Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Este Pássaro Pode Voar! (This Bird Can Fly!)

Okay, so here something that is actually fun again! On Saturday, I went hang-gliding. After a raucous Friday night out that included a trip to Rio Scenarium and which saw the night end with an early-morning dip in the ocean (see picture from last post), I woke up on Saturday to an email from Anita alerting me that I had 25 minutes to get myself together to go hang-gliding. I have been skydiving and paragliding before. When I went skydiving, it was under similarly hungover still drunk circumstances. After a late night out in Vegas during my brother-in-law's bachelor party, a few of us passed out at the Hard Rock pool around 8am. We were the only ones there and claimed the beach chairs that were on the sand next to the waterslide. I can't remember who woke me up, but somebody shook me around 12 noon and said "Dude, it's time to go get this parachuting hootenanny on." Oh wait, that could be no other than my brother-in-law. I sprung to action in the blinding sun and exclaimed "You want me to jump out of a fucking plane!" Much to my surprise and theirs, the pool was then crowded with revelers and everyone had a good chuckle.

Anyway, I scrambled myself together and raced over to the hostel to meet Anita and Elizabeth. We made our way over to São Conrado, about 10 km west of Leblon, and met our pilots. At first, the head of the tour company tried to talk me into paragliding as they did not have any pilots who could handle someone my size. Not because I'm fat you dicks - because upon takeoff, if the passenger stops running, disaster can ensue. For that reason, they prefer the pilot to be stronger than the passenger so that the pilot can overcompensate if need be. If I were to stop running, we would have made a pretty sweet impression of a tumbleweed rolling down the hill. Although I had my heart set on hang-gliding, the paragliding pilot one me over by telling me he was the best paraglider in all of Brazil and that he would let me steer. A chance to put my own life in danger! Sign me up! Just as I got psyched for this, a hang-gliding pilot came out of nowhere and told me he could handle me so long as I kept running. Mild emotional roller-coaster there but I settled on hang-gliding.

After a quick drive and a tiny, but invigorating set of steps up through Parque Nacional da Tijuca:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

We arrived at the takeoff zone to find a veritable taxiway full of gliders:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

My pilot and I:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

Me getting suited up:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

The launchpad - you had to run right off the tin roof:
From Paragliding in São Conrado
- You can see São Conrado beach below and the Zona Sul in the corner past the hills.

Anita, Elizabeth and I with our backs to the sky:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

Anyway, the flight was spectacular. You fly over some beautiful houses and the canopy below looks like little florets of broccoli. You hear nothing but the wind, or in my case, you also hear your pilot instructing you to crane your neck to smile at the on-board camera every 49.6 seconds. The flight takes you out over the ocean which offers amazing views of the sparkling blue water below. You can see all the way from Pão de Açúcar to Barra da Tijuca. Amazing. Only downer of the experience was the weak tactics of the pilots to sell the photos to you after landing. They wanted R$60 for a cd with 25 of basically the same photo on it. Apparently my pilot did not get the memo that I am now a cheap bastard. When I informed him that it was too expensive for my tastes, he muttered the following phrase under his breath: "vai tomar no cu" which literally translates to: "go take it in the ass." Dick, next time I'm gonna stop running!

Anyway, awesome experience if you ever get the chance. If you come down here, I will arrange it because I want to go back and go paragliding with the best pilot in Brazil (read: I want to steer the chute)

No comments: