The premise for this day was, on paper at least, fairly simple. A quick flight to Guadalajara, a day in a theme park, and a flight back to Mexico City afterwards. There were many possible things that could have gone wrong over the course of the day, and in retrospect it was amazing that none of them did. Potential pitfall number one was completely eliminated by our decision to stay in a hotel at Mexico City Airport. This meant that the time required to travel to the check in area could be measured in minutes; five of them, to be precise; and extremely efficient staff meant that we had our boarding passes and had cleared security in just five more. The only problem with this, naturally, was more than an hour to kill in the boarding lounge, but we figured this was better than risking missing our flight.
Our flight was with Mexicana on an Airbus A319. We could have gone for a Mexican low fare airline, but the price difference was not enough to justify the increased stress level brought on by aircraft older than I am. The flight was fine other than one thing; tall gringos might do well to take their business elsewhere, as the non-adjustable headrest is not comfortable when it digs into your shoulders. For the aviation enthusiasts among you (everyone else should skip the rest of this paragraph) it seems that very few Mexican aircraft are actually on the Mexican aircraft register. Many are licensed in America, though other countries are featured, with some even being registered in Ireland. Seeing an Echo India registration under a Mexican flag seemed a little odd, but I'm sure there's a valid reason for it.
On arriving in Guadalajara (cue Tom Lehrer) we arranged a car and driver to take us to the park and back again. The cost, including three hours waiting time, was the princely sum of 700 pesos. The drive to the park, despite what Google Earth might suggest, was only about half an hour, though part of that might well have been our taxi driver maintaining an average speed that puts many roller coasters to shame. Speed limits in Mexico are ignored outright, with most vehicles on the road adopting the tear down the dotted line school of driving. However, there is a workaround for this problem in residential areas, namely cobblestones. In most countries these work to slow vehicles down. The authorities in Guadalajara, however, presumably recognising what country they are in, have taken extra precautions. Has anyone ever seen speed ramps in the middle of a cobbled street before?
26th November 2006
Our driver decided that we were on a business trip to Selva Magica, as he brought us in through the staff entrance, walking us right through the park to the HR office. Somehow nobody seemed to mind that two tall gringos were walking through a park that was yet to open, or that they had entered without purchasing any tickets. We determined after some investigation that wrist bands were a requirement, and thus we exited out of the main entrance some five minutes after park opening, garnering a few odd looks in the process, only to purchase wristbands from a ticket seller and re-enter as regular customers.
The park itself was spotlessly clean, and extremely colourful. An impressive collection of spin rides was to be found, along with a skycoaster and a horribly dangerous looking slide that eschewed the usual run-off area with hard concrete. The four roller coasters were all located in the same area of the park, and we went through them in short order.
First up was Titan (#924), an odd little ride built by Sansei Yusoki of Japan, to my knowledge the only ride by this company outside of Asia. It featured extreme air time in the back of the train, to the point that passengers would certainly be ejected were the lap bar not secured properly. The first half of the ride was a typical out and back design, as one might expect on a wooden coaster. The second half of the ride, however, was the strange bit - with a full fifteen seconds worth of perfectly straight track. There would have been room for two more hills in there without question, and it certainly felt like the train had enough momentum to do more than it did. Anyone know why this ride is like this?
We went for Catarina (#925) next, largely as we were going right past it. The operator, who could not have been more than fifteen years old, was very insistent that we sat in the front of the train. We were happy to oblige, and after some contemplation determined that it was likely due to weight and balance issues; since the train wasn't fully loaded it might have had trouble making it over the lift hill?
Round three was fought out on Tornado (#926), one of just three remaining SchwarzkopfJet Star 3 designs, and an unexpected gem. Though only one train was in use today, the ride was otherwise reminiscent of a German fair attraction, with the train being dispatched within a second or two of all passengers being seated. There were no restraints, and thus there was nothing for the operators to check. The only real oddity was the queue design, where oncoming passengers were held about fifteen seconds walk away from the station until their train was ready to go.
Last and by every possible means least was Jubilé (#927), a non-looping Pinfari design which nevertheless had over-the-shoulder restraints. The track was for the most part a rich shade of blue, other than a few segments in a rusty red colour which stood out a mile. George wasn't able to fit in the back half of the car, due to non-existent leg room, but there was no such problem in the front. The ride as a whole has aged well, though potential passengers should be very wary of the brake towards the end of the ride.
The haunted house attraction was unfortunately not open, leaving only one other walkthrough that caught our attention; Dinosaurium. As the name suggests, this was a tent full of animatronic dinosaurs, though guests were guided through it by a staff member with a megaphone rather then being allowed to walk free. Some of the animatronics were fairly decent, though the whole attraction was on the whole dull. It strikes me that making the last dinosaur move rapidly forward off its pedestal towards guests, even just one step, would add a huge amount to the whole thing. Sadly, it wasn't to be.
With the park finished, we went out the entrance to meet our taxi driver, only to discover he'd somehow managed to sweet talk his way into the staff car park. He led us back through the park, explaining to a staff member at the entrance presumably what he'd done, and the three of us were able to walk back across the park without purchasing additional tickets. Imagine that in a Six Flags park anyone?
We arrived back in the airport five and a half hours ahead of our flight, but this was not a problem. Aeromexico were quite happy to put us on the next flight at no extra charge, and they even assigned us exit row seats. Mexican efficiency at its best therefore meant we were actually sitting on a plane less than an hour after leaving the park, something we'd never achieve anywhere else in a million years. Ninety minutes later we were back in our hotel, almost five hundred kilometers away.