Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida added another landmark to its silhouette. It took three years for this huge mountain to rise at the Animal Kingdom Park. The mountain, looking like it was moved from the Himalaya, can be discovered now by the visitors.
The huge eye catcher with its snow covered cap can already be spotted from the parking lot, rising between trees and palms from the Floridian landscape. When you passed the turnstiles at the entrance of Animal Kingdom Park, first thing is to start the expedition to find a way to Asia. Watch out for signs on the way to the mountain. There are apparently some travel agencies advertising at the park, which are specialized on expeditions to the Himalaya mountain range. When you enter the Asian area, visitors are welcomed in Serka Zong, a little village at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains. A banner at the building of the travel agency "Himalayan Escapes" greets all arriving guests and potential participants of the Expedition Everest. As in other parts of the Animal Kingdom Park, everyone is lulled by the immense theming. At the end of the queue you really believe, that the hair-rising kind of electrical installations are authentic and the half ripped off poster on the pole, warning of the Yeti, has been taped on there years ago.
The queue line starts inside the building with the welcome banner outside. The journey starts in an office full of planning equipments and other stuff, used at travel agencies. This must be the office of the "Himalayan Escapes" travel agency. Through the office, we leave the building through the rear exit and go to the adjacent temple. Strange altars and little holy figures can be seen and paid homage to, here. Some waiting expedition participants do this by throwing dimes and other coins into the receptacles. Well, it's up to you, what you want to sacrifice to these strange figures.
Depending on the total waiting time, the queue line takes another bend through a tea-garden, before we enter the building of the Serka Zong Bazaar, a shop, where all kinds of equipments for a successful expedition are offered. After that, you enter the Yeti-museum. Here, the visitors learn all about the flora and fauna of the mountains. But also some remains of a lost expedition can be seen in a corner of the museum. A ragged bivouac and a terribly mangled equipment are the only witnesses of the horrible incident happened to the expedition.
The queue line moves just too fast to realize all the impressions and little details of the museum. With surprise we spot a moulding of a Yeti-footprint, just before we take another turn and enter the railway station of Serka Zong, where a train of the Anandapur Rail Service is waiting for us. The train, in which we are supposed to be carried up the mountain, looks old and rusty. Finally we are seated in one of the trains and stow away our travel utensils. Steaming and whizzing the loco pushes the train out of the station.
After a first turnaround, the train ascends a small hill. Another turnaround follows and we roll through a small wooded area and suddenly enter the second lifthill. The train now ascends at a very steep angle, our goal, the shining mountain, always in front of us.
While on the lifthill, we go through another temple-like building. A lot of coloured Talliths (little cloths used for praying) are flittering in the air, strange sounds reach our ears and we see some more strange altars, where the guardian of the forbidden mountain is paid homage to. The train passes the building just too fast again. Suddenly, we're rolling through a little snow-covered hollow and into a foggy cave. Our journey is yet quite comfortable. But after a short turn, the whole train comes to a sudden stop. We see some more Talliths waving in the air in front of the train. Some cords are partly torn and ravelled... to the ragged and torn pieces of track in front of the train! A bird of prey appears above the gorge left off the train. When you sit at the front row of the train, you are abele to catch some nice views of the other jutting out buildings of Walt Disney World, for example the Hollywood Tower Hotel or the Summit Plummet Slide at Blizzard Beach Water Park.
A minatory grumble sounds out of the cave, which we just passed, before the train stopped in front of the torn tracks. But not enough, the train suddenly starts to roll backwards into the cave again! In complete blackness, the participants of the expedition fall off screaming into the mountain. Hold on tight, the ride is getting very intense at this part, where the train rushes backwards through a seemingly endless turn inside the dark cave at a very high speed. Finally the train comes to a halt inside the mountain. We watch kind of a shadow play, featuring the Yeti, where he jumps on another piece of track, watching furiously and ripping it apart. The Yeti jumps off the scene and the train continues its course through the darkness - at this time in a forward direction again. What follows is a steep drop out of the mountain into the valley, where the train follows a steep turn back upwards into the mountain. After a high speed drive through the cave, the train shoots out into bright light and into an intense 360° helix. After the helix, the train rushes inside the mountain for the last time. The second and most impressing encounter with the Yeti awaits the passengers. After a few meters of track, the Yeti can be seen far away at the other end of the dark, huge cave. You realise with fright that the train heads directly towards the beast. The Yeti seems to grow and grow with every meter the train approaches the hairy monster. To make things even worse, the Yeti tries to grab the train with its huge paw. In the nick of time, the train dives under the arm of the monster and escapes. A few last turns and the railway station of Serka Zong appears around the corner. We survived the adventure.
Back to Serka Zong, we spontaneously look back to the snow covered mountain top, from where we just returned. Shall we go back on expedition again? - The office of Himalayan Escapes travel agency is still open, at least.
|Opening:||April 7th 2006|
|Specials:||2 x track switch|
With Expedition Everest, Animal Kingdom finally got the long awaited big attraction added, which for itself is worth a visit. We deliberately speak of an attraction and not just a roller coaster. When you only look at the roller coaster part, the ride seems tame and has an unimaginative layout to some riders (turns and helices in one direction). All the trappings make this ride a top attraction. Just look at the overwhelming theming of all the surrounding area. Try to find out all the gimmicks and stories hiding inside the queuing area and watch closely, when you approach the really impressing Yeti - Disney's largest Audio-Animatronics so far.
There is a little background story about the Yeti: Even Disney is not immune to technical failures. It is possible, that the Yeti refuses to work properly and the Audio-Animatronics has to be put out of service for a more or less short period of time. It would be a pity, when the whole last effect of the encounter would be missing. So, Disney worked out a plan B. When the train enters the last cave, it is in complete darkness. In the very last moment, when the train runs under the Yeti's paw, a strobe light effect and a grumble resurrect the Animatronics back to life. None of the general passengers realise, that the Yeti doesn't move.
Expedition Everest is - without a doubt - perfectly integrated in the Animal Kingdom Park. As you stroll through different areas of the park, you often catch a glimpse of the new mountain through the trees and plants. It's very obvious, that the main part of the 100 m $ investment went into the theming of the new attraction. The theming puts Disney and its Imagineering on the top position of themed attractions, again. Often imitated by other parks, but never equalled in this perfection.
So let's tie your boots, pack your bags and on to the expedition to the Himalaya. The Yeti already awaits you!