Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"I'm like a bird, I'll only fly away..."

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Nothing like waking up in the morning, packing up my bags, taking a stroll on Ipanema Beach, and then running off a 1,700-foot high platform into a cloudy mist, high above the largest urban forest in the world.

What a rush...

Paulo Celani and his crew at JustFly drove the six of us through Tijuca National Forest up to Pedra Bonita (The Pretty Rock), where we were greeted with a ghostly area that would soon be filled with several gliders and pilots.

The weather wasn't exactly ideal, with clouds lingering around us. We were hopeful that it would all work out as we geared up for our flight. Paulo is getting his glider ready in the photo on the left. It was actually fourth in line, but as conditions seemed to lighten up, we would be the first one to take our position on the platform that day.

Only four of us decided to take the leap, which actually worked out well in terms of keeping our belongings secure. Turns out that Paulo didn't want me to take photos during my flight, which saddened me, so that meant I had to leave my camera with Brian.

I thought the outfit looked pretty cool and probably felt somewhat similar to those huge sumo wrestling outfits worn during competitions at carnivals (or in The Office), so Mom and I did some pseudo chest bumping.

No fear. I had no fear.

This was going to be awesome.

Essentially, the main goal for the takeoff is that you start running and you don't stop even when you know your feet may no longer be on the platform. The next thing you know, you're soaring in the air.

See the view we had on the platform - not much, but there were moments when the clouds parted, and we could see the beach just for a few seconds and then it was hidden again. We could only takeoff when we could see São Conrado "Pepino" Beach in the distance.

The great thing though is that it was windy. The glider had to be stabilized while on the platform, and the clouds were being blown around to the point where they thinned down enough for us to launch.

Here's a slimmed down video of my experience. Being a corn dog, I made a few adjustments, least of which was cutting the video down from almost 27 minutes down to less than 8 minutes. 21+ of those minutes were in the air.

Wow! That was fun!!

The fact that we couldn't really see what we were running into, or off of, probably helped, especially for those scared of heights. For me, it was literally leaping into the white unknown since the beach did fade away before we left the platform. The actual flight was quite calm and relaxing, except for when Paulo decided to do some tricks which were awesome (wish we did more).

The landing part was insane! We were still pretty high up when we made our approach. The next thing I knew, we make a quick turning descent and gunning for the beach. We were going so fast I had to scream and brought my feet up just a little bit for fear that they would hit the sand while we were traveling so fast. I can handle rollercoasters (well, it's been a while since I've been on one, but I'd like to think I can still take them), but this did throw me in a loop and after walking on the sand for a few seconds, I realized that I felt queasy. Yowsah! Thank goodness I didn't really eat anything for breakfast, otherwise that video may have captured another kind of memorable moment.

I spot Mom after removing my gear, but not Dad or Brian. I guess I was just waving at some other spectators on my flight down.

Here's a shorter compilation of other videos: (I'll have to add Elmer's, if he has any, in at a later date)

Lots of time pass before we even see any gliders in the air. It must have gotten pretty opaque up there. We tried to figure out if the hang gliders landing are either Elmer or Hoong-San by their clothing. Neither one of us has a camera, regretting to just keep a point-and-shoot in the front pocket on our outfit - Mom gave hers back just before take-off. Almost all of the gliders landed on the combed landing strip on the beach, except for one. This one looks like its going to land on the beach, but instead veers off to the right and lands elsewhere. Turns out it was Elmer's glider. We didn't know until after Hoong-San lands. By this time, Brian and Dad have finally reunited with us with a small window to get our cameras ready and catch a glimpse of Hoong-San landing.

We all celebrated in having successful flights, and it's kinda funny how a number of landings we saw resulted in co-pilots landing on their knees or falling. Elmer's was just a mystery. Landing on grass? He even thought his pilot might not even be part of the team.

We watched the birds soar in the air while our photos and videos got burned to discs and helped ourselves to some refreshingly smooth coconut juice.

Mom was funny as she sat down at one of the tables and continued to break open the coconut and eat some of the meat as well.

TONS of fun! Highly recommend soaring in the sky while in Rio, and booking with JustFly.

1 comment:


Hello Rainy Burb !!!
It is a GREAT artice about your hang gliding experience in Rio.
If you don`t mind I posted your link at http://justflyinrio.blogspot.com/
Paulo Celani - Just Fly Team