I am starting to feel a little like Jonathan Harker who, in the first section of ‘Dracula’ (the book, dummies) always ends up writing his journal when everyone else – in this case, Dracula – is asleep. It feels odd to be writing this in the early evening when the rest of you over the pond are all fast asleep. Not sure about our reader(s) in Canada….
So in that spirit, the day began completely a*se abouts, with me trying to get West Ham v Leeds on the computer via some dodgy website. Fail ! So off to the Disney Animal Kingdom and trying to get a 3G signal on the iPhone to at least follow the score. Fail again ! See what I mean ? We are just getting up and the rest of you are already into your lunchtime pre-match pints. I’ve always disliked early kick offs, but this seemed like pushing it.
Disney Animal Kingdom is a sort of cross between a Zoo, a theme park with a bit of conservation thrown in. And that’s not me being cynical either. All the way round the park are these little activity stations for the kids where they can learn about flora and fauna in a hands on way. The staff are really enthusiastic and knowledgeable on a basic level, and the kids get these little passports which they get stamped at each of the activity stations. Even our worldly wise offspring-of-offspring forgot to be worldly wise and got stuck in.
And there was more. We even got to go on a fake safari, but one which involved live and endangered (in some cases) species, which was genuinely well done. It even involved a variation on the ‘something went wrong’ script which I described a few days ago, when we got an urgent message diverting us off the route to head off some poachers who were after the elephants tusks. All successfully accomplished and an animatronic baby elephant poking its head out of the ‘poachers’ truck to thank us.
Yup, those are live giraffes and elephants. There were some rhinos too, which are genuinely endangered. We went up afterwards to the conservation centre, but sadly any uplifting and inspirational messages were let down by members of the party rushing off to be filmed with ‘characters’…….
All of this low-brow behaviour proved too much for Tom…
Who can blame him. After all this educational activity, it was back to what we know best. In other words, what in the Animal Kingdom passes for thrilling rides. The ‘Everest Expedition’ did, to be fair, give a new twist both to the roller-coaster and the ‘something goes wrong’ concepts – you are dragged up a large replica of the said mountain and given a few half-hearted twists and turns before finding that the Yeti has dragged up the rest of the track. This discovery comes when, if you are lucky enough to be seated at the front of the train, you are poised over a very large drop and can clearly see right across to all of the other parks – the Tower of Terror a familiar and reassuring sight in the distance. Then….the ride proceeds to roll you BACKWARDS down what felt like a very steep series of ups and downs IN THE PITCH DARK, until you arrive at another stop point, only to be greeted by a shadow animation of the said Yeti mocking you by tearing up even more track. This is followed by a pretty severe – but utterly conventional after all the backwards traumas – drop and back up to meet a ‘real’ Yeti in another series of ups and downs in the semi-darkness of another cave. I missed this last Yeti completely, being rather absorbed by the idea of going back into a dark place….again.
This was actually pretty good fun, and we did it twice (the boys went back 4 times, but there you go), but backwards in the dark freaked me out a bit at first. The photos show the Himalayan setting and the hole where the train emerges on the last steep plummet, but a still photo can’t really convey the buttock-dampening rush. Wait for the film.
We also did a quite exciting simulation / live action ride which involved going back in time and getting threatened by dinosaurs, but the main attraction to round off the day was the Lion King Festival.
Once again, the photos cannot do justice to the live performance. I will admit I was not looking forward to this one little bit – especially since I was told it involved audience participation and pretending to be animals (real ones, not the bedroom variety). Apparently Andy (son-in-law) got to be the Head of the Elephants last time they were here, pretend trunk, trumpeting noises and all. So not a show to be sitting near the front.
Luckily, we were seated well towards the back and the show was really good – lively, engaging, very colourful and well-presented and, like all Disney shows on the trip, not too long. Can’t say the same for Emerson, Lake and Palmer now, can we ?