First, as a mother, here’s full disclosure. My husband thinks I am crazy to have indulged in both hang gliding and sky diving!
Siddhi and I felt that a visit to Brazil would be incomplete without a hang gliding experience and once that was checked off our bucket list, we agreed to sky dive together for her 18th birthday.
So, which experience should you pick for your bucket list? You can probably draw your own conclusions after you read about our experiences.
One “must do” listed in several Rio guides is to sit at the beach near the Sheraton and watch the graceful flights of hang gliders. We decided to take it a step further and be one of those to be watched! We signed up with Rio Adventures and after completing the required paperwork scrambled into a jeep to drive up the mountain where we would get trained and take the giant leap of faith.
Siddhi and I got outfitted and each of us got instructed by our tandem partner. Here were my instructor’s words, “When I signal, you run, run, run.” This meant that when he signaled with his finger, I would literally run in tandem with him and jump off the cliff. Academically this sounded fine, till I decided to peek and see what it looked like off the diving platform. That was it….was I crazy? This was nuts! I rattled off a number of questions to the instructor and due to limited proficiency in English, he simply smiled. That’s when a triumvirate Brazilian (yoga instructor, motivational speaker, hang glider) with an Indian nickname Havinder came to my rescue and asked me to take a few breaths, relax and just go for it. And go I did! As we lifted off to nothingness, a thought entered my head…..if my partner had a heart attack, we would plunge straight down into the forest or the ocean. I was snapped out of my fatalistic thinking by my instructor who wanted me to smile for the cameras, capturing my constipated expression for ages to come. It was when I turned to smile that I began to notice the magnitude of what lay ahead of me. I could see the beaches, the forests, a glimpse of the favelas, the hotels and residential buildings all forming this 360 degree panoramic view which was usually reserved for an IMAX screen. But this was live and it was absolutely beautiful. I steered as instructed and we flew like birds, feeling an exhilaration and freedom that is hard to describe. As we began our descent to Pepino Beach a wave of nausea took over me. A few deep breaths later we were looking at the videos/pictures of the adventure on a small screen, a bit in disbelief that we had actually done it.
Fast forward a few months later and we were on an air strip in suburban New Jersey signing our waivers and getting trained to pull the parachute for our sky diving expedition. Siddhi and I were really calm and when the airplane loaded us up along with the other jumpers, it did not feel like we were about to do anything crazy. That was till we were up in the air and the tandem jumper started preparing me for the door’s opening and the jump. As soon as the door opened and I saw what lay below me, I panicked. Once again, I must be crazy. If someone told me to jump out of a plane from New York to Washington, would I do it? There was no backtracking and before I knew it, I was sitting at the ledge and within nanoseconds was on my free fall to nowhere. Once I had jumped, it was the most liberating experience. There I was floating in air, looking at the New Jersey landscape, seeing the distant Philadelphia skyline and most importantly feeling so free, so removed from the world and so one with nature. The landing this time was smooth and a few minutes later we were collecting our certificates. My instructor added that with a few more jumps under my belt, I could be a certified jumper. With a big smile I said, “One is plenty for me.”
If you have hang glided or skydived, we would love to hear about your emotions.