A TRIP DOWN UNDER
Date: February & March 2015
Report and pictures by Ad Jonker
Earlier this year, and for the third time, I took a five-week trip to Oceania. This year the trip was planned around the Pincade, a pinball event with quite an unusual approach.
But the first leg of the trip was to Kuala Lumpur, which I chose for a stop-over on both the outbound and the return journey. My first visit there was in 1979 when I was serving on a naval ship which berthed for the weekend at Port Klang. With Kuala Lumpur only 45 kilometres away, we were able to visit the beautiful colonial city with no high-rise building and lots of parks.
Two things had obviously changed between my visits in 1979 and 2015. The city is now huge and has a lot to offer for visitors, but in terms of beauty it is a far cry from what it was.
The second is the pinballs. In 1979, one arcade (which has the much-needed air conditioning) had all the latest electronic tables, along with the other popular types of games. On the roof, which was only partly covered, I found no less than 48 pins whose origins were mostly European countries. Often only a few light bulbs still worked, but then pin tables were there in abundance.
Today you will not find any pinballs on location, and I am not even sure if any are privately owned today in Malaysia.
If you like shopping malls though, you may think you’ve landed in the right place. The biggest of all is Berjaya Times Square; eleven storeys of shops (and you can easily get lost) and the whole package of restaurants and amusements. There is one large arcade, but they only have video games.
What I did like was the theme park which is completely inside (you will understand why when you are outside for five minutes) including a better-than-average rollercoaster.
So, liking good food and rollercoasters, the four days were gone by in a flash.
Then it’s off to Sydney for the weekend.
Here I had a quick look at the pinballs at Pinball H.Q. in the Coogee Randwick RSL club.
This venue is used for all kinds of local social gatherings plus, when open, you just can get in just by filling in a little paper slip which counts as a day's membership, and enjoy yourself.
Norbert Snicer has been able to put thirteen pin tables in there, and they are all available to play. The price is one game for two Australian Dollars, or two games for three.
Apart from being able to play, Norbert also organizes tournaments, and on each Sunday children can play for free for three hours.
Needless to say it is worth a visit when you are in the Sydney area. Furthermore Coogee Beach is only a five minute walk away, and Bondi Beach is just five kilometres further.
And pinball-wise, that’s not all.
I had planned to meet Richard Rhodes at Pinball HQ to play on the Saturday, only to discover there was a private party taking place. Looking for an alternative venue to play – and you will find several – we ended up at the Courthouse Hotel in the suburb of Newtown.
This is a colonial-style building with a large bar, a lot of gaming machines, a beer garden, and a small room with eight pin tables. Mind you, the three Stern machines were all limited edition models.
On Sunday I flew to Brisbane, Queensland, to spent six days in that area.
There's not much to report regarding pinball in Brisbane, but there are more than enough other things to do. However, in the heart of the city in the Myer Centre, you can go to level 3, shop 424, which is the Funhouse.
I also spent one day at the Gold Coast - a series of seaside towns about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from central Brisbane and easily-reachable by car or public transport.
In the town of Southport you will find the Australia Fair Shopping Centre, and on the top floor you will find the Birch Carroll & Coyle cinema with an arcade on the left.
In this arcade, during this visit, there was a Data East Last Action Hero and a Stern Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
If you like the latter, only a few miles away in Surfers Paradise you will find the real thing.
If you are ever in or near Brisbane none pinball places I would like to recommend is the Lone Pine Sanctuary, a refuge for wildlife. And take that opportunity to hold a Koala. It is something special.
You can also take a bus or your car up Mount Coot-tha for a stunning view over Brisbane.
Then it was off to New Zealand, and in particular Wellington, the capital. I had a few days to spend in this lovely city to visit a few of its attractions. Since it is built on and next to the hills you get quite a different layout, while some bus journeys end up with spectacular views over the city and its bays.
On the Thursday before the Pincade tournament would be played, I joined a small group to visit the Weta Caves. These are not natural caves, but instead are the home of what has become a most serious special effects company in the motion picture industry.
For a long time I mistakenly thought Weta Digital were based somewhere near Hollywood, but they are in fact in the suburb of Miramar, east of Wellington. You are not allowed to take any pictures inside, but if you happen to be in the area it is certainly well worth a visit.
And now, of course, we come to the first part of Pincade 2015.
This is not a tournament in just one place. It is a series of open houses and two full tournaments to go with it. This year it started on a Wednesday in Wellington and you had to go to the Moon to play. Well, not just the Moon, it was at the Intergalactic Headquarters!
Twelve pintables were installed in this bar. On Wednesday they were for everyone to enjoy, and on Thursday for the first stage of the tournament. Apart from the pintables, they serve good pizza and some great local beers. All-in-all, a very enjoyable place.
