“Did you realize that a single carabiner was holding your life the entire time?” a freakish friend told me as I showed him my video. I honestly never thought about it until I watched the video again. I was tagged the “Crazy Asian” over the years that I’ve been backpacking and volunteering. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why. I would only realize the hazard once it is all over.
Towards my last days in Rio, I was looking on my to-do list and I think I did a great job ticking off all the things I wanted to accomplish for this trip. Cristo Redentor, Pao Acucar, Escadaria Selaron, Dois Irmaos, party and get wasted in Lapa and Sta Teresa. I was thinking of something that would cap my Rio adventure.
Whenever I don’t feel like going anywhere, the beach is always there to keep me busy. People watching in Copacabana or Ipanema is an interesting sight on its own. In one of my last trips to the beach, I was handed a flyer (like it always happens). While I thought it was one of those party invitations in Lapa, this time it is for hang gliding. Bingo! There goes my last hurrah before I fly back to Doha.
While you’re probably more familiar with Skydiving and Paragliding, Hang Gliding is also a popular air sport for those professionals or just a recreational activity for adrenaline junkies like myself. Compared to paragliding, hang gliding provides you with a more realistic “flying” feel as you are suspended lying on your stomach rather than the typical sitting position when doing paragliding. Yeah, you can now play that Nelly Furtado song.
There are a couple of popular Extreme Sports companies that offer paragliding in Rio. Prices are on a mid-range depending on which package you’ll avail. I did my quick comparison and went with Rio Asa Delta. Package includes photos and videos from 2 GoPro cameras and transfers from my hostel for BRL 540/ 147 USD. Not bad.
So how was the whole experience like? Let me break it up in few steps:
1. Pick Up
A guy picked me up from my hostel and drove me to the shoreline of Sao Conrado passing the Ipanema and Leblon neighborhood. From there, another car took me to the Hang Gliding Club where I met Fabio and Guto (my instructor for the day). I was lucky the weather was nice that day as this activity is very weather dependent. I was told that sometimes, waiting time can last for days depending on the wind conditions.
2. Orientation and Sign up
As it was customary, I filled out a registration form and insurance documentations at the Hang Gliding Club. After which, Fabio did some briefing about hang gliding. Orientation was literally brief as it took less than 10 minutes. And then off we went to the take off point.
3. Prep and Interview
As the Hang Gliding Club hosts a lot of tour operators, it was inevitable that there will be a queue. While we wait for our turn, Guto did my interview and the rest of the staff did the set up of our gliders. I tried not to be my typical “awkward-on-cam guy” and quite obviously, I was just excited!
4. Take off
One after the other, I saw these pairs run and soar to the green neighborhoods of Sao Conrado. Excitement was building up and all I can think of is how awesome it will be! Soon after, it was our turn. As Guto would remind me: relax, breathe and run as fast as I can. And so I did.
5. View and Pay
After a safe landing on the shore, Fabio handed me a cold and fresh coconut. We then went to a kiosk to view the video footage and of course, pay my dues. You can opt to buy both footages from two cameras for an additional 100 BRL and pen drive instead of usual CD. In less than 30 minutes or so, I found myself on my way back to the hostel, holding my CD and a wide grin on my face. If somebody would ask that infamous “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” I would answer with a loud”I just did it!”
If you’re looking for a different take on how to see Rio’s tourist attraction from above while having that awesome adrenaline rush, hang-gliding is the way to go. Enjoy the panoramic views of the Tijuca national park, the largest urban forest in the world, as well as the mountains of Pedra da Gávea, Pedra Bonita, Cochrane and Moro Dois Irmaos.
Are you up for the challenge? Share your experience.
Rio Asa Delta
Avenida Prefeito Mendes de Morais | Clube São Conrado de Voo Livre, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro 22610-095, Brazil
+55 21 98679 7777