Visiting Mexico is, in some ways, like stepping into a parallel universe. One of the first things that hit us was the standard of driving, or lack thereof. We had previously been advised not to rent a car under any circumstances, and five minutes as passengers was enough to make us thank our respective deities that we had decided to heed this advice. For the record, we hired a car and driver for the day, for the all inclusive rate of 1600 pesos (about US $170). This was well worth the money for the peace of mind, and it also had the benefit of us not getting lost.
My Spanish is a bit on the rusty side, but it was still good enough to pick up our driver having a bit of a laugh at our expense (They're going to Chapultepec. What, the castle? No, La Feria!). To be fair, I can't imagine a huge number of drivers arranged by the Hilton hotel being asked to bring people to theme parks, but we're always happy to start new trends. The legendary Mexico City traffic was not apparent on the trip, meaning we arrived a good half an hour before park opening, ample time to thoroughly photograph all that could be seen from the road. This trip was the first major outing for my new camera, a Canon PowerShot G7, and it was useful to have some time to put it through its paces.
La Feria Chapultepec Magico
25th November 2006
Getting into La Feria Chapultepec Magico proved a bit of a challenge. We queued at the ticket booths, as one would do in any part of the world, but this was apparently the wrong thing to do as asking for "entrada todo incluido" generated a babble of high velocity Spanish which went in one ear and out the other. Deciding that ignorance was the best plan, I disavowed any knowledge of said language (not that far from the truth, it should be said), the net result being the aforementioned motor-mouth departing her booth and locating someone else who supplied us with wristbands and tickets. This does beg the question as to precisely what the ticket booths were for, but what do I know?
The park is in the process of installing the Schwarzkopf classic, Dreier Looping. Unfortunately, though the track appeared to be complete, one essential element was missing; a ride entrance. This no doubt will be installed in due course, but for our visit at least the newly repainted blue and yellow machine remained just a good photograph. Fortunately both of us had ridden it in its previous home at Flamingoland in England.
The star attraction at the park, Montaña Rusa (#915), is one of just three möbius wooden coasters in the world. The wonderfully laid back attitude of the local populous was very much in evidence here, with a train going out about once every ten to fifteen minutes, basically every time there were enough people to fill it. The train has to be pushed out of the station, not unusual for rides of this nature, but there was one surprising feature on our first ride; half a dozen uniformed staff running to push the train onto the lift hill. Very odd indeed, though presumably explained by the fact that until the train has warmed up it cannot catch the lift chain on momentum alone. I wish I'd had my camera ready. We had decided to ride in the back seat initially, which is always a gamble on any wooden coaster. The bottom of the first hill suggested that this had been a bad move, but that was the only major pothole on course. The rest of the ride didn't exactly let you forget it was a wooden coaster, but it was certainly rerideable.
We were also quite enamoured with Cascabel (#916), another classic ride. The maintenance bill on this attraction is likely quite high, as on all three of our rides the smell of burning clutch was heavy on the air as we passed the end of the launch track. Unfortunately, one of the ride operators decided to be belligerent about my glasses on our second go. This was particularly silly as he had seen them on my first lap where there had been no problem. Better yet, he insisted that I should hold them in my hand, where they were far more likely to be damaged.
The final operational coaster, Raton Loco (#917), was on first appearances a bog standard Reverchon mouse coaster. It could have used a little bit of paint, to be sure, but it looked mechanically sound. We didn't realise, however, that it was being run without any trim brakes whatsoever. The net result was insanely fast spinning in the second half of the course, almost enough to cause blurred vision, and certainly enough to cause acute dizziness. Impressive stuff, though once was about the limit of our tolerance!
We had been previously advised that the haunted house was something not to be missed, and once again this proved to be right on the money. We lost a little bit by not speaking the language properly, though the important things were pretty clear. This was a human chain style walkthrough, with everyone linking arms, and at more than one point in the attraction people were being dragged through as those in front did their best to accelerate passage through some of the more serious scenes. Live actors were the icing on the cake.
The only dull ride we tried, in fact, was the Maurer built Power Tower. To call this a drop would be an utter misnomer; a moderate speed descent would be better. A faster motor would probably fix this ride; as it stands right now it isn't worth the effort of walking up the queue.
The park as a whole can be summarised as a small city park, spotlessly clean and for the most part full of interesting attractions. In our view visitors would be hard pressed to spend a full day here; we completed everything we wanted to including rerides in less than three hours, but given the admission price (about US $10) one can hardly complain.
Six Flags Mexico
25th November 2006
After the joy of La Feria Chapultepec Magico, the park formerly known as Reino Aventura proved to be a bit of a rude awakening. To start with the positive, it was spotlessly clean, and staff dressed up as the Looney Tunes licensed characters were liberally scattered around the park, an important draw for families. They also had eschewed the usual theme park techno pop music in favour of Handel's Messiah (I am not joking... hearing For We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray during a visit to a theme park seemed oddly appropriate). Unfortunately, the cardinal Six Flags sin was in evidence; two coasters designed for multiple train operation were being run with one, and both of those had busy Flash Pass queues for paid line jumping.
It should be noted at this point that line jumping and ill behaviour was notable in both parks today by its complete absence. In reality, our experience of the local populace here is that everyone is extraordinarily laid back and well mannered. In many ways it reminded me of Cape Town; there is huge poverty here, but everyone makes the most of what they have without treading on the toes of others. I had expected Mexico to be similar to Spain, where line jumping is aggressive in nature, but this was not so.
At any rate, none of the coasters in Six Flags Mexico are likely to win any accolades. The highlight was, to be honest, the only coaster worth a second glance. Superman el Último Escape (#918) was a fairly good Morgan hyper coaster with an interesting layout rather than the usual out and back. One unique feature was about fifteen seconds worth of coaster including a moderately decent drop before the lift hill, though the momentum of this was lost somewhat by a set of brakes. The train would otherwise likely have made it to fifty feet up the hill before the chain lift caught.
The other significant attraction was the wooden coaster Medusa (#919), which on first glance looked to be seriously impressive. An interesting layout surrounded by trees made for a particularly photogenic attraction. Unfortunately, the ride quality was extremely poor, with horrible jolts all over the place at a frequency that caused us to question whether the wheels on the train were actually round. To be completely frank, in its current condition it is amazing to me that this ride passes safety inspections. Once was without question enough.
And the rest? Four cookie cutter coasters; Roller Skater (#920), Batman the Ride (#921), Boomerang (#922), and Tsunami (#923). To be fair, the first three rides are the only installations of their type in Mexico, but for any foreign coaster enthusiast they're all things seen in numerous other places. The only item of particular note is that the Boomerang was the first such ride to be built, almost a rite of passage given that more than fifty of them exist today. We took a spin on the Ferris Wheel, before calling it a day.