Anaconda

Gold Reef City, Johannesburg, South Africa

Anaconda might just be one of the prettiest steel coasters anywhere. Its lines are graceful, its setting tropical, much of it is over water, and the color scheme is wild, but appropriate for the park. While climbing the lift, you get views of the park and the rapids ride that runs beneath the coaster. Soon you top the lift and make a left-hand diving plunge into-- WOAH, what's with the rock? There is this pile of boulders in the way, and the track threads through a TINY hole. You unconsciously pull up your feet and close your eyes, fully expecting to hit something.

Somehow, you and the train manage to squeeze through the hole in the rock. On the other side is water and a huge loop (visible in the picture above). The loop leads to this long zero-g roll, still over water, and another loop. Up to this point, the layout is similar to the familiar Batman design (found at most US Six Flags parks), only stretched out longer, with smoother transitions. Things, however, are not going to be like anything else from here on. Ladies and gentlemen, we are gonna ROCK!

Big rock. Big rock with a mining cabin on top. And pink track wound around it. And we are hauling right at it! Look carefully at the picture just down and right from the cabin. There's the trainload of people (their apparent size should give you a sense of the size of that loop in the foreground... that was the THIRD loop, by the way. But I digress... Anyway, by now you have been tilted on your side waaaay up in the air, and are now careening down and around this big rock with the house on it.

The farther down the rock you go, the closer the track gets to the rock wall. Soon, the track seems to be attached to the rock itself. The banking becomes more severe, riders are nearly parallel to the ground, and speaking of ground, it's coming up fast! Not to worry, a last-minute tunnel sucks the train into the earth and spits it back out on the other side of the rock, right into the blinding sun and a pair of the world's smoothest corkscrews. These are the most perfectly engineered corks on the planet, and the train sails through them as if it were completely effortless.

The last little trick up Anaconda's sleeve is a counter-clockwise helix, which seems odd to you after just having been spun clockwise for so long. The helix is right next to the queue, allowing those in line to see the look on your face. The banking on the helix varies as it goes, giving riders one last little kick before heading into the brakes and back to the station.

In a little park in South Africa, there sits a truly world-class coaster. I took my rides on the opening weekend, and was completely blown away by the uniqeness, smoothness, and power that this coaster offers. I went back in 2003 and was even more impressed. The pictures below are from the 2003 trip.