We were taking an ice cream break while walking Viviana’s adorable Yorkie, when the call came in.
Viviana’s friend, by the same name, was heading to River View Park in Sabaneta with Andrea, another friend, and wanted to know if we’d like to join them.
Until then, it’d been a quiet, relaxing Sunday afternoon.
Despite feeling tired, I was too curious to pass up the chance to see a traveling amusement park in Colombia. Besides, I had no idea how long it’d be around.
A few hours later, we arrived in Sabaneta, the two Viviana’s, their friend Andrea, and I. Andrea parked the car, and we walked over to the entrance.
In order to access the rides, you had to buy credit on rechargeable plastic cards, which are sold at the entrances to the park.
For starters, each of us bought 20,000 pesos ($10) worth of credit. This would be enough for a ride on each of the five most thrilling rides, which were all priced at 3,500 pesos ($1.80).
The girls were more interested in going on all the rides, while I was content to walk around, take photos, and soak up the atmosphere.
The last amusement park I’d visited was Universal Studios in Orlando, with my family, a few Decembers ago.
Of course River View Park is on a much smaller scale, but it was still my first amusement park experience in Latin America.
We’d arrived around 5:30pm, or two and a half hours after the park opens on the weekends.
This turned out to be fortuitous, as we’d later learn, because the lines were long, but manageable at the time.
Our first ride was the Super Shot Tower. We waited in line a solid 45 minutes, as the day gave way to night. By the time we were pulling down the safety harnesses on the ride, it was early evening.
The tower was small enough that I wasn’t too anxious about riding it, but once it began rising up like an elevator, I felt a tinge of nervous excitement.
I’m guessing it’s about 30 to 40 meters high, and when it reaches the top there’s no delay before the release, and we plunge in an exhilarating free fall.
I felt my cheeks rise up from the force of it, and then we came to a gentle stop before gliding to the bottom. A 45-minute wait for a 4-second ride.
Next, we moved over to the Pirate ship, another ride I knew I could stomach, because it only moved back and forth, instead of in nauseating circles.
The law of lines at amusement parks states the longer the line, the better the ride. By that logic, the Pirate ride wasn’t the most popular, as we only had to wait about 15 minutes before we climbed aboard.
The ship began slowly rocking back and forth. “Easy, I can handle this,” I thought.
As the inclination of the ship increased, my stomach began to feel it. It was a fun kind of uneasiness.
Enough to get a thrill, but not so much that I was counting down the seconds before the ride ended.
Next, the ladies set their sights on the Fire Ball, a closed loop roller coaster that’s the only ride in River View Park to get fully inverted.
I waited in a food line with one of the Viviana’s while the other two when to hold a place in line.
Five to ten minutes later, while we were still waiting for churros, they returned to say the line was far too long. It was about 7:15pm, and the crowd had swelled after dark.
The estimated wait time for the Fire Ball, which I’d call the most extreme of the rides, was and hour and a half.
Thankfully for me, none of us had the desire to wait that long for a ride. I’d already told the girls I’d wait that one out.
Next, they went to scope out the line for the 6-pronged whirly ride that flung people around in little cars while moving its arms up and down.
It was another ride I planned to skip, but again, the line was far too long, winding its way around for about three blocks, in one girl’s estimation.
Instead of leaving right away, I suggested we walk around the park and see what else it had to offer.
A few of us took a walk through a labyrinth of mirrors, to a thumping stream of reggaeton music.
Finding your way was harder than it looked, and while Viviana did a great job, I still credit two little girls who helped point us in the right direction toward the end.
Upon leaving the labyrinth, the other Viviana and Andrea were picking out silly oversized glasses and hats to wear for a funny photo booth.
We joined them, and the four of us had four photos taken, at a cost of 8,000 pesos ($4). Extra copies were 4,000 pesos ($2) each.
Like any good amusement park, there were plenty of carnival games where the men could win their ladies stuffed animals.
I was tapped to win giant tigers and Rastafarian bananas for all three girls, but it’d have to wait for another night, because once Viviana and Andrea spotted the mechanical bull, they got in line for a ride.
The record for the night so far was 36 seconds, which seemed hard to beat judging from the steady stream of men and women being flung off of it.
If it weren’t for my bad back, I’d have wanted to give it a try too. I think the average time on the bull was about 8 seconds, regardless of whether it was a guy or girl.
By a quarter past 8, we were all getting hungry, so we left the park for Sabaneta’s main plaza, and the restaurant to the right of the church, famous for its giant bunuelos.
River View Park is easily accessible via a short five minute walk from the La Estrella metro station. The amusement park is in town from June 14 to July 28, 2013.