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That Flying Feeling

That Flying Feeling

The boitatá winked in the lowest part of the marsh. Cruz-credo. But the boitatá
was a good demon; he protected the woods and fields against fires. The old woman was more
afraid of unknown living things, sticky, treacherous, which creep noiselessly and sting,
or else jump and dig their curved claws into the flesh of mortals.
By Brazzil Magazine

Ilha do Paquetá

This island in the Baía de Guanabara was once a very popular tourist spot and is now
frequented mostly by families from the zona norte. There are no cars on the island, so
transport is by foot, bicycle (there are literally hundreds for rent) and horse-drawn
carts. There’s a certain dirty decadent charm to the colonial buildings, unassuming
beaches and businesses catering to local tourism. Sadly, the bay is too polluted to safely
swim in and the place gets very crowded.

Go to Paquetá for the boat ride through the bay and to see Cariocas at
play—especially during the Festa de São Roque, which is celebrated over five days in
August. Boats leave from near the Praça 15 de Novembro in Centro. The regular ferry takes
one hour and costs $0.50. The hydrofoil is worth taking, at least one way. It gets to the
island in 25 minutes and costs $7. The ferry service (231-0396) goes from 5.30 am to 10.30
pm, leaving every two to three hours. The hydrofoil leaves every hour on the hour from Rio
(8 am to 5 pm) and returns every hour from Paquetá (8 am to 5.30 pm).

Jóquei Clube

There are lots to see at the racetrack. The stadium, which seats 35,000, is on the
Gávea side of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas at Praça Santos Dumont 31 (take any of the
buses that go to Jardim Botânico). It’s a beautiful horseracing track with a great view
of the mountains and Corcovado, and it costs only a few cents to enter. It’s rarely
crowded and the fans are great to watch—it’s a different slice of Rio life. Racing
usually takes place every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, and Monday and Thursday night.

City Sunset

Sunset is a nice time to be around the central plaza in the city. The sky can be
beautiful and floodlights illuminate the big buildings like the municipal theatre and
national library.

Ballooning

The most popular flight is the one between the Autódromo de Jacarepaguá and Barra da
Tijuca. The flights, in balloons which can hold four people, last about 30 minutes and
climb between 150 to 1500 meters. Children must be over five. For details call (221-8441).

Cycling

Cycling is popular with Cariocas. There is a bike path around Lagoa Rodrigo de
Freitas, one in Barra da Tijuca, and one on the oceanfront from Ipanema to Leme. The ciclovia
(bike path) is currently being extended into the city to Praça 15. If you have a bit of
road sense and don’t mind mixing it with the traffic, a bike is a fun way to get around
the zona sul. On Tuesday nights Riobikers take to the streets. Riobikers started out as a
group of cyclists who enjoyed riding in a group. The idea caught on and now every Tuesday
night, thousands of bikers take to the road from Leblon to the Museu de Arte Moderna in
Aterro do Flamengo. The streets are closed to other traffic after 9 pm and the bikers move
off at around 9.30 pm from Leblon.

Stop Bike (275-7345), in the small arcade at Rua Barata Ribeiro 191, has a few mountain
bikes to rent for $15 a day, and they give good deals if you rent for longer. The woman
who runs the store speaks English. If you just want to cruise the beachfront at Copacabana
and Ipanema, bikes can be rented on Sunday and holidays on Avenida Atlântica in front of
Rua República do Peru. They cost $3 per hour.

Clube Kraft Point (205-6155), organizes groups who want to do some night riding during
the week. On weekends they organize group trail-riding in the Tijuca forest. As long as
you have a bike, you can join in.

Golf

Rio has two 18-hole golf courses close to the city: Gávea Golf Club (322-4141) at
Estrada da Gávea 800, and Itanhangá Golf Club (429-2507) at Estrada da Barra 2005. The
clubs welcome visitors from 7 am to sunset, but the Gávea Golf Club only accepts visitors
from the major hotels like the InterContinental (which is next door) and the Rio Sheraton.

Green fees are about $70 a round, plus club hire of $15. On weekends, you need to be
invited by a member.

A cheaper option is Golden Green (433-3950), which has six tricky par-three holes. It’s
open daily from 7 am to 6 pm. Cost is $18 for six holes and $28 for 12 holes. Club and
cart rental are an extra $ 10. It’s near Barra beach at Posto 7.

