Fly Like An Eagle


This blog entry about the events of Saturday, February 21, 2004 was originally posted on February 26, 2004.

DAY 126 (PART 1):  Lara was buttering another fresh baguette in the morning, before spreading on a layer of her favorite spread Marmite, which she excitedly received the day before when her friends Ester and Pago brought it over from home.  We sat over breakfast and waited around for people to come over at 9:30 so we could all try and go hand-gliding together.  First to arrive were Esther and Pago and I leaned out the window to see if anyone was coming around.  Suddenly I recognized a familiar wavy hairstyle on a guy walking around, looking fairly confused.

“I think I see Dundee,” I told Lara before running the five flights of stairs down to catch up with the Australian Tim whom we’d befriended in La Paz.  He reminded us of a cross between Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin and Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan, and usually referred to him as “Steve” or “Dundee” — although not to his face.  Lara had yelled his real name out the window, signaling him to walk over to our building. 

I met Tim downstairs on the street and said my hellos.  He had flown from Salvador to Rio the night before, but never got my email about meeting at the Copacabana Palace at 11 the night before.  Fortunately for him, upon looking up our apartment, a resident offered him an apartment rental on the spot, which he snatched.

My brother Mark, Terence, Paul and Sharon arrived as I was standing out on the sidewalk with Tim, and the six of us joined the others upstairs.  Kate and Jilly came shortly thereafter and we were off — minus Pago and Esther who weren’t interested in the jump, and Tim who had been stopped by his landlord to do paper work. 

“I’ll just catch up with you later,” he told us.

The rest of us walked down to the Superfly Handgliding/Paragliding truck near our usual restaurant La Maison.  No one was there, which was weird because we had always seen someone, so we waited around at a table for drinks until someone came.  After a while, I just used the pay phone to call the number on the side of the truck.  The woman on the other end told me that although it was a nice sunny day at sea level, it was cloudy up in the mountains and not clear enough for flights.  She said that the cloud coverage might clear up in the afternoon and told me to call back at 1:30.  Optimistic, I made a reservation for a pick-up at 2:00 anyway.

The eight of us disbanded for a bit to regroup at one and went our own ways.  Sharon, my brother’s friend from San Francisco, had met a group of Californian guys on her flight and wanted to look them up — they were staying at the fancy Rio Othon hotel and so we walked with her to check it out.  Mark, Paul and Sharon went up to their room, leaving Terence and I to wander around the rooftop pool area.  We managed to snag a picture of the view before we started to get looks from staff who I guessed knew we weren’t staying at the hotel.  We just went back to the lobby bar and drank caipirinhas, watching the many Americans come in and out in beach wear.

We walked back to the the meeting place along the beach, through the crowds of tourists claiming stakes on practically every inch of sand.  We stopped off at one of the many drink stands along the way for another round before meeting up for lunch — and for Terence and Mark, more beers.  I went off to call Superfly again and as predicted, the sky was clear enough.  We finished our lunches just in time for our transport at two o’clock.  Joining us for the ride was an elderly Swede who anxiously wanted to fly like eagles like the rest of us.  Terence and Mark on the other hand, temporarily lost enthusiasm as they both passed out in their respective seats — Terence more than anyone; he didn’t even wake up when we got to the Superfly meeting place on the beach in nearby São Conrado and we just left him in the van.

Terence eventually woke up for yet another round while we waited for the glide organizer to sort us out.  He sat at a table with another beer, across from the Swedish guy and started up a conversation with him, while I sat by the curb overlooking the beach.  Later, Terence told me the conversation went something like this:

“So, did you sign all your paperwork with your landlord?” he asked.

The Swede had no idea what he was talking about.

“‘Rik, is this your Australian friend?!” he called to me.

“No, he’s Swedish.”

Embarrassed and drunk, Terence came to sit on the curb next to me.

WE SIGNED OUR LIVES AWAY ON INDEMNITY FORM and then waited around for our individual transports up the mountain.  Kate and Jilly went first since they had to get back early for their Sambadrome transport with their tour agency, followed by Sharon, then Lara — who was still sort of nervous about the whole prospect of jumping off a cliff.  The Superfly guy told the rest of us to wait at the nearby drink stand.  “A round of beers on the house, while you wait,” he said.  We couldn’t say no to free beer as handgliders soared above our heads.

I was next to go up and was picked up by my pilot Saqua, a very experienced glider of nineteen years who had his own handgliding school and had accomplished the feat of flying 100 miles over the California desert.  With his glider folded and mounted on the top of his car, we and his assistant drove up the 1805 ft. up the mountain along a steep, winding road.  At the top, I met the others who were already in gear and ready to fly and soon suited up myself in a helmet and safety harness while Saqua and his assistant put the glider together. 

“Okay, you have to run with me,” Saqua said, stressing the importance of being in sync with our footsteps as we were to run down the wooden platform over a quarter of a mile high before jumping off the cliff.  I put my hand on his shoulder and my right foot forward as instructed for a practice run on level ground. 

“Okay, I’ll count down three, two, one and then we run,” he instructed.  I wondered if he meant start running on “one” or after “one,” but he started the countdown already.

“Three… two… “

“Wait, which foot first?”


We ran and kept our speeds together with the help of the arm around the back, hand holding the shoulder.

“Good, you have it,” he told me.  I was hoping it wasn’t just beginner’s luck.

Jilly and Lara were already in the air (picture above) when our glider entered the queue for the runway.  Saqua did a quick weight check with me and fastened a bunch of things that I hoped would save my life if need be.  I felt pretty confident that things would go well, and was just excited to just be in the air.  In less than a minute, we were on the runway, ready to go. 

“Three… two… one!!!”

We ran in sync and jumped off the edge.  Wind caught our sail immediately and soon we were soaring in the air above the mountain residences and eventually the beach and the ocean.  A soared with a permanent smile on my face, laughing most of the time, which was good for the bunch of pictures taken by camera mounted on the side of the frame, which Saqua took with his remote control.

“Do you want to drive?” he asked me.


He put my hands on the grips where his were and let go.  “Okay, I have to take a nap now because I am going to Carnaval tonight,” he joked while pretending to nod off for a second.

With the wind as my companion, I tried to navigate the glider left, right, up and down to Saqua’s commands, but it wasn’t so easy.  I was pulling when I should have been leaning and leaning when I should have pushing or I don’t know — I just know that I never really went in the direction I was supposed to.  I almost took us out to sea until Saqua took the controls to steer us back towards the beach. 

We gradually descended for our landing on the beach.  Saqua explained something about the procedure of landing, and I was a little confused as where to hold onto.  Unknowingly, I was holding onto his arm.

“Don’t hold my arm, I’m steering!”

Quickly I moved it to a strap hanging off his chest.  Before I knew it, we were coming in for the landing.  At the end, he jerked the glider up a little so we could just land on two feet.  I fell over though, but with a smile on my face.

“You are a good pilot,” he entertained me.  “Next time, just don’t grab my arm.”

He gave me the roll of film and went off to prepare his glider for the next client.

TERENCE, PAUL AND MARK HADN’T BEEN PICKED UP YET by their pilots when I got back to the table they were drinking at.  Paul, who was pretty sober, was soon picked up by his pilot and went on up to fly.  Terence was next in line and the Superfly guy saw the state that he was in.

“How many beers did you have?”

Apparently Terence was drunk enough to not even lie about it.  “Uh, seven?”

“You can’t go handgliding,” he told him, before explaining to us that you really need to be coordinated for the initial run down the platform.

“No, I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay,” Terence said in his slurrred speech.

“I’m going to put you with a paraglider,” he told him, explaining to us that it’s just as good to come down with a parachute, and without any coordinated running. 

“Yeah, you should do that,” Mark said.

“Good call there,” I said.

Terence was out of it enough not to complain and went with a paragliding pilot rather than the next handgliding one.  Mark, who had sobered up enough, went with the pilot that Terence was supposed to have.

Kate and Jilly had left in a taxi to get their transport to the Sambadrome, leaving me at the table with just my roommate Lara.  We caught up on our inside gossip over orange Fantas until the rest of the temporary eagles came back down to the beach.  Sharon was all smiles when she came down, as was Paul.  Terence came down in the parachute and stumbled across the beach, giving me his signature middle finger from afar when I took his photo.  We waited around until Mark came down with his pilot who told him that out of all the places to paraglide commercially in the world, Rio was probably the best.

