The Journey

A Diary of my Pursuit of Life\’s Best

The Anaconda

Have you ever been so frightened that your heart missed a beat? That your mouth went dry and your brain lost all sense of place and time?

I have.

Until that sunny Sunday afternoon, these 3 phrases were mere figures of speech to me. After I met the Anaconda, I realised that they had been coined from experience. The Anaconda is a large South American snake that kills its prey by constriction. In South Africa, the Anaconda is also a roller coaster that can make you pray and cause your heart to constrict.

It was the last day of our trip and Eleanor had taken her sister and me to Gold Reef City – a trip she promised we would never forget. Upon our arrival, we went straight to the queue leading to the Anaconda. A queue that was not straight at all. It curved and curved, continued under a waterfall and eventually stopped at a gate. We began the Great Trek, snaking our way to the front of the queue and killing time with complaints and conversation – complaints about the length of the queue and conversations about our expectations of the ride.

Almost 2 hours later we got to the waterfall. In the distance we could see our prize – the orange machine that would take us on the ride of a lifetime. From the right we could hear the waterfall and feel the soothing stray droplets on our sun-scorched skin. Above us we could hear the Anaconda and its terrified victims. We could see it cruise along its course, turning this way and that, and looping around the final circle before it went back home to roost. We could see the passengers disembark, relief written all over their faces as they prepared to proceed to calmer territory.

Our anticipation heightened. Our excitement was palpable. Suddenly, it began to rain. It was not the soft stray droplets from the waterfall. It was not the pitter patter of raindrops from a passing cloud. It was big fat raindrops from clouds that stood still above us. The rain was going to complete its course.

By this time there was only one group that stood between us and our adrenaline high. The group that was bound to board. The group that didn’t board because safety regulations required the rain to stop and 40 minutes to elapse before the Anaconda could move again.

Imagine our dismay! Imagine seeing our dreams – so carefully built over the hours – snuffed out like a flickering candle in the midst of a storm. We lost hope, but Eleanor, bless her soul, encouraged us to wait. Eventually the rain subsided and because some disheartened travellers had given up on their journey, we were the first ones on the queue!

We took our seats. We buckled up. We embarked on the 100-second ride to the other end of the rail. Chug. Chug. Chug. We inched our way up the rail, made it to the top and stopped. Way below we could see the rest of South Africa. The traffic. The tiny houses. The rest of Gold Reef City all around. Suddenly we began the steep descent along the rail that dropped almost at a right angle from the top of the incline. That was when my heart stopped and my mouth went dry. At that moment, the only word that I could remember was, “Mummy!” We cruised along the rail gripping our seats. Screaming at the top of our voices. Wishing we had never boarded the Anaconda.

The Anaconda was now hanging from the rail and we were hanging on to life. It seemed like we had been on this ride forever. We took the loop. 360 degrees of palpable fear. Adrenaline pumped through our veins. Our screams shattered the calm atmosphere. We held on tighter. We prayed that the ride would come to an end.

After what seemed like eternity, we slowed down and stopped. We disembarked, satisfied that the ride had lived up to its name. Our expectations had been met and exceeded and we would remember the thrill of the ride for a long time to come. We had lived to tell the tale. What remained was to tell the tale and tell it well.

My task is done.

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April 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment