16 Februar 2016

The sky above Rio de Janeiro

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro on a work flight the day after Carneval finished, the weather looked dreadful. Showers on approach, strong wind and grey sky. On the way to our hotel, I could see Urubus (Brazilian vultures) sitting on lamp posts, trying to dry their feathers.
Talking to the champion of all Cristo flights, Nader Couri, he wasn´t positive about a chance to get "the flight" any of these days. Even my friend Fabio Thomaz, who is usually super enthusiastic, didn´t sound excited - that´s why I only brought the bare necesseties over this time, my helmet, vario, sunglasses, gloves and a gopro.
After some heavy showers, at least it stayed dry for the rest of Thursday, so I was happy when Leonarda Beltrao offered to pick me up early the next morning to find a glider and harness for me. Well, not just "a" glider, but "the" Gecko, the brand new intermediate wing that had just arrived from Moyes!
We got to the ramp at Pedra Bonita nice and early. When Konrad Heilmann told me that he had tried to fly to Cristo early this morning and turned around half way as he really wanted to get back, I got excited about the day. A flight to Cristo seemed possible, but not easy. The few times I went to Corcovado, it was always soaring with a significant south easterly wind on the ridge. Today there was almost no wind, but really good looking clouds. And a smiling Rui Marra who talked about an epic spread for today :)
It´s not a long flight to Cristo, but it is exciting nevertheless. You don´t have any places to land really, just the trees of the Tijuca national park, some huge Favelas and high rise buildings. The beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana are too far away - and they were also really crowded with umbrellas! The only place to land is at the race track - and many of the paragliders used this option indeed on this day.

Thanks a lot to Chico Santos and all his tandem pilots from the Sao Conrado flight school for their patience! It felt like 50 tandem gliders were lined up, yet they let me move in for take off, two wing men leading me down the ramp! The Gecko was smooth to lift off the edge of the ramp, guess my wing load was really low. I realized after the first turn how easy the handling is and started to play with the VG.

I was super careful to not land out today, and I was happy when I saw Nader Couri cruising along, showing me another time how to do the flight of flights!
When I finally reached Cristo Redentor, I could not stop smiling. What an energy! Flying back to Sao Conrado was easy, so I decided to turn around and visit Cristo a second time.
Going back to take off, it looked tempting to try and soar up the big rock of Pedra da Gavea. Suddenly a thermal took me up and I could fly over to the back of the huge boulder under the cloud. I have never been able to do that before! When I came in for landing after about four hours, I concentrated to finish in style. I had never flown a harness like this before, but it all worked. The Gecko flared easy and seems to have quite a big window for smooth, elegant landings :) sorry that my gopro had already run out of battery!
And so was I - so I put down the new green machine in the shade under a tree and sat down to have açai and fresh coconut water with my friends. We were FOUR hang gliding girls at Sao Conrado on that day, so we took a photo as proof :)
Also a nice surprise to meet my old German friends Egbert von der Höh and Wolf Schneider together with Markus Fiedler here in Rio, also raving about the great flying!
Thanks to all the people who made this awesome flight possible for me - I can´t wait to get back!