With our group all smiling and thrilled by our unmotorized flights in the air, he hopped back in our transport van with our same driver who had us speak on his mobile phone to prove we were with him so the woman on the other line, I take it, didn’t think he was cheating on her since he was running late.  He probably would have run late anyway with all the traffic on the way back to Copacabana.  With all the spontaneous samba parades closing down streets left and right, traffic jam was an understatement.  Luckily, we were entertained by a couple of street jugglers through the window.

LARA WENT OFF HER OWN WAY, while the rest of us danced for a bit with another spontaneous samba street parade en route to dinner at a churrascuria, the ingenious Brazilian barbecue type of restaurant where diners can go up to a hot buffet of salads, stews, rices and pasta while waiting for about a dozen waiters each holding different sword-like skewers with different types of meat on it.  Each table is assigned a two-sided piece of cardboard or peg to notify the meat men to serve the table; red means “No, I’ve had enough,” green means “I’m no vegan; pile it on, buddy.” 

We kept our card on green for most of the time to beckon the different cuts of steak, chicken, pork or bacon-wrapped scallops.  Us carnivores dined with a bottle red wine while listening to the musical stylings of the piano player nearby who played classic tunes like “Feelings,” “My Way” and of course, a jazzy “The Girl From Ipanema.”  Eventually the meat was just coming too fast and we turned off the spigot by turning our card to red, but waiters came regardless with juicy meats that we couldn’t resist anyway.  Needless to say, there should have been a sign out front that stated, “Vegetarians need not enter.”

With my stomach full of food, I was glad that I wasn’t going handgliding right after.

Next entry: The Chaperone

Previous entry: Meanwhile, Back at the Airport

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Comments for “Fly Like An Eagle”

  • =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  08:28 PM

  • Why am I not surprised that Terence fell asleep ...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  08:38 PM

  • meanwhile back in the states…(insert grumpy/bored face here).

    ERIK: enjoy the rest of your time there bro.

    ERIK, wheat, markyt: SKOL SKOL SKOL


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  08:54 PM

  • Hey Erik,  Looks like you guys (sounds like it too) are having a great time.  I feel like i’ve been out partying all night.  Think i’ll go to bed early and get a good nights rest, so I can be fresh and ready for tomorrows party festivities !!!!!!!  LOL!!

    P.S. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but you and your brother look just a like.  What is the age difference??


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  11:05 PM

  • Brenda - we’re 5 years apart….does it look like it?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  11:20 PM

  • it’s one big endless party over there!!! you guys are having too much fun!

    can’t believe terence fell asleep again!! tisk tisk. i hope his eyes were open when he was flying.

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/26  at  12:15 AM

  • this is the funniest blog yet!  great pics of the fish crew.. how do you say wheat in portuguese?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/26  at  02:04 AM

  • ALL: Here are some pics for your viewimg pleasure:

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/26  at  08:45 AM

  • Well .. welcome back from RiO! Hope ya’ll had a blast! ... hang-gliding huh? - tacking on the frequent flyer miles eh? - looking forward to more pics! cool post.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/26  at  10:05 AM

  • markyt: haha…nice random chick shots!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/26  at  10:49 AM

  • in retrospect i think paragliding/guiding was a good idea.  if i handglided i prob. would have lost my passport in the water.  but guys forreal, i just look more drunk than i really was…ok, that was my opinion.  but at least i didn’t throw up on the trip. hahahah

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/26  at  12:24 PM


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/26  at  12:30 PM

  • wheat: true true true. the illustrious throw-up crown goes to his highness, markyt.

    markyt: porcelain was your friend that night, as was bottled water.

    erik, wheat, markyt & ALL: murtinho nobre and tito beng!

    meanwhile back in the corporate office….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/26  at  12:55 PM

  • ALL:  Hey, more to come… I’m still four days behind…

    Coming soon:  Pictures from inside the parade and foam street parties!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/26  at  01:17 PM

  • Who remembers that summer song from like ‘97. Len - Steal my sunshine…  “SHARON, I LOVE YOU!”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/28  at  02:09 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
The Chaperone

Previous entry:
Meanwhile, Back at the Airport


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