In two weeks, I fell in love with the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Although I could not simply define the emotional attachment it has left me with, it has however, left me with wanting more. The culture within the city was alive with vibrations of music and the conversations of people. The viewpoints were spectacular. During my visit, the option to take a new height to this amazing city was presented and I decided that it would be the perfect idea to go hang gliding in what is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Additionally, professionals say hang gliding in Rio is the top country to this extreme sport in...so how could I say no? Right?!
When the day had arrived, I was so nervous and soon realized at breakfast that this could literally be my last meal. The buttered toast and the glass of orange juice all of a sudden appeared to taste like a gourmet meal. My body was filled with anxiety and excitement because I would be running off one of the highest points within the mountains of Rio. Unfortunately, for my boyfriend he was unable to join me in this experience. One week before we left for Brazil he decided not to listen to me and play in a recreational soccer game before our trip and got injured. I was not surprised when I got the phone call that night stating that he had to go to the hospital and have an air-cast strapped to his leg. For him, he could only stand there, foot in an air-cast, as I got to enjoy an experience of a lifetime. To this day he still enjoys stating that he would of done this extreme sport if it wasn’t for his leg, but truth be told I don’t know it if I believe him. That day I could see the fear of heights in his eyes set in when we stood on that mountain top, on that windy day. Luckily, we had met another couple within our hostel, who by chance, shared the same Canadian passports as us and it turns out the girl was just as crazy as I was!
Once we arrived to the running ramp, the volunteering between the two Canadians began. With nerves we both asked “Do you want to go first?”…while both of us quickly responded “Oh you can go!” How Canadian of us… eh? In the end, it was I who volunteered.
For those of you that haven’t yet experienced hang-gliding, it is VERY technical. First, you have to practice running around with the professional glider. I have to add in that the gliders professional name was mosquito. I know…such a majestic name. As I was saying, the professional tells you one hundred times that you must NOT STOP running when running off the ramp. Easy enough for him to say!
After you have completed step one or well… just reminding yourself to run directly at the edge of a cliff, without slowing down, without stopping and doing it without any hesitation the second step seems to be a breeze. The professional will hook you up to the glide by just a couple of hook clamps and you must practice dangling in position. While I focus on the small hooks that will be my lifeline, all I could think was “they look awfully small”. And as quickly as those two steps were completed, the professional stated “now you are ready to fly”. As I stood there pumped full of adrenaline, breathing heavily, preparing myself, I was ready to go. The professional glider then states that we are unable to fly at this time. With my luck wind changes delay the jump…
After 20 minutes, we tried again, full of adrenaline, full of anxiety, I’m ready to go… another wind change, and we are delayed again. *Sigh*. As we waited for the perfect moment, I began to think “Do I even want to chance my life with these wind changes?!” and as quickly as that thought entered my mind, the glider yells loudly that it is time to go!!! Quickly! I thought to myself “Wait, I’m not sure, I don’t know…” and then the Mosquito I was attached to, began to count…1…2...3…RUN!
I started to run, reminding myself not to stop or hesitate as the edge of the cliff touched my last step. “THIS ISN'T NATURAL!!!” I screamed. We ran off the cliff and we instantly dropped, my stomach twisted and feeling like I couldn't take another breath , I opened my eyes and realized… We have flight!
For approximately 7 minutes I was gliding through the air and over this beautiful city; I felt freedom. To this day I remember that feeling, that moment that everything was gone beneath me and only the sky above me. I remember that all the stress was gone, that I was free from school, work, bills, taxes, and relationships. At this time of flight, I truly was free and happy. The best moment was looking beside me and watching the birds glide beside us. Mosquito allowed me to take ahold of the glider and I was able to control the flight mid-air. As we continued to descend, the buildings that once were so little began to get larger and larger. And as we glided over the ocean, a long stretch of white sand beach was being touched gently by the roll of the waves from the ocean. The site was breathtaking. As my feet touched the soft sand of the south side of Ipanema, I knew how lucky I was. Encountering flight allowed me to experience new energy, new heights, and rise above what I dreamed possible.
I challenge you to take the leap.