Air Surfing

Trip Start Nov 22, 2005
Trip End Dec 02, 2005

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Flag of Brazil  , Rio de Janeiro,
Saturday, November 5, 2005

So one of us gets the idea to do something a little out of the ordinary. For under $100, we can jump off a cliff and see if we can fly like a bird. Hmmmm well, I wasn't really sure I wanted to spend that much cash, but I decided it could be a neat experience. My only issue was the damn sunburn. I figured that would be of no consequence up in the sky, and if anything would actually give me some relief. Little did I know, in these tandem harnesses, the strap goes around your legs, at the shins, precisely where my legs were, um, purple. It didn't matter anyway, as the adrenalin, the beauty, grace and utter tranquility of the experience numbed my pain of the sunburn. I really didn't even think about it. Nor did I think about jumping - actually they said not to jump, as that gets you into trouble. Running off a sheer platform at over 500 metres above sea level (1700 feet) seemed a bit crazy, but for whatever reason - too many caipirinhas? we decided it wasn't a risky venture. The long ride from the hotel up the twisty mountain road into Tijuca National Forest, the largest urban park in the world, gave us plenty of time to think about backing out, but none of us did. We girls had decided this was the adventure for the day. It turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. The view from the top of Pedra Bonita was marvelous. It was a little scary, looking out knowing I would jump from this height in just a flimsy bits of nylon and some guy I didn't know, but I figured he's a professional. So with my ten minute instruction on how to run, not jump, I got ready to fly. I decided they only give you ten minutes because any more time than that and people would be jumping back into the vans they came in rather than off the mountain. I read something that in its origins back in the '70's, 1 of every 2000 jumps ended in death. Yikes. Now it's around 1 in 116,000. Twice as deadly as scuba diving, which I never really thought of as dangerous anyway, except for the highly unlikely incidence of shark problems. Luckily, I never thought of this stuff when I was up there. The scariest point is definitely just before you run off. A few butterflies, but the guides are pros and their love for the sport shines and is contagious. After the cliff run, it is sheer bliss. If I could afford to do this every day of my life, I would. It was the most fantastic, most beautiful, most thrilling yet simultaneously most peaceful experience I'd ever had. I was so thankful to my friend for coming up with the idea. Immediately after leaving the platform we caught a thermal, which lifted us up another several hundred feet into the air above Rio. The sound of the wind in our kite, the birds soaring beside us, and the unimpeded views over the city were absolutely phenomenal. I briefly considered that I could die at any second when my tandem pilot guided us along the granite walls of Gavea Peak and Dois Irmaos (two brothers) and out over the open ocean after leaving the Sao Conrado valley, but I was so high on being high, death wasn't scary anymore. Looking down at the humans left on earth, I felt a bit sad that they couldn't share this heavenly perspective. When it came time to land, which I started wondering about as we got increasingly closer to the earth below, I started thinking that my pilot really hadn't told me how to land. Then I remembered that he really didn't speak much English. Well, everything else was running smoothly, so why interrupt the fun for a silly thing like instructions. A few minutes after this, he unclipped the straps around my legs, and let them dangle free. Ahhhhhh! I felt a rush of pleasure and relief, really the only tension I had the entire 30 minute trip. He suggested that when we approach the sand, to just start running again. Really?? That's it? Soon, the tawny blond sand was beneath us, and my legs started their Fred Flintstone imitation. The weight of the glider surprised me, as in the air my job was just to float. On land once more, I already missed the sensation of being carried through the atmosphere by the kite. I was addicted!! On its wings, the glider had a camera to take photos of me in flight. When I saw the pictures, it was so remarkable to me that in every single photo, my smile was so genuine and joyous, as if I were having the time of my life. That must be because I absolutely was. 
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