Fjord Flying Dragon made its debut at Happy Valley Tianjin and 3 years later a second ride with the same layout (sadly) was constructed as one of the numerous and infamous Jungle Trailblazers, at the Fantawild Resort in Zhuzhou.
This is the ride that began my love affair with wooden coasters designed by the Gravity Group and the first of theirs I had ridden outside of baby Twister at Gröna Lund.
It was a memorable day not least for being the hottest I have ever experienced in China, peaking at around 40°C. Hot enough for the bus to break down on the way in. Hot enough for me to not want to stay in the sun for more than a few seconds. Hot enough for the ride to be on top form, in theory.
The ride of course is situated in the outdoor section of the park, in a Viking area with a nice vibe, tying in with the fjord in the name. It’s probably the coolest named woodie in the country. I remember sheltering in the station for significant periods of time and the front row of the train while parked was always bathed in intense sunlight, forcing me to only ever sit in the back while the ~10 minute loading procedures synonymous with Happy Valley took place. There was one minor incident in which the ride was e-stopped at the bottom of the lift for a short while (empty restraint not down? oops) and it felt like I was going to catch fire. Good thing it had no queue.
The back was the best place to be anyway. The first drop doesn’t look much on paper at 90ft, 60°, the world has done far crazier things. This didn’t matter at all as it was still one of the most pronounced and powerful straight drops I have ever encountered. The rolling stock on this ride predates the dawn of the signature Gravity Group Timberliners in China, instead using classic PTC trains. The bars on these are very minimal and exposing, I find there’s a lot of cushy freedom in the seating, both lateral and vertical. Being dragged over the top of this hill at full pelt never failed to produce noises of sheer terror from me and for someone who does this sort of thing a lot, it still felt downright dangerous. I like that.
By the time the very first little hill came along I had definitely realised that this is no ride to be toyed with. The track is negotiated with the perfect amount of violence for my personal tastes. The wood roars beneath you, the whole structure and everything on it rattles with enough noise and energy to keep things interesting from start to finish, even if the layout had decided not to do a whole lot.
But it does do a lot. Alot a lot. Big straight hills, intertwined twisty hills, speed hills, tiny little bouncy hills – the ones in between the supports of the ride are absolutely amazing. All glorious moments. The corners are wild and full of laterals and it took me until my very last lap to summon the courage to even put my hands up. I just love the variety and unpredictability this type of ride has to offer, particularly over certain other woodies like the Intamins.
It always amazes me how much potential energy this manufacturer can generate out of such comparatively little height. Fjord is 4000ft long, which is huge, but perhaps in this case it’s slightly too much. My only tiny criticism of the ride is that it feels like it runs out of steam a little towards the end, on the home stretch. It doesn’t quite maintain that consistently relentless edge from start to finish, something I found had been perfected a couple of days later in the trip. Still, to get so much out of so little here is an amazing feat of design.
I said that heat was only a theory because the conditions in which I rode the Jungle Trailblazer version of this ride couldn’t have been more different (other than the lack of guests again). There was a drizzle in the air and it couldn’t have been more than 5°C, so cold in fact that I was hugely surprised and relieved to find they even opened it for me at all.
Luckily the experience was largely the same, perhaps a bit less characterful, confirming that this is easily one of the best wooden coasters in the world for me.
The word Fantawild came up in this post so we can consider this one a slightly dirtier spin off from the guide, here’s a handy list of where you can find their version of this ride, even if it’s the wrong version in my head canon.