While on this trip I joined a pair of fellow Europeans who were also visiting Australia and New Zealand, and playing in Pincade - Franck Bona and his son Adam.
Franck tells the story of his and Adam's journey to play in Pincade.
The tournament was a simple double-elimination format, so if you lost twice you were out. There were 62 players, including eleven Australians, two French, two Americans, and this one Dutch player.
As it was in a public bar they had to close at 11pm, by which time the final games were just finished. Third place was taken by the Kiwi Willie Crayton. Second place went to Kiwi #1 David Peck who had earlier taken the French and American players on tour through the North Island and to places related to The Lord of the Rings.
Franck Bona was already very happy, but he wanted to take home more memories and souvenirs, which he did by winning this tournament.
Franck recalls how he won.
Friday consisted of a number of open houses - the first in Wellington, and the others in the Greater Auckland area. What makes this all a bit different is that those two cities are 850 kilometres (530 miles) apart, so the early afternoon was spent taking the one hour flight between the two cities.
On Friday morning we began by visiting Steve’s place in Wellington where we were welcomed with a full cooked breakfast and ten pintables to play.
These were not just the usual suspects, and it is clear that some rarities made it to the Kiwi shores. Amongst the machines were the one-player Bank-A-Ball from Gottlieb, and a Solar Fire from Williams.
Then it was off to the airport.
The picture above shows how it was not a sunny day. Actually, all the flights were delayed for up to three hours due to a lot of rain and strong gusts of wind. As Wellington airport only has one landing strip, take-off may get a bit bumpy. Luckily we were well guarded inside the airport.
In the end we flew to Auckland and the flight was smooth. From there it was straight to the next host, although we had missed one visit due to the delay.
Greater Auckland is a large built-up area and they even have traffic jams! On the way we did some shopping (meat for the barbeque, craft beer to rinse it away).
First a quick visit at Clive's Place. Although we had to leave quickly for the next place, I took some pictures.
Then to PaulOz’s place. It was nice for pinball, and even nicer for the barbeque.
You simply pop up at these places, take some food and drinks for yourself, and enjoy.
Saturday we visited Willie, who has made his cellar into something special.
The games included a slightly modified The Simpsons Pinball Party.
If that wasn’t enough, you could find some more games upstairs.
Apart from all this, the house featured a normal kitchen and living room!
Next, it was over to Yee's house. There were lots of different machines over there, including some vintage arcade machines and a nice barbeque.
We didn’t stay too long as my host had to organise the evening session, and he lives a ninety minute drive away.
On Saturday night eighty players and even more visitors gathered at the house of David Peck and his family.
David had a new house built about an hour's drive south of Auckland, and to cater for his pintables (I guess around one hundred) he had a 2,000 square foot (186 square metres) gameroom built for his tables.
In fact you can easily get lost in his house.
A number of machines were selected for the tournament, with all others there to play if you liked. However, before it all started we were treated by a performance by the famous Kiwi crooner Wayne Anderson.
Wayne is already famous in New Zealand, having his own reality show on television. Both female and male visitors enjoyed his performance to the full. Unfortunately though he eventually had to go home, and we had to go into the gameroom to play the tournament.
Here's a video showing all the machines in David's gameroom.
I did a little better in this tournament than the one in Wellington. The format was the same, but without the time slots this time. In the end once again three players went home with a trophy in the shape of a Kiwi, like the one in Wellington.
Third place was for Kiwi B.J. Wilson, second place for Aussie Robert Macauley and, as Franck Bona likes to collect the lot, he won once again, and now both first place trophies can be found in the north of France.
After this great and amazing weekend I returned to Sydney for some more days in this beautiful city. I played some more pinball too, and it was on this visit that I finally got to meet Norbert Snicer.
Norbert is a great person to meet. I also had a chance to visit the importer of Stern in Australia and both see and play the Pro and LE versions of WWE Wrestlemania.
The added extras in the Limited Edition are nice, and I got away with the grand champion scores on both machines, even if they last only for days.
Apart for pinball, even if you have very little time to spent in Sydney make sure you take the walk over the Harbour Bridge (best from the north side in the afternoon with clear weather). The walk itself gives some great views, such as the Opera House with it’s very special tiles on the roof (made in Sweden, now to be replaced after fifty years!) which produce a very special glow with the sun shining on them.
Do also try to take a guided tour of the Opera House. It truly is an amazing building.
Otherwise the city has a zillion other things to offer.
On the way back, as I said before, I once again did a stop-over in Kuala Lumpur.
However, being Dutch I did take a two-day trip from there to Melaka, 145 kilometres away. The central part of this city has a U.N.E.S.C.O. heritage status, and the Dutch were there from 1641 until 1824. There is clearly still some Dutch heritage to be found.
The hotel at which I stayed, however, was almost the top attraction of the whole trip. How would you feel if your name was lit up in neon on the front of the building?
© Pinball News 2015