Hang Gliding over Rio de Janeiro

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“Are you ready, Peter!?”

“Yes!”

“Three!”

After 5 days of cancellations due to dangerous wind conditions, I can’t believe I am finally here; standing over half a kilometer above the ocean-side Barra da Tijuica district of Rio, strapped to what appears to be a giant kite.

“Two!”

Although the car ride up the mountain certainly revved up my sympathetic nervous system, in this moment I am surprisingly calm and focused.

“One!”

As practiced mere minutes prior to the actual takeoff, I begin to sprint as fast as I possibly can towards the cliff edge.

Running alongside me is Paulo, my hang gliding pilot.

Within about a dozen frenzied steps, there is no more ground beneath my feet. My body goes from an upright running posture to a horizontal one, lying suspended in my harness.

Hundreds of meters below me are trees, a highway, some homes dotting the mountain side, beach-side high rises, and the Atlantic ocean.

Surprisingly, I don’t make a sound as the reality of the situation sinks in.

Instead, I say calmly to Paulo:

“This is phenomenal.”

As we get closer to our beach landing, I look up towards the cliff from which we launched and see Marina flying down after me.

After about 7 minutes of flying it is time to land on the beach, a process that goes more smoothly than I would have ever expected.

Above me Marina and her pilot, Marcus, are circling above the beach, getting close to make their landing.

Just as my own mere minutes before, Marina’s landing goes off flawlessly.

“I want to do that again!!!” yells Marina as she runs over to me.

And if it wasn’t for the cost, I’m sure we both would have.

Next time, we’ll have to up the ante; skydiving is definitely in our near future.

(Enjoy a short video of my take off below)

Peter

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Wandering around a wonder of the world: Machu Picchu

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Often times, too much knowledge of a travel destination has the potential to attenuate the ‘wow’ factor upon actual visit. Of all the things we were going to visit during our 3 month sojourn, I was most prepared for what awaited us at Machu Picchu – one of the New 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

“I just hope I’m not disappointed,” I kept telling Marina and Killian the night before the visit.

Luckily, Machu Picchu is one of those places that can never be truly appreciated via photograph or even video.

“This place is absolutely beautiful,” I say faintly to myself, looking down from one of the grass terraces at the Lost City of the Incas, just as the sun begins to rise past the mountains, illuminating the complex stone architecture of the site.

“It really is, isn’t it?” responds Killian after a long pause. All three of us are transfixed by visual feast we are currently dining on.

Machu Picchu, literally meaning ‘old mountain’ in Quechua is one of the most renowned archeological remains of the Inca civilization that at one point controlled much of western South America.

Due to the invasion by Spanish conquistadors, the entire Inca civilization was wiped out, and almost all of their cities destroyed. For example, in Cusco, many of the buildings constructed by the Spaniards used the original foundations laid down by the Incas. However, rather than being captured, the Incas originally living on what is now Machu Picchu, decided to gather all their most important possessions and flee.

The Spaniards never made it to Machu Picchu, and the site wasn’t officially discovered internationally until 1911 by an American historian, Hiram Bingham. He was led to the site by a child from a local village, when Bingham was exploring the area and inquired the locals about any interesting Inca remains. When Bingham originally saw the site, it was heavily grown over by vegetation.

Since then, Machu Picchu has become the most popular symbol of the highly advanced Inca civilization – not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Wonders of the Ancient World.

In addition to the site itself, the surrounding mountain terrain is absolutely spectacular. As is the bus ride up the mountains from Aguas Calientes, the closest town to the historical site.

After exploring the grounds, climbing up to the sun gate, and enjoying a brunch on one of the cliff-side terraces with a view 400m below to the nearby river, the hot midday sun forced us to seek some shade back at Aguas Calientes before departing via train back to Cusco.

This is one day none of us will soon forget.

Peter

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