End of an Era: Ratanga to close in final death-defying act

2017-08-30 09:24 - Thinus Ferreira
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Cape Town – After nearly 20 years the Cobra will lose its sting and Monkey Falls will finally dry up when Cape Town’s Ratanga theme park will finally shut down on 30 April 2018.

In eight months time the beloved Ratanga Junction – a place of happy memories in Cape Town’s booming Century City district next to the N1 since it opened in December 1998 – will usher out its final visitors.

Next year its rustic giant brown wooden doors will slam shut for the last time as developers get ready to demolish Ratanga Junction’s rides to be replaced with flats, shops and office space – so-called “mixed-use” space in property trade lingo – that doesn’t provide nearly as much joy but does make more money.

SEE: PICS: Century City then and now - new R1bn development

Ironically, Ratanga Junction is set to cash in on fervent nostalgia fever in its remaining open months ahead.

The theme park that cost R350 million to build two decades ago, will very likely in its final death-defying act lure throngs of visitors, all coming to look and ride one final time and to say goodbye – popular at the very end just like when it was when it opened.

'Very likely in its final death-defying act lure throngs of visitors'

Approaching the spring of 2017 and then its final summer months, the dreamlike theme park – a ghost-like shell of its former glory since it gutted rides likes Crocodile Gorge, its meandering train and the Diamond Devil Run – will likely face overwhelming visitor numbers during December, harking back to its heydeys as families literally go for one last Ratanga ride before it gets demolished by bulldozers.

The message to families, adrenalin-seekers and anyone who ever went to Ratanga Junction, loved it, stared at something like the Cobra from a safe distance below or were brave enough to try it: Go one final time while you can.

The new Ratanga Junction season opens 29 September.

Two decades ago – where a yellow rollercoaster’s track now towers into the air in loop-de-loops selling a finely-tuned mechanised fantasy not just for those inside but also to all those outside driving around its brown façade – there was nothing but rough vegetation on the 20 hectare plot.

While the dream will be dismantled in 8 months, the Ratanga Junction land won’t go back to vegetation.

Skeleton Bay, Hippo Hollow and all the rest will be redeveloped into more Century City flats, office space and shops – the stuff that’s not the kind of things that kids’ dreams are made of, but the kind of things that bring in the cold hard cash and pays the bills.

According to the property developers Jan Rabie Group that acquired Ratanga in 2015, Ratanga Junction’s end has finally arrived after it said last year that Ratanga’s demise is “not imminent”.

'Ratanga, just like the dodo, Coca-Cola’s mellow yellow and the R5 note, is a goner'

Now Ratanga Junction, just like the dodo, Coca-Cola’s mellow yellow and the R5 note, is a goner because the unprofitable theme park – making people happy on a sunny Saturday afternoon for R179 a pop – isn’t able to “justify its continued existence” according to the group.

South Africa doesn’t have a Disneyland, but Ratanga Junction with its Bushwacker, Congo Queen, Stargazer, Vortex and iconic Temperance Flyer train puffing up a steam between Ratanga and Century City was as close as we got.

At the end of April 2018 the shrieks of delight from the very young and the young at heart will fall silent; the skating rink will be upearthed, and the foam castle folded up and taken away along with our dreams.

Who knows where Monkey Falls’ tree trunks will go – the ride where an 18,5m drop ended in a wet splash is one of the highest log flume rides in the world.

How far we’ve fallen.

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