Quest, Phantasia Land
Choose thy fate. Not
so long ago, there were only so many ways that you could get doused in
water at a theme park. Log Flumes, Giant Splash rides and Rapids
watermarked their way into the staple theme park line-up, and were more
often than not as basic as they come, doing little to float your boat, so
Despite this, water
rides have never been on the verge of drying up. Because water rides have
reached saturation point, it seems a crying shame that now technology
enables water to be bent in so many new and exciting directions, there are
simply few parks who wish to replace their tried and tested workhorses for
a innovative and more stirring alternative.
For example, flume
rides are now capable of going backwards; but how many parks are willing
to replace their established flumes for a new one? Not many*. And what
parks don’t have flumes? Again, not many.
[* Drayton Manor are
the exception, but as Alton Towers have recently proved with The Flume:
Unplugged, a revamp of their existing Log Flume, few parks are willing to
go to such extremes].
By the same token,
rapids rides are now capable of going down drops, through whirlpools and
even have Ferris wheel-style lifts – but there are few parks willing to
install such a signature ride whilst their humdrum 15 year-old Intamin
rapids ride still gets a queue. And again, what park doesn’t have a
rapids ride? Well, Phantasialand didn’t.
is one of the oldest parks in Germany, it has never had the luxury of
acres and acres of land to expand onto. In fact, the park has never had a
rapids ride and it wasn’t until Phantasialand, “came within a hair’s
breadth of a catastrophe” (in the words of Bruehl’s State Premier
Wolfgang Clement) when the park’s largest coaster, Gebirgsbahn,
along with the Canyon Bahn were both all but destroyed by an enormous
The effects of the
fire were immediate; not only had - by many peoples definition
- the heart of the park been destroyed, but the visitor numbers
slumped dramatically. Yet, against all odds, in 2002 Phantasialand bounced
back with gusto, opening not only Winja’s Fear and Force (a pair of
Maurer spinning coasters) but also Feng Ju Palace (Vekoma Mad House) and
also River Quest, which was built on the site of the destroyed Schwarzkopf
It doesn’t take a
budding Sherlock to realise that River Quest possesses very little in the
way of criteria by which be considered a rapids ride. Indeed, water ride
purists (should such a thing exist) would argue what good is a rapids ride
without any rapids. Well, whilst we could spend all day debating the
credentials behind what type of ride is what, a ride is a ride, and River
Quest has so many other strings to its bow that it would be unfair to
approach it with anything but an open mind.
entrance is surprisingly low-key. Much of the ride is hidden away until
you climb down the steps into a large pentagonal hall with a column
fanning out into a spectacular arched roof above, surrounded with a circle
of po-faced knights clasping shields and swords.
The hall is
surrounded in a river, almost like a moat, through which the black River
Quest boats slowly float by. The queue takes you around the back of the
hall and up a stairway up to the upper levels of the ride.
Whilst much of the
ride is hidden away from view, from the various levels of the queue you
get some excellent views that really embellish the idea of adventure. A
glance to your left affords some great views of the boats passing by,
whilst the queue bridges the final return into the station giving a good
opportunity for you to see just how wet riders are.
A final staircase
leads down into the station, decorated with huge and fanciful lanterns,
fishing nets, racks of drying fish and other things associated with a
rapids where the circular boats follow a turntable around, Hafema rapids
bring the boat out of the water onto an enormous conveyor belt. The boat
can be loaded a lot faster because of this, thanks to the fact you can
walk on the conveyor and get onto (and off of) the boat from all angles.
Each boat is made up of three segments, each seating three people with
room to spare.
The boats are a work
of art compared to the Tupperware affair on Ribena Rumba Rapids with
riders appearing to be cradled in elegant outstretched bat wings. The
small rubber ‘tyre’ around the skirt of the boat is small and the
design of the boat is generally far more refined compared to other
manufacturers with the sides of each section offering support, as well as
a grab handle for each part of the boat.
The ride gets off to
a relatively serene start, placidly floating around a lake punctuated by
jets of water operated by people pulling on Excalibur-style swords set
into rocks around a watching courtyard.
A conveyor belt now
takes you into the foot of a castle tower, and into a dead end where you
stop. Suddenly, the whole boat is slid across to the right and into a
small room. This is where River Quest starts rewriting the books on what a
rapids ride is, and indeed, is not.
Suddenly, your boat
is vertically climbing the tower in one of two massive elevators, where,
upon reaching the top the door on the opposite side of the lift slides
open and River Quest prepares to really roll its sleeves up.
There are some
points on rides that have an indelible effect on you. The moment where the
lift gets to the top and suddenly you realise the only way out is down a
steep, 30ft drop is one of those moments where words fail you.
Almost as a reflex
action, jaws drop, hands clasp onto anything they can, and suddenly you
slide from the lift and plunge down the drop, hitting the side violently
as the drop funnels the turning boat into a straight line before splashing
down into the water below, drenching those heading backwards into the wall
of water, splashing just about everyone else.
Inevitably, in a
state of disbelief you will glance over your shoulder, and sure enough,
there it is, the largest drop on a rapids ride in the world, and it looks
no less implausible from the bottom.
From the sublime to
the ridiculous, the ride again becomes a bit more tranquil, but only until
you realise you are skirting around the edge of a whirlpool. The route
your boat is clear as the trough perpetually spirals in towards the centre
of the large circle, before ducking down and out of view.
As you slowly orbit
around this whirlpool, other boats spiral around, faster and faster,
following the torrents of water down into the centre where white water
helplessly cascades down.
As you watch boat
after boat disappear through a parting in the water, you soon realise
there are no boats in between you and whatever lies beyond as the
spiralling waterway once again steepens as your ill-fated vessel drops
down below the whirlpool into another straight drop, splashing down into
the water below.
Yet again, a moment
to contemplate what else the ride can throw at you as you float past the
curious queue line. Nervous giggles will soon turn to looks of
desperation, though, as the sound of another waterfall heralds another
drop, and as people make a desperate reach for the grab rail, the boat
suddenly tips steeply down an incredibly abrupt drop into the depths of
the building above.
A long, covered turn
around the entrance courtyard is a fairly peaceful end to a surprisingly
boisterous ride. As voyeurs watch your boat float slowly past, few will
appreciate the extent of adventure that you have just experienced,
nevertheless, with its job done, you jump from your fibreglass ‘bobbing
bat’ and are left to enjoy the rest of the park with wet clothes
compliments of River Quest.
I’m sure you’re
expecting me to triumphantly proclaim that this is the best rapids ride in
Europe. Well, I’m not. This goes back to the earlier remarks about what
makes a rapids ride, so by the same mark, it is unfair to pitch River
Quest against more traditional rapids.
Indeed, this is the
largest criticism of River Quest. The party pieces are there, but there is
no continuity between each of them.
Many rides have the
occasional stand out moment, but River Quest is riddled with them. The
moment you head into the elevator, you realise that this is a water ride
quite unlike any other, and from that point on, there is no let up in
grandiose and memorable moments including the outrageous drop from the
castle tower, to the whirlpool and two drops following.
Had each of these
undeniably incredible elements been tied together with rapids sections or
something rougher than a millpond, then River Quest could well be one of
the best water rides in the world.
Even with the lack
of correlation between these elements, River Quest is simply spectacular.
Not only has River Quest got three drops, each is completely different.
There is the huge, long drop from the castle tower. Not only do you skim
down this drop at unfeasible speeds, but also the boat is forcefully
bashed into a spin mid-way down before the splash.
The second drop
flows on well from the whirlpool where the spiral of water smoothly (and
more conventionally) evolves into a straight drop.
final drop was supposed to be a trapdoor effect where the bottom of the
trough essentially drops out from underneath the boat, but instead it is
just a violently steep drop, and one of the wettest on the ride.
Despite these fairly
sensational drops, River Quest gives most riders only a healthy dousing in
water, not a complete soaking. You’d be unlucky to come off either
unscathed or soaked to the bone, which I think is a good balance to
Theming where it
matters is amazing. The station is wonderful, and the queue line and
entrance area is excellent, but surprisingly, the actual ride is fairly
flat and monotone – not poor, but not of the standard elsewhere.
River Quest is
undoubtedly one of the best water rides in Europe, but it is easy to see
how it could have been the best in the world.
River Quest and other water rides are ultimately academic, as River Quest
simply is in a class of its own.
MS 22 August 2004
▪ Completely different experience offered to almost every
other rapids ride
drops, all excellent, and each very individual
▪ Catchy music in places
original elements, such as the vertical lift and whirlpool
spots in between each large element
is a bit plain from the vertical lift to the final drop
real rapids element to speak of