Pinky prom­ise leads to a sod­den day out

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - DAVID WARD

IT is an un-Queens­land-like Queens­land day in July, but there is no es­cap­ing a lit­tle-fin­gers-en­twined pinky prom­ise. My daugh­ters de­tect re­luc­tance on my part. “Dad, you do want to go, don’t you?” It’s cold, it’s go­ing to rain, the tick­ets are ex­pen­sive. “Can’t wait,” I re­ply. “Let’s do Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast.”

Once through the gates, Ca­lypso Beach in­vites us to “float down a lazy river” but is in­stead “closed for ren­o­va­tions”. I imag­ine that I am Clark Gris­wold, as played by Chevy Chase in Na­tional Lam­poon’s Va­ca­tion, whose fam­ily, af­ter an ar­du­ous jour­ney across the US, from Chicago to Los An­ge­les, ar­rive at Wal­ley World, billed as “Amer­ica’s Fa­vorite Fam­ily Fun Park”, to find it closed for ren­o­va­tions. Clark loses it, but I de­cide to stay calm.

Wave Beach is open but looks un­promis­ing: a large, still, empty pool guarded on all sides by male life­guards clad in red and yel­low, look­ing too cool for their designer sun­glasses and pos­si­bly too cool for vis­i­tors. Feel­ing a tad con­spic­u­ous I en­ter­tain the au­di­ence with some “Dad moves” as the waves start up.

Daunted (scared, in fact), we wan­der aim­lessly past tow­er­ing rides: Black­hole. Kamikaze. Mach 5. Tor­nado. We ven­ture into Buc­ca­neer Bay, the pirate-themed pool for lit­tle ones. I begin to re­lax, re­clin­ing in a patch of sun, when my daugh­ters, aged eight and 12, too old to be classed as “lit­tle”, are ejected by an­other se­ri­ously cool life­guard. We move on.

Time for a real ride: The Su­per 8 Aqua Racer. Lowthrill rat­ing: ex­cel­lent. “Off you go,” I tell the girls, “I’ll watch from the bot­tom.” “No way, Dad,” they in­sist. “You are com­ing with us”. A fe­male life­guard ex­pertly calms our nerves and we plunge into a Wet’n’Wild rou­tine: San­dals, thongs and tow­els (note to selves: leave them in the lock­ers next time, and re­mem­ber to wear rashies) are de­posited at each ride as we have four or five goes on each. I keep my­self mildly en­ter­tained: ad­mir­ing “yummy mum­mies”, telling Dad­style jokes and flirt­ing with our favourite life­guard. At Mam­moth Falls the en­joy­ment-to-scari­ness ra­tio is ideal (it’s a dod­dle). We share one in­flat­able, do­ing a dif­fer­ent pose each time we float be­low the cam­era.

Next is an “Ex­treme H2O” ride known as the Black Hole. We fly through the dark­ness in tan­dem, our chal­lenge not so much claus­tro­pho­bia as a lost thong. Above the River Rapids a tod­dler sits at the launch pad, decked out in an ar­ray of flota­tion de­vices, poised for his solo re­lease down the chute; life­guards are plan­ning his mission by walkie-talkie. The boy, rigidly un­moved, re­sists the priv­i­lege of a “fast-paced fully en­cap­su­lated” slide for “adren­a­line junkies” as I air­ily de­scend the open air flume rated “per­fect for the kids”.

I’m not sure if the ground-level life­guard is briefed for my ar­rival but I hope so when I panic, mo­men­tar­ily dis­ori­ented in a 40cm wall of foam­ing wa­ter. By lunch time it’s no warmer. Hy­pother­mia could well set in. We carry on. I pic­ture Mum, lux­u­ri­at­ing some­where (Burleigh Heads?) with al­co­hol, nib­bles and sun­shine. But she can’t sip wine and ride the en­closed flume slide known as the Con­stric­tor, ha ha. I’m up for our next chal­lenge and head for the top.

When it’s time to leave I re­flect that I’m poorer, shiv­er­ing, have a chaf­ing prob­lem, sore biceps and chlo­ri­nated hair, but it’s been a fun fam­ily day. I didn’t re­sort to do­ing a Gris­wold, and a beer at the surf club at Coolan­gatta awaits at the end of the Pa­cific Mo­tor­way. There may be more pinky prom­ises to ne­go­ti­ate, how­ever, as ap­par­ently Wet’n’Wild Syd­ney is pretty good, not to men­tion a few of the Gold Coast’s other themed Worlds. • wet­

Buc­ca­neer Bay is one of Wet’n’Wild’s calmer spots, aimed at smaller kids

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