Helicopter Flights

Joy flights over the city can be arranged by Helisight (511-2141; 259-6995 on
weekends). They have three helipads at strategic, scenic locations: Mirante Dona Marta,
just below Cristo Redentor, at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and from Morro da Urca, the first
cable-car stop as you go up to the Sugarloaf Helisight has 10 different flights to choose
from. Five-minute flights cost $30 and a 30-minute flight costs $500 for four people.
These flights are a definite `video opportunity’.

Surfing

In Rio city, surfing is very popular, with the locals ripping the fast, hollow beach
breaks. When the surf is good, it gets crowded. Arpoador, between Copacabana and Ipanema,
is where most surfers congregate, though there are some fun beach breaks further out in
Barra, Grumari, Joá and Prainha. Boards can be rented in Rio, but they’re so cheap that
you’d be crazy not to buy one, especially if you’ve planned a surfing expedition down the
coast. A brand-new board is a steal at $150 to $200, and we saw some decent second-hand
ones for as little as $50, Galeria River (pronounced `heever’), at Rua Francisco Otaviano
67 in Arpoador, is an arcade full of surf shops. Loja three of Ocean has a reasonable
selection.

Sailing

Out in Barra, you can get into sailing Hobie Cat 16s. Bix Sportsmix (439-4552) at
Avenida Sernambetiba 3500, Bloco B, Apt 302, rents these catamarans for $40 for two hours,
not including preparation time. It does include pick-up and drop-off at your hotel. A
10-hour course is $175. The instructors are highly experienced, and speak several
languages, like English, Dutch, German and French.

Hang-Gliding, Para-Gliding and Ultra-Leve

If you weigh less than 80 kg (about 180 lb) and have $80 you can do the
fantastic—hang-glide off the 510 meter Pedra Bonita on to Pepino beach in São
Conrado. This is one of the giant granite slabs that towers above Rio. No experience is
necessary. To arrange a double flight (vôo duplo) go out to Pepino and the pilots
will be waiting on the beach. We’re told that the winds are very safe here and the pilots
know what they are doing. Guest riders get their bodies put in a kind of pouch that is
secured to the kite.

Flight Information

Most tandem pilots can mount a camera with flash, wide-angle lens, motor drive and a
long cable release on a wing tip to take pictures of you in flight. If you want to take
pictures yourself you must realize that take-off and landing pictures are impossible since
you can’t be encumbered with equipment. Your camera must fit into the Velcro pouch in the
front of your flight suit. It’s a good idea to have the camera strapped around your neck
and a lens cover strapped to the lens or you will risk losing the equipment and beaning a Carioca
on the head. Flights are usually extremely smooth so it’s possible to take stable shots.
Hang gliders themselves are dramatic shots, especially when taken from above.

Know your exact weight in kg in advance. Ideally your pilot should be heavier than you.
If you’re heavier than the pilot, he or she will have to use a weight belt and switch to a
larger glider. If you’re over 80 kg you’re out of luck. You don’t need any experience or
special training—anyone from seven to 70 years can do it.

Cautious flights depend on atmospheric conditions. You can usually fly on all but three
or four days per month, and conditions during winter are even better. For the experience
of a lifetime, it’s not that expensive: $80 for anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes of extreme
pleasure. The price includes being picked up and dropped off at your hotel. If you fly
early in the day, you have more flexibility with delays.

The best way to arrange a flight is to go right to the far end of Pepino beach on
Avenida Prefeito Mendes de Morais, where the fly-boys hang out at the Vôo Livre club.

One of the recommended flyers is Alonso Cunha, who can be reached on his beeper
(266-4545, code 8LB). Ruy Marra is another excellent tandem-glider pilot and widely
regarded as one of the best pilots in Rio. He runs Super Fly Agency (322-2286) in Lagoa at
Avenida Epitácio Pessoa 3624, room 201. (Ruy is also the person to see if you’re
interested in para-gliding.) Also recommended is Rejane Reis (322-6872). For more
information call the Associação Brasileira de Vôo Livre (322-0266), which also offers
classes. 

Ultra-leve (ultralight) flights, are more comfortable than hang-gliders, but you have
to listen to the motor. The trips last around 30 minutes and leave from the Aeroclube do
Jacarepaguá. The Clube Esportivo de Ultra-leve (342-8025) has some long-range ultralights
that can stay up for over two hours. Flights cost around $20.


