Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Over Rio

As long as I’m running off a cliff and hoping for the best,
I might as well do it in one of the most beautiful cities in the world - Rio de Janeiro.

Certain destinations are known for offering a superior adventure experience over anywhere else. If you’ve made the trek to Cappadocia, hot air ballooning was probably the draw. If you’re on the eastern coast of Australia, you’d most likely regret it if you didn’t snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. And if you find yourself in Rio, chug a caipirinha and hope for good wind, you’re going hang gliding.  

Since the decision to hang glide was an automatic “hell yes” and one made from the comfort & safety of my couch weeks prior to the trip, I didn’t actually process what it would entail until after a 30-minute jeep ride up Pedra Bonita Mountain to arrive at the takeoff ramp – a wooden board at the edge of a cliff, above the clouds. 

Puking would be an appropriate reaction. Especially because at this point I’m 4 days deep into a gnarly bout of food poisoning. Puking’s been my response to just about everything. But I’m too excited/anxious/terrified to puke. I don’t feel my body, including pain.

Looking down at Tijuca Forest and the city below, adrenaline kicks in. My breaths are short, my heart is racing, and the fear of what happens after voluntarily running off this mountain into a whole bunch of sky is paralyzing. “This is stupid. Why am I doing this? Because I’m an idiot. Because I’ve come this far. Because if I do I’ll have an experience. Those clouds…we’re flying through them? This is awesome!” All of the high and low emotions cancel each other out and I stabilize at a numb, neutral state of foggy brain syndrome.

The energy is high and awkward as all the first-timers nervously study the current guinea pig getting strapped in, with a constipated “you’re f*cking kidding me” expression plastered on their faces.

I’m flying with Ricardo from Delta Flight. He’s been gliding everyday for 16 years and has traveled the world doing it. After harnessing me in, he doesn’t give much instruction other than 1.) Run when he runs 2.) Don’t touch the control bar, that’s his.


Six giant steps off the wooden plank and…we’re flying? It’s an unexpected sensation. That may sound dumb considering I’m doing exactly what I signed up to do. But even though I saw the guy before me sail away into the sky, the fact that I didn’t fall quickly into a dirt nap below feels bizarre. Humans aren’t supposed to fly like a bird. It feels really unnatural and takes a few seconds to adjust, but after I do getting around any other way seems super lame.  

Ricardo and I are right up here chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool. Ya know, floatin.’ Not exerting any energy. Just flying. Like a flippin’ flying thing. This whole coasting on a kite above the jungles and beaches of Brazil checking out ant mansions over the Malibu of Rio with panoramic views of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Atlantic Ocean thing is not surreal at all. Not. At. All.

The wind is usually so perfect at this spot that if you wanted to you could stay up all day, but because Ricardo has a business to run, we fly for twenty-five minutes. Twenty-five peaceful, yet exhilarating minutes before a surprisingly soft landing on Pepino Beach. Walking again feels so weird. It’s so hard. Never realized how much gravity spited me. With every step my cement feet take, my body returns to its normal state. And I’m off to find a plastic bag.