Bowery Mural

All the Fun Fun of the Fair

Thursday, 15 August 2013

This past weekend, I finally ticked something off my imaginary bucket list that's been on there for a few years. I went to Alton Towers! I know. No big deal really but when you haven't crossed a border (far less gone on an exotic holiday) for 4 years, then day-trips like this are a godsend.

Friday night I caught the bus at Stirling bus station at 12.30pm. It then headed up the motorway to make more pickups. Firstly Cumbernauld, where my friend Ashley boarded, next stop Glasgow where the rest of the passengers were picked up (or so we thought). We headed on our way towards the South. Then a buzzer or some sort of alarm was going off. We pulled into Bothwell services, not 15 minutes away from the Glasgow pickup and he stopped the bus passed the petrol station and round to a dark area. I swear, it was like Derren Brown himself was about to appear from the trees and tell us he was hypnotising a passenger for an elaborate TV special. The driver got off and opened the boot where the engine was. He was away for a good twenty minutes before appearing again to get his mobile. Another ten minutes passed and he eventually came to tell us that the buzzer alarm was because there was a water leak. He'd called his bosses and an breakdown truck was on its way to fix the leak. He said we should get off and go for a comfort break and cup of tea whilst he waited. We all did just that.

We were away about twenty minutes and then headed back to the bus. Surely it couldn't take much longer. A few people stayed off the bus - smokers, and a group of six lads who'd boarded at Glasgow and who had sat in front of us in the first row of seats. We were chatting away on the bus then Ashley said "look, there's someone hiding in those bushes". Turns out the boys were being creative and were playing hide and seek whilst we waited. We watched and laughed at them for a few minutes, then chatted more.

It was 1.40am when we'd broken down. It was about 3.40am when we set off again. Nightmare. About five minutes into our journey and he pulled off into Motherwell. To collect more folk. They'd actually been standing waiting (in drizzly rain) for 2 hours!! I'd have gone home. Eventually we got going again.

We drove some more and then the buzzer alarm came on again. You could hear the driver, and passengers sigh and groan in unison. By this time we were tired and the buzzer had become a background noise. It wasn't constant but it was intermittent and annoying. I must've fallen into a light sleep. The next thing I woke and we pulled into Tebay services for a comfort break. It was around 5.30am and day had broken in the sky. We got off, had a wee, then set off again. Not fifteen minutes later he pulled into Killington Lake services and mentioned he was going to call the breakdown services again due to the ongoing water leak/buzzer alarm saga. We were starting to think we'd never get there. Ever! In fact, I thought this little ride would be the closest I'd get to the shows this weekend :)

We were stopped here for another two hours and finally set off towards Alton Towers (on hopefully the last leg of the journey) around 8.30am. We probably should've been arriving there at that time. Gah!

The good news was the water leak/loose pipe was repaired and the buzzer didn't go off. Until we were nearly at Alton Towers. No one was that bothered about it now. I was surprised at the landscape approaching the resort. Lots of minor twisty roads and farms. It reminded me of Emmerdale.

We arrived into the car park and the bus stopped at 11am. By the time we queued to get our ticket and got into the park it was 11.40am. You could argue that we'd lost 2 hours. Damn. We were to be back at the bus for 6pm, although thankfully the driver wasn't forcing that point.

Finally in the park, and I was surprised by how quiet it seemed. There's was plenty room to move and we headed towards the area called The Dark Forrest and I rode my first giant rollercoaster, Thirteen. I wasn't nervous in the queue, there were kids a lot younger than me in it. How scary could it be?! As we got closer I started to get a little bit nervous, then to top it off, the way the queue worked out, it meant that we were in the front seat. Oh no! Oh well, go big or go home as they say...

Once we got going it wasn't so bad. I mean it was fast and twisty and then there's the bit where it stops and drops and then you go backwards, but all in all I survived my first one and I was pleased with myself. We decided against Rita since time was tight, it only really goes superfast at the start, and the queue for it was 40 minutes.

Onwards to seek out The Smiler. As we approached I could see Oblivion. I knew as soon as I saw it drop that I couldn't do it. No way. I'm not a fan of that butterfly belly sensation you get when you're in mid air and falling at 60mph! Unfortunately the red LED signs were telling us the queue for The Smiler was 2 hours long and when we stopped to watch it. Turns out there was no one on it and they'd closed the queue. They ran it a couple of times with no one on it. It doesn't make you feel confident, does it.

The Smiler - stationary
Anyway, we bypassed that and headed towards the pirate area. Whilst there we got something to eat as it was 1pm and lunchtime for us. I'd survived on cups of tea and a croissant from a service station up to that point. Ashley opted for a lamb wrap affair and i settled on plain old chips. The chips were lovely and fresh though and I put lashings of salt on them. Big mistake. My mouth was dry all day after that. We wandered around this area and then went on the Runaway Train and the Congo River Rapids. By this time the sun had come out and we figured if we got wet then we'd dry out quickly. The train was super fun and they put us around the ride 3 times. You could hear the people waiting in the queue get all shouty "oh, they're going round again, that's not fair!". We laughed. The river rapids were fine and only my jeans got a little bit wet. I did enjoy that.

After there we were on our final stretch. It was time for a big push towards Nemesis Sub-Terra, Nemesis and Air. Wowee. 20 minute wait for Nemesis Sub-Terra. This was the only one Ashley hadn't been on before. It's an indoor 'ride' and I was getting a little nervous not knowing what to expect. It's one of those rides where the build up starts in the queue with TVs showing you are entering a restricted zone etc etc... much like you see at Disney or Universal. Once in the queue you've got these guys dressed in black (The Phalanx) barking orders at you. Stand here, don't smile, pay attention... It goes on. Once through the door you are told to stand on a spot on the ground, to listen to the important message on a screen and go through into a lift. This is when the ride begins. No spoilers from here though, but i will say it's more of a mind trick and a little bit of an actual 'ride'. We came out not 20 feet from where we entered but we were disorientated and laughing, albeit a little hysterically. Tension, psychological, stern operators, noisy, strobe lights. A great attraction, just not a ride though.

Right next door is Nemesis. I was looking forward to this one, although it is pretty intimidating when you're standing right underneath it. I wasn't backing out. Our wait was about 30 minutes, but once again you don't really notice it dragging or anything because the queue's twist and turn around the ride and you can see most of what is going on. It's actually pretty good. Once we were on i did get a little bit jittery but I'd timed it and it only really goes for less than a minute. How hard can it be?... I like that my legs were hanging from the one. The upside down loop was amazing and for a second i thought I might fall out. When it ended I thought to myself, if we'd had more time to hang about I'd go on that one again. I was starting to get really smart with myself about having gone on these huge rides.

Finally, we headed to Air. I'd only seen a small peek of this one through the trees but I think this was the one I most certainly wanted to go on. To get that feeling of flying at such a high speed. Although, saying that, I do think Air is noticably a bit slower than, say, Nemesis. Perhaps it's something to do with the horizontal positioning of the seats? Our wait here was 40 minutes. And we stood and watched people flying above our heads. When it came time for us to get on, I was really nervous. When the seat went forward into the horizontal (flying) position I couldn't help but notice how there was a big empty space behind my back. Argh, I might fall out...

Once we set off it really was fantastic. As we swooped and twisted around the landscaped area beneath I really was getting a birds eye view of the whole scene. It was brilliant. There's a point where it twists and you're lying on your back, for a whole 10 seconds I think, but back on my front I was whooping and squealing. What a great feeling. It comes to quite a quick stop and then you're left hanging until the car in front moves off and you can get off. On exiting, through the Air gift shop (obviously), we bought a photo of this momentous occasion. Truth be told, all of our other pictures were horrible with eyes shut or weird faces. This was the only semi decent one of me, ha ha.

Since it was now past 5pm we decided to head back for a bite to eat and a visit to a gift shop ready to be back at the bus for 6pm. It was nice to wander around the park at this time of night, as although it was still busy, it wasn't at all mobbed. In fact, I hadn't felt it was overly busy all day. I mean the queues are long, but that's probably because everyone wants to go on rides at the same times. Anyway, the queues times pass quickly.

Back at the bus we were a tired bunch. The buzzer would sound intermittently but we'd become oblivious to it by now. We left the car park at 6.30pm and headed up the road stopping at a services just before the Lakes about 8.45pm, then services at Abington about 11pm. I was back at home at 1.30am and so badly needed a sleep.
Selfie: on the bus. Fun Fun sweatshirt by Zoe Karssen
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my day trip to Alton Towers with Ashley. It doesn't have that added magic that Disney or Universal Studios may have but it's a good British alternative. Once inside the park I felt that the prices of food and goods was pretty reasonable, all things considered. £2 for a bottle of Cola (not bad), £2.50 for chips (again, decent), £3.75 for a keyring and they were on a 3 for 2 offer. I was expecting it to be more, considering you can pay more than £3 for a Cola at the cinema!

All the fun fun of the fair indeed.
Let's go again!!

Angela x


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