Hang-Gliding over Rio

The climb up to the take-off point was awesome. Pedra Bonita looms over São Conrado’s
Pepino beach. The road winds up through the lush green Tijuca forest. We were waved on
through the private entrance to the hang-gliding area and the engine whined as we climbed
the extremely steep hill.

When we reached the top, our pilot assembled the glider, untangled the cables,
tightened the wing nuts and slipped elastic bands over the wing struts. Up close the
glider looked flimsy. We put on our flight suits and practiced a few take-off sprints near
the platform, literally a five-meter-long runway of wooden boards inclined 15′ downhill.
We were 550 meters above sea level and a few km inland from the beach. If I were a rock
and Rio were a vacuum, it would take me over 10 seconds to kiss the dirt. ,

I wore old sneakers for traction and two good-luck charms to amuse the ambulance crew
that I anticipated would be piecing through the tangled ball of crumpled metal, torn nylon
and mangled flesh down below.

With the glider resting at the top of the runway, we clipped ourselves onto it and
checked the balance of the craft as we hung side by side. The pilot adjusted his weight
belt, all the straps, the Velcro leg cuffs and helmet and gave me very brief instructions:
hold on to the cuff of his shorts, keep my hands to myself, resist the temptation to hold
the control bar or cables (this can throw the glider, so don’t touch), and when he gave
the count `um, dois, três, já!’, go very fast.

We checked the windsocks on either side of the platform, the surface of the sea and the
rippling of the leaves to ascertain the direction, speed and flow of the wind. A smooth
wind coming inland from a flat sea is best. `Um, dois, três, já!’ Four bounding
steps and we were flying. It’s not the free-fall sinking feeling you get from elevators,
but a perfect calm. I closed my eyes and felt as it I was still—the only movement, a
soft wind caressing my face. Miraculously, it seemed I was suspended between earth and
sky. To our left was Rocinha, the most famous of the zona sul’s favelas, to the
right Pedra Bonita, and below us the fabulous homes of Rio’s rich and famous. We floated
over skyscrapers and Pepino beach, made a few lazy circles over the water and before I
knew it, it was time for the descent. Upon landing we stood upright, pointed the nose up,
the glider stalled and we touched down on the sand gentle as a feather.

In an emergency, like a sudden change in weather, a hang-glider pilot can fly down to
the beach in less than 90 seconds. Pilots also carry a parachute, which is designed to
support the weight of two passengers and the glider itself, which is supposed to fall
first and cushion the blow.

Andrew Draffen

Hiking & Climbing

Excellent hiking is possible surprisingly close to the city. There are three national
parks with trail systems in Rio state: Parque Nacional da Tijuca, Parque Nacional da Serra
dos Órgãos and Parque Nacional do Itatiaia.

Clubs

For anyone interested in climbing and hiking, Rio’s clubs are the best source of
information as well as the best meeting place for like-minded people. The clubs meet
regularly and welcome visitors. All of the following clubs are well organized and have
bulletin boards listing excursions on the weekends:

Centro Excursionista Brasileiro

Avenida Almirante Barroso 2-8 Andar, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ CEP 20031. CEB has a
membership of 900, meets on Wednesday and Friday evenings and is geared toward trekking
and day hikes. CEB also runs a small restaurant, which is open from 6 pm, Monday to
Friday, where people meet informally to plan excursions.

Centro Excursionista Rio de Janeiro

Avenida Rio Branco 277/805, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ CEP 20040. CERJ, with an active
membership of 50, meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. CERJ offers the greatest
diversity of activities ranging from hikes to technical climbing.

Clube Excursionista Carioca

Rua Hilário de Gouveia 71/206, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, RJ CEP 22040 (Marcelo Ramos
(021) 227-8398). Meeting on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 10.30 pm, this club
specializes in difficult technical climbing.

Tijuca

The Parque Nacional da Tijuca is a 120-sq-km park with an excellent trail system. It is
also home to different species of birds and animals including iguanas and monkeys. The
Alto da Boa Vista section of Tijuca forest, which is part of the national park, has
several good day hikes. Maps of the forest are obtained at the small artisan shop just
inside the park entrance, which is open from 7 am to 9 pm daily. To get there take bus No
221 from Praça 15 in the center to Praça Afonso Viseu in Alto da Boa Vista.

Pão de Açúcar

On Pão de Açúcar (396 meters), Rio’s Sugar Loaf, there are 32 established climbing
routes. Climbers are often seen scaling the western face below the cable cars. One of the
best hikes is up the backside of Pão de Açúcar. Besides the breathtaking view of the
ocean below, one is also compensated by not having to pay for the cable-car ride. The hike
takes 11/2 hours and doesn’t require equipment or a lot of climbing experience, but does
have two 10 to 15-meter exposed parts that require agility and common sense.

