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    On our way to Tanganyika Tidal Wave we pass the bird gardens and “Dragon” (Komodo) habitats. As we walk underneath Sheikra, we take more photographs of the ride, including the wet section at the end.

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    Tanganyika Tidal Wave is basically a beefed up log-flume with a long, although not particularly steep, final drop, but the heavy boat displaces a serious amount of water, and the presence of a bridge splash-zone make it a popular attraction.

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    Adam loves to get wet, but hates big drops. We convince him that this isn’t too terrifying, and he accompanies Amanda and I onto the ride. The craft is much the same as the ones at the Jurassic Park River Adventure in IOA.

    We get pretty wet. Adam wants to stand on the bridge to get even more soaked, so Amanda and I wait with him for one boat..

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    It’s 1.50 and steaming. We head up towards the River Rapids, and bump into our Jellyrolls companions from last week, Maggie & Julie, with Hannah and her carer, Gemma. The other two girls are on Kumba.

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    We chat and return the $100 they overpaid us for the drinks bill at Jellyrolls!

    Saying our goodbyes (this piccie was taken by Mags and emailed to me on our return)

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    ..we head up the hill to the Rapids… and find that the ‘track’ is dry! Clearly the ride has broken down, and as there is a huge crowd waiting, we presume there’ll be a mammoth wait once it is re-started, so we turn around and head back. Adam is disappointed, having missed this on the 2001 visit too.

    2.15. Everyone’s getting a bit weary now, so we hop on the Serengeti Railway to rest a little.

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    It isn’t particularly restful, to be honest, as the train moves excruciatingly slowly (for safety, as it has open sides) and squeals and scrapes incredibly along the tracks. The views and animal sightings aren’t bad though.

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    We do a complete circuit and then get off, heading towards the exit via a restroom experience near Sheikra (where the wait time is now only 15 minutes)

    I take a picture of the kids at the Dragon Eggs, hoping I can find one I took 7 years ago to compare it to when we return home.

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    And the 2001 version… (the one in the middle is niece, Ellie)

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    More to get a bit of air-con than for the shopping, we have a mooch in a contemporary-looking store called Xcursions, labelled as a “Conservation Store.”

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    It’s attractively laid out, with the usual Busch/Seaworld stuff, although they do have a modest Wyland section too.

    It’s 3.35 as we take our leave of Busch gardens and head off back along the I75 and I4.

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    The journey is pain free, and the temperature is maintained at around 98° outside for the whole journey.

    We land back at 5pm, and make a more or less immediate decision to go out for tea. Flippers Pizza place at Old Town gets the vote, and we arrive there just on 5.30.

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    The kids want to eat inside, but the adults rebel – it’s a lovely day, and I would rather sweat a little in the shade on the patio than shiver in the air-con indoors! We are seated immediately and order drinks: water and coffee for mum, dad and myself, soft drinks for the kids, and a glass of pinot for Amanda.

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    We select our pizzas: ‘Veggie Pies’ for mum and Bethany, ‘Hawaiian’ for Dad (is that like a Brazilian?) Chicken & Pineapple for Adam, Mexican (hot) for me, and Italian Chicken for Amanda.

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    5 of them arrive at 6.00, but mum’s was seriously delayed, even after a reminder to the server. It eventually appears at 6.15, with profuse apologies (I suspect they dropped the first one or something!) and isn’t charged for.

    The food is, however, excellent. We finish at 6.30, and after stowing a few slices that the kids couldn’t eat in the car, we wander off to peruse the tacky pleasures of the Old Town shops and attractions.

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    I’ve been vaguely interested in having a crack at the Skycoaster ride, but when we walk across, there’s no activity and we put it back in the ‘yet to do’ box for now. This area is looking a bit tattier than I remember it, and it looks like there’s a bit of a territorial dispute gong on with the main, Old Town tenants, as the street that links them is fenced across making access less convenient between the two parts.

    A good many locals (they really don’t look like tourists, having brought their own folding chairs and beer coolers along!) are gathered at an informal stage area between two of the blocks, awaiting an Elvis tribute act, according to the signs! We don’t wait around!

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    Having strolled both sides of the street, and browsed a couple of stores, we are done. The journey ‘home’ only takes minutes, and we are showering for the pool by 7.30.

    A lazy, relaxing evening ensues, in and out of the pool and spa. We chat about the options for the next (last!) few days. Wildlife encounters tonight include a raccoon and a stick insect.

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    The kids drift off to bed around 10.00, and we follow at 10.30. It’s been a lovely day.

    Mike & co.

    Tomorrow: MGM (ok, Hollywood Studios!)
  2. foreverducky
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    foreverducky Addicted to Mickey

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    Thanks for sharing. I spent 2 years in the Tampa Bay area and never got over to Busch Gardens. Looks like I missed a good day of fun.
  3. uscwest
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    uscwest Senior Cast Member

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    Yeah, RIGHT!!!! :tongue:
  4. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    ... that's what it looked like to us! :taunt:

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