Mundo Petapa is located in the centre of Guatemala City in an area that is probably best summarised by the widespread presence of armed guards. Enthusiasts shouldn’t let the slightly dodgy location put them off, though; the park behind the walls is top notch, with a substantial number of high quality attractions. The adult rides in the park were only opened in August of this year, marking the coming of age of a facility that was until recently aimed at children only.
The first stop for us was Moto Bala (#1597), a Zamperla motorbike coaster, with a ride intensity that fell somewhere between the other two versions of this layout I’ve been on; it was definitely more intense than Darien Lake, but not quite of the level of Jin Jiang; it seems like not all launch motors are created equal. It was a lot of fun, though I’ve got to take marks off for not being allowed to wear my glasses with safety strap. I tried to explain to the staff member there but it was to no avail; he stood firm, only repeating apologetically that “it’s the rule”. If anyone from the park is reading this, it’d be no harm to train all your staff to allow these straps; I was challenged on a few other rides during my visit today but all the other operators were happy when I showed them that my glasses wouldn’t budge with the strap in place.
Our next stop was Raton Loroco (#1598), a run of the mill spinning mouse from Zamperla. This version didn’t seem to spin all that much, even with a properly balanced car, but other than that it was pretty much as expected. A quick stop over at the powered Dragon completed the set of roller coasters.
The biggest ride in the park is Rascacielos, a fifty-three metre Giant Drop ride that looks vaguely like a Maurer Sohne model but isn’t; it uses an air compression system to provide a faster than gravity drop from the top followed by a couple of bounces to gradually reduced heights. This proved surprisingly intense, but well worth it even for those who dislike drops for the view across much of the city. We also tried Remolino, a superb spinning rapids ride that rotates fast enough to give riders blurred vision. This is a style of ride that I wish would appear in more parks; it’s great fun. Other rides that we didn’t try included a very wet looking log flume, a Disk-O, a Fly-Away, and a substantial selection of children’s rides.
4th December 2010
Voltron was/is a relatively obscure cartoon character from the 1980s which for some reason remains popular in this part of the world, despite the fact that no new shows have been produced in twenty-five years. The Voltron (#1599) coaster strikes exactly the right balance between family friendliness and intensity, with a relatively calm front seat and a surprisingly wild back. Enthusiasts will particularly enjoy the second drop, not visible from the ride queue area, which features a descending S-turn over about thirty feet to the fastest portion of the ride. Enthusiastic photographers shouldn’t miss the front of the train, which features an impressive looking custom fascia that looks vaguely evil (but probably isn’t).
4th December 2010
With all the known coasters in Guatemala out of the way, we spent an afternoon visiting a few locations recommended by the hotel concierge. Antigua is a tourist trap (and city) located about an hour away from the capital under the shadow of one of the many local volcanoes. It’s an interesting place to wander around, consisting entirely of narrow cobblestone streets and old looking buildings; even the modern touches (Burger King, McDonalds, Subway, et al) had discreet signage that didn’t detract from the overall appearance.
Moving back into the capital city, we were brought to the National Palace (pictured opposite) and the National Cathedral, two extremely impressive structures that stand on two sides of a large public square. I would have liked to wander inside the latter, but the front gate was well and truly blocked off. The sun angle was just about perfect for photographs too!
My overall impression of the country based on a two day visit is of a nice country filled with pleasant people, a far cry from the insanity that is Mexico. The driving is sedate and car horns are almost never used; in fact, if I ever come back to the country I’ll seriously consider driving myself instead of hiring a local chauffeur. Despite the published warnings there was no point where I felt worried for my personal safety. There was a certain amount of aggressive selling in the tourist areas (no, I don’t want my shoes shined thank you!) but it wasn’t unmanageable, and unlike Mexico the local denizens didn’t chase when it became clear that you were not interested in their wares. The only warning I would have for those attempting to repeat this trip is that a few words of Spanish will make things much easier; I’d have struggled otherwise.