Last month, in our first adventure series, we featured Lauren of Outdoorsy Diva. She detailed her experience hang gliding in Florida.
I, too, have been hang gliding. But it was in Brazil. And…well, my experience wasn’t quite the same as Lauren’s. So I’ll share about that time I went hang gliding in Brazil…and why I’m good for the rest of my life.
It all started after law school. A month or so after taking the Bar exam, we decided to embark on a journey to Rio de Janeiro. It was a much needed trip, and somewhat of a tradition after taking a 3-day exam. We visited Sugar Loaf, paid homage at Christ the Redeemer, and took in the sites in Rio.
At some point, my travel companion saw a brochure for hang gliding. When asked if I wanted to do it, I reluctantly said “yes.”
To be 100% honest, I didn’t quite know what I signed up for. I really didn’t know what hang gliding was. There was definitely not full understanding on my part. All I knew is that we weren’t mentioning it to our parents until after did it. That probably should have been my first clue something was up.
On The Mountain
The next day we got picked up in a Jeep and driven up a winding road into the mountains and the rainforest. Now I’m starting to get more and more nervous. What the hell did I sign myself up for? What is this activity again? I’m wondering how high we are going and when the ride will stop.
When we got to the top of the mountain, I would love to say my fears were allayed and I was ready to go. In reality, it was about 400 times worse than I thought it would be. There were people practicing. Practicing what, you may ask? Well, they were practicing their technique to run off a freaking mountain with a kite strapped to their backs.
Yeah, you read that right. Let that sink in. You may recall that I don’t have a fear of heights. Not at all. Instead, I have a fear of not having solid ground beneath my feet. So running off the side of a mountain on a wooden platform was certainly not my archetypal idea of a good time. Not even close. By the time I processed what was happening, I turned around to see the Jeep speeding back down the road down the mountain. Damn.
So I decided to press on. I was paired with a guide that repeatedly made me practice running. He told me if we didn’t run, then we would crash (and the implication being possibly die) with a kite strapped to our backs. “It is important that you run and don’t hesitate.” “Got it,” I mustered up after running back and forth strapped to him to “practice.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I turned to see my travel companion running, full speed, towards the edge of the mountain with a kite strapped to his back. And just like that, he was gone. His adventure had started.
Not even a bit of a “goodbye.” No “you’ll do great” or “It’s my turn, I’m about to go.” He was just gone. At that point, quite a few expletives entered my brain. Quite a few. I was hot. How are you just going to leave me, the scared one, at the top of this daggone mountain and fly off a cliff and not say ‘bye’? Why would you go first and leave me up here by myself? Like I said, I was hot.
My turn was up. But we had to wait a bit for wind conditions to be right. Otherwise, no bueno. I’m trying not to think and clear my mind all together. But it’s not working. I’m an overthinker, and I was unamused.
My partner clearly sensed all of these things. He pointed out to a mountain in the distance: “You see that mountain? When you are running, just stare at that mountain. Don’t look down.”
Wile E. Coyote
You know that scene from the Roadrunner where Wile E. Coyote runs off the cliff, pauses, realizes what’s happening, then falls.
We started running, and I was determined not to look down. After all, I didn’t want to end up in the side of a mountain. I focused in on the distant mountain and ran as fast I could strapped to someone else and a kite.
It truly was a Wile E. moment. The platform ended. My feet kept scampering for a good second. Then, we dropped. And so did my heart.
And then, we soared. It was like we were birds. Once I got past the initial shock and fear, I took some time to look around. It was absolutely beautiful. My guide navigated and we soared down towards the beach. The wind rushed past us and it was, admittedly, kind of fun in that moment.
As we approached the beach where we were to land, I tried to take it all in. Tried to enjoy it and the whole experience. But soon, the beach was approaching. As we got closer and closer to landing, I started to wonder how exactly this thing was going to land. I looked to my guide for guidance: nothing. As we careened towards the sand, I started to get a little bit nervous. Closer and closer we came, still nothing. Then it was time to touch down.
It was more like crash down. Homey didn’t tell me to put my feet down and run as we landed. So, we crashed. Covered in sand, I shot him a look, and he had the nerve to ask me why I didn’t put my feet down. Clearly, because you didn’t tell me to, buddy! My travel companion ran over and after I got up and brushed myself off, I told him I couldn’t believe he left me on that mountain by myself. We later called my parents and told them about the experience. They yelled. Also, not surprising.
So there you have it. My hang gliding experience wasn’t some bucket list accomplishment, some ‘I-conquered-my-fears-and-now-I’m-ready-for-anything’ moment. It was a moment. I did it. I still have my fears. But I lived to tell the tale. But I don’t ever have to do that again. Ever.