There are only a handful of parks around the world that operate more than one roller coaster designed by the late Anton Schwarzkopf. Two years ago Selva Magica became a member of this illustrious club with the installation of Wiener Looping, a classic design from Herr Achterbahn that this writer presumed scrapped after its retirement from Flamingoland in 2005.
Park management are well aware of the value of their new star attraction, insofar as it is an up-charge for all but those using the Pase Platino VIP, a three hundred peso ticket that includes express queues, unlimited access to all attractions, and one flight on the Sky Coaster. Regrettably, however, that ride was one of at least five closures today, the others being:
- Catarina, which had no train and is believed to have been SBNO for at least four years.
- Crazy Bus, which looked normal but was parked at a height with no operator in sight.
- Mega Dance, which had no ride vehicles and no entrance/exit signage, suggesting long term closure.
- Troika, which had one car resting on its side in the middle of the ride structure.
Maintenance downtime is a fact of life at any amusement park, especially one that is open all year round. However, it was quite disappointing to see so many attractions out of action simultaneously in an otherwise well presented park. The major parks on the Gold Coast plan their maintenance schedules months in advance, taking down one ride at a time, and the same should have been done here.
We began our visit by heading directly for the new coaster, only to learn that it wouldn't be open until noon. Instead, we ended up on Jubilé, ticking off the obligatory credit for first time visitors and renewing an acquaintance for the rest of us. There were only two cars visible today, one under a tarpaulin on the transfer track and the other on course, suggesting that the others seen in older photographs might have been cannibalised for parts. The ride quality was quite smooth with the exception of the last two corners which were typical Pinfari amplified by entirely unnecessary overhead restraints.
One of the unusual things about this park, at least from an enthusiast perspective, is that all five of their current coasters began life in other places. Jubilé started its career at Plopsaland De Panne, then known as Meli Park, but was sold at the turn of the century due to it being too extreme for that park's target audience. Less than a decade later it was replaced with Anubis, demonstrating rather conclusively that markets evolve over time!
Our next stop was at Tornado, a Jet Star 3 originally manufactured in 1975 for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. After four decades of operation the ride has been reduced to a single operational train that could do with some fresh paint, but it still manages to deliver an intense thrill that outshines coasters with far more impressive statistics. We selected a front for our first ride, a location that provided us with complimentary ass massages delivered by the noisy electric lift mechanism. As we reached the apex I took one quick photograph of the main drop before it became apparent that the speed of the ride would render further attempts futile.
Titan was rescued from Boblo Island, a Canadian park that closed its gates for the final time in 1993 after almost a century of operation. Its designers were clearly influenced by out and back wooden coasters, producing an oval shaped ride made up of airtime hills, a turnaround, and a thoroughly bizarre section of straight and level track. Even the rolling stock looked to have been based upon PTC trains. We ended up getting a second lap after the operators engaged the brakes too late to halt the train in the station.
The park is home to a particularly unusual walkthrough in the guise of Alicia, a one hundred foot long pregnant woman resting on her stomach despite her expectant state. Lisa, a retired pathologist, pointed out various anatomical inaccuracies, but the general configuration was close enough to reality that it probably could have been used to produce a how the body works video in the early 1960s. The majority of the display was static, though the tongue was able to move up and down in a moderately disturbing fashion.
The Casa del Terror had a pre-show video that was impossible to follow without the local patois, but once it was over we were treated to an elaborate and very well themed walkthrough with a variety of effects. A live actor began following us around and began whispering at us (in English) with increasing insistence. Towards the end the command to get out of my house made it clear that our time had come, and as we stepped into the sunshine the door behind us was slammed with a terrific crash.
It was only after we entered the queue for Bullet that we realised that the stated opening time had been quoted using the Mexican clock, and thus "noon" had to be taken with the más o menos inherent to the region. We endured a relatively modest thirty minute delay before joining a train load of guests climbing the forty steps up to the ride station. It was immediately apparent that the back car was out of use today for reasons unclear, and thus we selected the back row of the fourth car so as to get the most intense experience available.
Unfortunately, a local decided to take one of our two seats while we were storing our loose objects. The standard practice in any western park would have been for the single riders to be grouped, but today the operators placed a previously unseen desire for efficient operations above customer satisfaction by insisting that the two of us should sit apart, and quickly. As a result I found myself in the front row for my first Bullet ride in almost thirteen years while my fuming girlfriend sat in row three with a sour-faced teenager.
The train rolled forward slightly as the station brakes were released, with the front car resting outside the station, and the operators began a unison countdown. At one, the train began moving backwards, picking up enough speed to take it about half way up the reverse spike. At that point the tyre drives changed direction, accelerating the train rapidly and sending it into what was for the most part a smooth journey that delivered the intensity expected of a vintage Schwarzkopf. The only slight negative was the accordion restraints, but the simple expedient of pushing up with my shoulders prevented the ratcheting system from ruining my ride.
We rode twice more, getting a front seat together followed by the back that we'd been aiming for originally. In that seat there was a huge amount of hang time in the loop on the outbound journey, but a slight lateral movement in the restraints resulted in both of us getting multiple heavy thumps to the neck, killing off any desire we might have had to repeat. We walked down the stairs accompanied by the odour of burning rubber mixed with axle grease, perhaps the most distinctive feature of a late 1970s coaster launch system.
There was just enough time for one more ride before departure, and we made the most of it with a thrilling back seat on Tornado. Neither of us could remember riding a Jet Star in the rear car before, and while I didn't notice any particular difference the experience was nevertheless a lot of fun.