One of the great joys of having children is the opportunity to relive your childhood, or experience things you’d wished existed in your youth. And there is also some joy in being the daggy dad in public with your kids.
On our last Summer holidays in January this year, we stopped for a couple of days on the Gold Coast to take our kids to the various Walley Worlds. Like the Grizwalds before us on TV, we were going to ride everything the parks had to offer.
We planned two days between Dream World and White Water World because they were connected and saved travelling to Wet N Wild, which is supposed to be a better water park. On the first day we realised there is no such thing as ‘theme park etiquette’. You don’t turn up in street clothes and change into your swimming gear. You just arrive in your boardies with a towel and backpack. Then you race to the lockers, throw your kit in and get going.
There also seemed to be a disproportionate number of children with rat-tail haircuts and mothers with appalling tattoos who used the F-word in every sentence. Or maybe I just don’t get out enough?
So on day 2 we were first at the gates, dressed for instant fun. We organised our locker and then went for the obligatory comfort break. Nothing worse than being caught short over 100 feet in the air after 30 minutes in the queue on wet stairs, still 15 minutes from the start of the ride.
As I walked from the loo I turned left to avoid a bloke entering. The next thing I remember was my feet sliding rapidly from under me as my body turned skywards, before falling headfirst towards the wet painted cement floor. In what seemed like a minute but was less than a second, I was able to tell my brain to tuck my arm under me, keep my head above the concrete and take the fall on my shoulder – which I did.
The pain brought stars to my eyes and as I staggered to my feet pretending it was nothing, happened every day. I thought I must find a staff member and let them know of the dangers of the wet floor outside the male loo.
As I returned to the kids they immediately inquired ‘what was wrong’ – probably because my suntanned face was now ash white. They briefed my bride before she saw me, so her fears had moved to ‘heart attack’ before I had a chance to speak. I explained the situation, but said I was fine to go on the rides, wishing we had pain killers in our locker. My bride rolled her eyes and mumbled something about me being injured before we’d even started the day.
So off to the first ride. One thing about rides that involve vertical plunges of varying degrees, is that you have to climb scaffold and stairs that make your heart rate hit the same speed as sprint training – if you can remember back that far. Even without a throng of eager adrenaline junkies pushing and shoving, it can take 15 minutes just to reach the necessary height to start the ride. I was looking down on planes from up there!
The first ride was a 4-person thing involving an inflatable raft, lots of water, steep plunges and loud yahooing. Loads of fun.
As we departed the water my whole clan (all 4 of us) turned to our left to travel the path to the next ride. As we did so we fanned out to our right as all spoke over the top of each other sharing our excitement of the just completed experience. Unfortunately I was on the outside of the fan and had to step faster to keep up. Looking to my left I didn’t realise we had fanned so wide I had run out of footpath on my right.
My right foot slipped off the path, twisting my knee – which had undergone surgery only months earlier. Pain ripped through my leg as I started to fold under myself. I quickly dragged my left leg to get balance but was falling too fast. All I could do was invert my foot so it acted as a break, shearing off much of the toenail on my big toe and some of the second as well. I flailed at my daughter who grabbed me and saved my dignity somewhat, as I didn’t completely hit the ground, just stumbled like a drunk on a night out.
Now I was in real pain. Not just from my shoulder, but the immense throbbing of my blood-blistered and bleeding toes, as well as the aching knee.
Being the dad, I passed it off as a simple flesh wound – visions of Monty Python in my head. We headed (I limped) up to The Wedgie. This is a ride in which you climb a large tower, hop into a large plastic pipe that has water rushing through it. In 7 seconds from the time the floor drops out from under you, your whole body is flushed vertically through a loop-the-loop and series of turns before spitting you out into deep water. Then you stand up and pull your swimming attire out of your butt, hence the name ‘wedgie’.
Every grown mature adult should do this ride at least once in their life. And so later we decided to do it again. A mother in her mid 40’s was in front of us with her family. She was a tad nervous about the ride. I decided to calm her and her husband by explaining that my bride and I had survived and were back again. And it was all over in 7 seconds. There’s something to be said for human behaviour, that we’ll queue for 45 minutes to experience a 7 second ride??
Gingerly she hopped into the starting capsule and in “3, 2, 1, wedgie” she was gone. I decided to lean over and watch her come out the end of the ride way below. Unfortunately I didn’t notice the massive piece of scaffold used as part of the support structure and cracked my skull against it – splitting the top of my forehead causing it to bleed. Now I had a headache as well as the other pains. My bride and children nearly fell from the tower doubled in laughter.
I survived to lunch without further trauma and later in the afternoon we tried The Bro. On this ride you lay down on mats and shoot through separate enclosed tubes riding on water, eventually being released in parallel lanes on a big slippery dip, where you race the others to the bottom, slowing in deeper water.
My family obviously wanted to race their old man. Not to be beaten and despite my physical injuries, I encouraged the competition. Stepping into the starting gate I stubbed my raw big toe and screamed silent words that would have had me evicted had they been heard. By now the pain was throbbing through every injury. But that didn’t stop the family taking off before me. So I threw myself forward and learned the benefits of being the heaviest. I could travel faster – something to do with gravity and water flow. So by the time we were all spat out in the open on the parallel slide section, I was slightly in front.
As we came over the last rise my newfound speed turned into a problem. I became airborn. In the same instant that my brain solved the first landing problem that morning, I realised if I continued to head right, I would break my ribs when I landed on the lane divider. Somehow I managed to straighten while in mid-air, only to land face first in the deeper water.
There’s a reason the deep water is there. It stops you very quickly. It certainly stopped me, but the energy trapped in my body kept propelling me forward, even though my face was planted in the mat. My teeth went through my lower gum and I swallowed a bucket of water. My bride who had seen all this from behind to my right nearly drowned laughing. And the flow of red down my chin didn’t solicit sympathy, rather my clan fell about as they handed back their mats while watching me drag myself from the water.
As I staggered back to the car reflecting on reliving my childhood I couldn’t remember a similar day, ever – apart from maybe one football grand final. A buggered shoulder that still keeps me awake 9 months later, a near broken toe (the toenail eventually died) an aching knee, a grazed forehead and a split lip – all in the name of family fun.
But I wouldn’t be dead for quids. Apparently we’re riding elephants in Thailand next Summer – can’t wait!!