September in Rio de Janeiro was rainy. Very rainy. Dodging showers while trying to get those classic Rio experiences. The Copacabana swim, the Cristo Redentor, the nighttime samba.
For me though, I wanted to hang glide. And the weather was not kind. Opportunities loomed then faded. We travelled around the country, to Iguassu Falls, to Salvador and to the car-free town of Morro de Sao Paulo, then popped back to Rio for a final night and day.
“I think we can go. The wind might change though. Let’s try” said the tandem hang glide pilot on the phone. So, more in hope than expectation, I travelled to the launch platform to see if we could soar above the City of God.
More warnings. More waiting. The wind guide swung and flapped. I tiptoed near to the edge and scurried back. He told me that IF we got to go, I was to run, and I couldn’t stop at the last minute, I had to run. When else would you stop except at the last minute I thought?
Suddenly, he said – now, let’s go. A momentary shift in wind direction had convinced him the time was right. It suddenly seemed a long way to the edge. We ran. My defence from the last minute stop was to face up to the glider above and run as if searching for the top of a skyscraper on a Manhattan street corner.
The platform disappeared from beneath my feet. The supports of the glider swept my feet up behind. And the sudden serenity brought us gently down along a curtailed route with the hills, favelas, urban streets and beaches unfolding below.
One last instruction. Get ready to run as we hit the ground. It approached, and approached. Ready. One step, two steps, and I don’t know if my nose hit the sand first or the gliders. And the rain started again.