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Hang gliding in Rio de Janeiro (Page 2)

Hang gliding over Rio de JaneiroI was so relieved to get my turn that I have no recollection of what take off felt like. I’d waited for so long I forgot to be nervous. I’ve been told by those behind me that it was a perfect launch – no stomach-churning dip down after the edge of the ramp, just a smooth flight off the mountainside. Still, trauma does strange things to the memory.

Once in the air, the wind was strong and we soared over the jungle below. Rio is best viewed from above and whilst the city provides many excellent view points (Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain to name a couple), the birds-eye view a hang glider affords has got to be the best.

We flew over the tree tops of the world’s biggest urban national park, Tijuca, Rio’s largest favela, Rocinha, home to 300,000 people, above the skyscrapers and hotels lining Sao Conrado beach, over a manicured golf course with blob-shaped bunkers, above the heads of surfers and over crashing waves. Further out to sea, rain was falling over islands protruding rudely from the ocean. Birds of prey with white-tipped wings flew above, below and around us. Looking back I saw three, four, five more hang gliders take advantage of the window in the weather and a helicopter clattered past.

Coming in to land © Emma Field“You like speed, Emma?” Mauro asked, pushing the bar out and ramping the experience up by a fair few knots before I had a chance to reply. I like speed! And I like hang gliding. I like it more than bungee jumping and parachuting. It’s more natural, the closest you can get to flying like a bird. No engines, no attachment to a stationary object; just me, Mauro and a large triangle of fabric.

Landing was easy. Mauro went for a “motion” landing, meaning we circled and swooped onto the beach and landed feet first. No face plant for this first-time glider. And best of all, the flight lasted 20 minutes, which made every second of the nerve-wracking wait worthwhile.

I arranged my hang gliding experience through my hotel, Ipanema Beach House (R$220, which included transport to and from the ramp, plus R$60 for photographs – check your CD works before you leave Rio; mine didn’t and I had to have them emailed to me). Most Rio de Janeiro hotels will arrange the experience for you. You can also organise hang gliding through Rio Turismo Radical.

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Overland Traveller copyright © Emma Field 2010