The hike begins on the left-hand side of Praça General Tibúrcio (the same praça
where the cable cars are boarded), where a paved jogging track runs for 1200 meters along
the base of Morro de Tijuca and Pão de Açúcar. At the end of the track pick up the
trail on the other side of the cement tank in the tall grass. Follow this trail (always
taking the uphill forks) for 100 meters. At the old foundations, some 30 meters above the
water, the trail ascends steeply for 60 meters until leveling off on a narrow ridge. From
the ridge, the broad eastern flank of Pão de Açúcar is seen. The trail to follow is up
the far left-hand side ridge.

At the base of the rock the trail deviates slightly to the right for the next 40 meters
until coming to two iron bolts on the smooth exposed rock. This is the first exposed area,
which, while crossed easily without ropes requires agility and alertness. There is nothing
to break a fall except the rocks in the ocean, 120 meters below.

From the second bolt stay next to the rock slab for the following six meters. In the
gap between the first rock slab and the next slab it is safer to step up on to the second
rock slab rather than continuing along the exposed face. Another 20 meters higher up there
is a third iron bolt, which is a good place to take in the view before tackling the crux
of the climb—above the clearly defined path. At the fourth bolt, the hike becomes a
climb for the next 10 meters. This section is best climbed by finding the holds behind the
rock slabs and pulling yourself up. After the sixth and final bolt, the climbing is over.
Follow the well-defined path up 200 meters to the small children’s park at the top.

Corcovado

Corcovado (710 meters) offers technically difficult climbs with fantastic views of Pão
de Açúcar and Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. Private guides and the clubs are the best means
for unraveling its many diverse routes. Well-equipped and experienced climbers can easily
climb its eastern face on the route K-2 (rated 5.9).

The climb begins 200 meters below the summit. To get to the base of the climb, take the
train to the top and instead of ascending the stairs to the left, follow the road out of
the parking lot for 15 minutes. After the first rocky outcrop on the northern side,
descend two more turns in the road. At the second turn there is a cement railing, behind
which is a poorly maintained trail.

Follow this trail as it hugs the base of the rock for 200 meters around to the eastern
face of the mountain. Don’t get discouraged by the tall grass which obstructs the trail;
just keep to the base of the rock. On the eastern face the start of the climb is at the
20-meter crack in the whitened rock. From there the climb is clearly marked with
well-placed bolts to the top, just underneath the statue of Christ.

Tai Chi Chuan

Enthusiasts might like to join in one of the daily sessions held at Praça Nossa
Senhora da Paz in Ipanema. There are sessions at sunrise and at 5 pm.

Tennis

The climate’s not ideal for tennis, but if you fancy a game, you can book a court at
the InterContinental (322-2200) or Sheraton (274-1122). Courts are available to
non-guests. Lob Tênis (205-9997) at Rua Stefan Zweig 290 in Laranjeiras, rents courts for
$25 an hour and opens until midnight. In Barra, there are many tennis centers, including
Akxe Sportside Club (325-3232) at Avenida Professor Dulcídio Cardoso 100, Clube Canaveral
(399-2192) at Avenida das Américas 487 and Rio Sport Center (325-6644) at Avenida Ayrton
Senna 2541.

Walking & Jogging

There are some good walking and jogging paths in the zona sul. If you’re staying in the
Flamengo-Catete area, Flamengo Park has plenty of space and lots of workout stations.
Around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is 9.5 km of cycling, jogging and walking track. At the
Parque do Cantagalo there, you can rent bicycles, tricycles or quadricycles. Along the
seaside, from Leme to Barra da Tijuca, there’s a bike and footpath. On Sunday the road
itself is closed to traffic and is full of cyclists, joggers, rollerbladers and prams.

Closed to bikes but not to walkers and joggers is the Pista Cláudio Coutinho, between
the mountains and the sea at Praia Vermelha in Urca. It’s open daily from 7 am to 6 pm and
is very secure because the army maintains guard posts. People in bathing suits aren’t
allowed in (unless they’re running). It’s a nice place to be around sunset.

Excerpts from Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by
Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro,  and Robyn Jones. For more
information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications.
Used by permission.

Buy it at
Amazon.com

Lonely Planet
Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit

by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,
704 pp.

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