Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taking A Domestic Flight in Brazil

God of War is probably one of my favorite games on the Playstation. It's an action-adventure game that combines savagery with cunning, with stunning graphics and a superb gameplay experience. When I finally get back to Singapore, I would probably want to buy God of War and God of War II for the PS3 and replay them, warming up for the time GOW III is released.

But hey, Sony did not pay for an advertorial on this blog, so let's get down to business. The only reason I mentioned GOW is because of a scene between the (anti-)hero, Kratos, and Icarus. You know, the idiot who made wings with wax, then flew too close to the sun? Well, turns out he didn't die after all, but became muy loco, as they say in Latin America. Check out the clip below.


That said, the tale of Icarus was what went through my mind as the wife and I went on a hang-gliding experience just off the coast of Brazil. Though the 15 minute flight cost each of us 200 Reals (SGD 160), we thought that this was a new experience worth trying out. After all, we really couldn't think of anywhere else nearer to home, where you can just take to the skies and glide along the coast.

So we waited and waited for a good day. Hang-gliding is a little like hot-air ballooning. The weather plays a very important role in determining if you were going to stay grounded for the day. Rain forced us two postponements, wind in the wrong directions forced one, and general cloudy weather caused yet another postponement. When Marcio, our freelance tour agent called to tell us all conditions were "GO" if we could get ourselves ready in half an hour, we quickly pushed aside our other plans for the day and jumped to it.

The tour itself was really short and sharp. The hang-gliders (also called pilots) called a cab to pick us up at the guesthouse to bring us to the hang-gliding association. There, we paid a small registration fee and signed our lives away on indemnity forms (seriously, what the hell did we buy travel insurance for, I wonder...). We were then hustled into a waiting car with the glider neatly stowed on it, and brought up the hill to our launching point. And oh, during the ride to the launch point, a portable dvd player was placed in our laps for us to see what we would be experiencing during our flight! As we say in Singapore, chop chop curry pok!

After a couple of rehearsals on the take-off procedure, it was Yi Lin who started flying first! It happened so quickly I didn't even have the chance to prepare my camera for video. This quick clip is therefore in black & white. You don't have to adjust your monitor...

Now, being the super 'ngiao' (stingy) people we are, we had originally wanted to take our own photos and videos. This was pretty difficult, and really not recommended, because

1) We had a zippered pocket on our harness, which you can put your camera in. But when you are flying, that pocket is facing down. Reaching your hand into the pocket to retrieve your camera is a scary affair, because one slip, and it falls. Bye bye camera!

2) The pilots earn extra income by selling the photos and videos they take via a camera positioned on the right wingtip of the glider. The camera faces both of us while we are suspended in the centre of gravity, right down the middle of the wings. Being in the centre of gravity, the pilot can control the direction we face simply by pulling a line, causing us to swivel left, right and even 180 degrees!

So this is the trick my pilot used:

He would exclaim,"Hey look, that's Sugar Loaf Mountain on the left!"

I would then point my camera to my left to snap a shot at it, but at the same time, he is already adjusting the glider so that the mountain is on my left (positioning the glider camera), and then he would swivel us so that my feet now point towards the mountains, then he would snap a pic with the glider camera. With the Mountain behind me, it was pretty impossible to make the movement to aim a shot at it myself.

Well, the first 2 pictures below are taken by me. Everything else was taken by the pilot because I had already given up on being able to take anything myself!

The majestic coastline from the air. Sugar Loaf Mountain is in the background

Huge waves with lots of foam, both above and under water

"Hey look, the hill where Christ the Redeemer is on!" Then our bodies are swivelled so that the hill is behind me (my left arm points to the front of the glider)!

"Hey look, the beach!"

"Hey look! Sugar Loaf Mountain!"

Finally, in an eyes-front position

As we soared through the sky, I could also see the rich/poor divide between the city's privileged, and those who live in the favellas. The estates of the rich are easily recongnisable with their private swimming pools, cars and neatly manicured gardens, while the favellas are squashed together in a haphazard manner. I also learnt from my pilot that on a good day, they do 6 such flights in a day. When the weather is bad, there is no income, and they end up doing odd jobs to supplement their income. What happens to odd jobs that need to be done in good weather then, I wondered - but I did not ask :p

Before long, it was time to land. We made a smooth landing on the beach, with nary a thud - our legs gently settling on the sand.

While the gliders and quickly and efficiently being kept, my pilot came to me and showed me the pictures he snapped. Definitely way more than what I took myself, though his angle was fixed. We figured that as I was holding on to my camera, the pilot was (successfully) trying to distract me from taking my own pictures. I had about 30 pictures recording my flight, while poor Yi Lin only had 12 shots captured by her pilot. Since the pictures are sold at 60 Reals per flight, with minimum of 12 shots to be taken by the pilot, it was obvious that her pilot must have felt no threat from her, since her DSLR was too heavy to be taken out during the flight.

So, here's a tip for future hang-gliders. Bring a small cheap camera and wave it around pretending to take pictures next time. The pilots will take more pictures of you to distract you, thus increasing the value of what you pay for them!

She may be on the ground, but her heart is still flying from that wonder experience!

Once we decided to only purchase one CD, the pilots again impressed us with their use of technology and chop chop-ness. He extracted the memory card from the camera and stuck it into a portable cd-writer. Within 2 minutes, we had my pictures in a CD, and were sent off back to the guesthouse!

Next flyer please!



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