In Part One, I gave you a brief history as to how Expedition Everest came into being. Today I’m going to discuss the queue and ride.
Our story actually begins on the other side of Discovery River. Just beyond the Yak & Yeti Restaurant is a clearing and temple. Here you’ll find an Information sign describing the mountain range in the distance. Each peak is named and elevations given. The middle peak is labeled Forbidden Mountain and is said to be the legendary home of the yeti.
Next to this sign is a temple. If you study it carefully, you’ll notice that its shape matches the mountains in the background. In addition, the center temple (Forbidden Mountain) contains a representation of the yeti which has been adorned by the local inhabitants.
If you approach Expedition Everest from Dinoland U.S.A., you’ll discover tea growing on the slopes of the mountains. More tea can be found around the village of Serka Zong. In years past, this area was a thriving tea plantation complete with steam trains to transport the crops to nearby Anandapur. Several of the buildings were once used for the processing of the tea as can be seen by a sign located in what is now the Yeti Museum.
However, for some mysterious reason, the plantation was shuttered and the trains stopped running. Rumors abound that the yeti played a part in the plantation’s demise and locals have erected a number of shrines to appease the creature.
Years after the closing of the plantation, Norbu and Bob came along and opened Himalayan Escapes – Tours and Expeditions. They refashioned a number of the plantation buildings to suit their new business and rerouted the train to take adventure seekers to the base of Mount Everest where they would be dropped off to make their final ascent of the mountain by foot.
Your adventure begins in the booking office. This building was once the headquarters for the Royal Anandapur Tea Company. Here you’ll find secondhand furniture and equipment as supplies are expensive in this remote area. Also pay attention to the board mounted on the back wall. All of the recent tours are listed and their current status and position are noted.
Once outside the booking office, the desolation of the land becomes apparent. Shrubbery is sparse and a dry riverbed can be seen running between the buildings. Also notice the prayer flags waving in the breeze. These pennants are used to promote wisdom, strength, compassion, and peace. As the wind slowly unravels the fabric, the threads are carried to heaven and these benefits rain down and help all.
Signs have been posted from the booking office to the train depot to make sure your tour group stays together and doesn’t get lost.
Next visitors pass by the Yeti Mandir. A Mandir is a Hindu temple that is usually dedicated to one deity -- in this case, the yeti. The ringing of the surrounding bells is one way worshipers show respect to the deity. It’s at this point that tourists start to wonder if the legend of this mythical creature just might be true.
While admiring the Mandir, be sure to pay attention to the intricate carvings found throughout the structure.
At Tashi’s Trek and Tongba Shop you can pick up the supplies you’ll need for your climb to the top of Everest. As the sign says, “We provide the finest in mountaineer equipments for all needs new and used.”
From the supply shop you enter what was once a warehouse that stored the tea waiting to be shipped to Anandapur. With the help of Professor Pema Dorje Phd., Norbu and Bob have converted this space into an elaborate Yeti Museum that features a collection of artifacts that present both legend and purported facts about this creature.
Be sure to pay extra attention to the “Mystery of the Lost Expedition” exhibit. These artifacts were retrieved from the slopes of the mountain and leave little doubt as to what happened to these adventurers.
As you approach the train platform, pictures of your staff line the wall. Under each photo you’ll find their title and job function. For example, it’s the responsibility of the Expedition Leaders to organize the food, supplies, and gear, select team members, and monitor their health and well-being. The Porter carries equipment and food weighing in excess of 125 pounds.
If you would like to ride at the front of the train, just tell the cast member who is directing guests to their seats. You will be asked to step aside and wait in another line. Personally, I don’t see the front of the train adding any additional thrill so if this second line is long, I’d just sit where directed.
After boarding the old converted tea train and securing the lap restraint, your journey begins. With a toot of the whistle, the train pulls out of the station and passes a siding before easing down a slight dip in the track. It then begins a small climb as you hear the sounds of birds native to Nepal.
The train glides down another hill as you pass beside a waterfall and underneath an old trestle. The track straightens out for a few moments as you cross the lowlands that surround the mountain chain. Once again, the arid nature of the area is noticeable by the sparse placement of the plant life.
After another hairpin turn, the train starts up a steep incline. To the left is a ceremonial stairway leading to an ancient fortress. As the train passes through a tunnel beneath this citadel, ceremonial drums, gongs, and low churning horns can be heard. Overhead on the back wall is a fresco of the Yeti, guardian of the Forbidden Mountain.
As we exit the tunnel the train whistle blows and we discover we’re high above the ground on the old trestle seen earlier and remember that Serka Zong means “fortress of the chasm.” Off to our right is a stunning view of this charming village and Discovery River. Ahead are the inhospitable mountains beckoning us forward.
Across the 110 foot high trestle we cross a mountain crest and speed downhill along a curve and into an ice cavern.
On the other side of the cavern the train speeds up a sharp incline and comes to an abrupt stop. It seems that the track ahead has been ripped up, preventing us from going forward.
Sitting in the front seat of the train affords the rider with a spectacular view of Walt Disney World. However, for me, this breaks the storyline of being high in the Himalayan Mountains and I usually avoid this seat.
The train sits perched for several moments on this precarious slope. Overhead, prayer flags flap in the wind. To the side of the cars, large footprints and claw marks can be seen in the snow. At the same time, gravity is tugging on the train whose brakes are not equipped to handle this sort of stress. Soon the train begins to shake and rumble and eventually, the brakes fail. The cars begin to move backwards, picking up speed as they travel back into the ice cave. But this is not the same route that was used to ascend the peak. We now find ourselves hurtling in reverse deep within the mountain. Eventually, we come to a second stop within a large cavern. On the wall before us we can see the shadow of the Yeti ripping up more track.
A few moments later, the train reverses directions again and starts moving forward down an eighty foot hill, reaching a speed of fifty miles per hour. The train passes through a bamboo forest then races up the other side of the mountain and disappears into another cave.
Emerging on the other side of the mountain, the train spirals upwards through another forest before plunging back into the cave and darkness. As the track straightens out, we see the actual Yeti perched on a ledge above us, reaching out to grab anyone within his reach.
Narrowly escaping the Yeti’s clutches, the train rumbles forward and out into the open once again. Fortunately, the Serka Zong Station and safety are close at hand.
After exiting the train, you enter Serka Zong Bazaar, a shop set up by the townsfolk to cash in on the tourist trade. Besides the normal souvenir purchases, a number of handicraft items are on display.
Outside the Bazaar is a large courtyard and wonderful spot for taking a few pictures of the mountains. Be sure to look at the scenery on the other side of the wall. You’ll see more yeti shrines and a dry riverbed created by the spring runoff.
Expedition Everest is an extremely popular attraction. If you want to ride, I suggest making this one of your first stops of the morning. FastPass and a Single Rider Line are available. Children must be 44” in height to ride. Guests in wheelchairs must transfer to the train. Near the Single Rider Line is a mockup of the Special Needs train seat and transfer instructions.
I have created a seven minute video of Expedition Everest. However, I’ve done more than just film the ride. I tried to capture the surrounding area and recreate the “feel” the Imagineers were trying to convey. Enjoy.
The previous post in this blog was Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain - Part One.
The next post in this blog is D Street Grand Opening at Downtown Disney.